The Return of Reyes: No Tribute Necessary

Am I supposed to be excited about Jose Reyes' return?

Tonight is going to be one of those weird nights for us tortured Mets fans: Jose Reyes is coming home for the first time. The Mets brass have announced the team will show a video tribute in honor of the nine years Reyes spent in Flushing before he dipped out to sign a rich contract in Miami.

I’m here to say that all of that is totally unnecessary and, frankly, unwanted.

Nobody wanted the Mets to re-sign Jose Reyes more than I did. That’s a fact. But, for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen. And, you know what? I moved on. So did all other Mets fans. 

The Mets have done video tributes before when notable faces of the franchise have returned for their first time to face the team at home. The most notable of these was when future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza left the team in 2006 and returned in August as a member of the San Diego Padres. I’m proud to say I went to both games Piazza played in when he came back, and they’re memories I’m going to one day share with my children.

Piazza’s first game back, like Reyes’, fell on a Tuesday. Shea was nearly sold out for the occasion. It seemed like everybody who had a ticket to the game got there early to watch Mike take batting practice, myself included. Before the game started, the Mets played a video tribute to Mike, who will likely have his number retired by the team, but honestly, I can’t remember the video. I can’t remember it because his first at-bat was so memorable.

A moment everyone at Shea that night will always remember

Before Mike game to the plate, the PA blared his walk-up song Voodoo Child by Hendrix, which sent chills down my body. The entire stadium gave Mike a standing ovation that lasted his whole at-bat. It was so loud and pronounced that Mike had to step out for a minute-plus before his plate appearance to acknowledge it. It was such a moment. Words don’t do it justice. I remember before the season started, when my dad and I were plotting out what games we wanted to go to that season (I went to nearly every home game with my friend Ted, but my dad only had time to go to 8-9, so we always plotted out which ones we’d see together. Cute, I know). I circled and marked that first Tuesday in August, 2006, at least 50 times, saying that was a must.

That random Tuesday became the most important game of the season for the Mets because of how important Mike Piazza was to all of us Mets fans.

Jose Reyes doesn’t come remotely close to that level of importance. In fact, I compare Reyes’ return to something else that happened during Mike Piazza’s comeback tour: Mike Cameron’s comeback tour. Yeah, that’s right. There was an awkward moment before Piazza came up. See, the Padres signed two former Mets in the off-season leading up to 2006: Piazza and Mike Cameron.

Cameron was a nice player for the Mets, and always gave it his all. He made a lot of fans while he was in New York, but, I mean, nobody was heartbroken when he left. However, the Padres had Cameron batting second and Piazza third that night. In my head, I guess Mets brass just felt bad that they were about to make a huge deal about Piazza that they needed to do something for Cameron. So, the team played his old intro music (I can’t remember it) and plastered a huge “Welcome back, Mike!” poster up on the jumbo-screen. Mets fans gave him a polite clap, then we went about our lives.

It was awkward, to say the least. It was like “Heyyyyyy buddy. So, yeah, we don’t really want to do this, but it just feels awkward if we don’t” moments. That’s what this Reyes tribute is going to feel like.

Mets fans wanted Reyes back. Reyes wanted the most money. The Mets didn’t offer him the most money, so he left. No hard feelings there. But…he want to the fucking Marlins! I can’t get over that. As much as I love Mike Piazza, if he had signed with the Phillies or the Braves, the reaction he would’ve received from us Mets fans would’ve been completely different. It was so emotional and memorable when he came back because those were the only three games we would get to see Mike. Jose? He’s coming back two other times after this series.

Also, Piazza got the tribute because he clearly was on the final stages of his career. Mike Piazza wasn’t going to be remembered as a San Diego Padre player later in his life. Jose Reyes is starting a six-year contract with the Marlins. He could go down as a great Marlin, and people could forget about his time in New York. Why are we honoring a 29-year old shortstop that turned heel on the Mets? I’m not seeing it.

And where is the line drawn? If the team honors Reyes in this fashion, they’ll have to do the same for Carlos Beltran when he returns to Citi Field, right? He was of equal importance to the Mets over the last seven years as Reyes, right? He’s a sure-fire Mets Hall of Fame candidate, right? In fact, I’d go so far to say that Beltran’s reign in New York was more meaningful than Reyes’.

Hear me out. Carlos Beltran will go down as the greatest all-around center fielder to ever wear a Mets uniform. That’s a fact. He has the Gold Gloves and offensive numbers to support that. He was also the best Met player on the best Met team when Reyes and Beltran were both at their peak.

An argument can be made that the Mets had more meaningful shortstops in their history than Jose Reyes. Rey Ordonez absolutely played the best defense at short for the Mets in their history, and was on arguably a more dominant stretch of Mets teams than Reyes ever was from 1998-2000. Buddy Harrellson played in two World Series for the Mets, and was a solid, all-around fielder and hitter. You can make the case that his spot on those Mets teams was more important than Reyes. And yet, if I know this team, they’ll honor Reyes and half-ass what they do for Beltran, which is just wrong.

Look, there will come a day to sit down and hash out what Reyes really meant to this team. That day isn’t today. I do not care if this is the first time Jose Reyes returns to New York. It makes no difference to me any more.

Gary Cohen said it best. Reyes will get a nice cheer his first at-bat most likely, but by the second time he comes to the plate, he’ll be just another guy on another team. He becomes the enemy.

We don’t need to pay tribute to Jose Reyes. Its not like he ever paid tribute to us, anyway.

Let’s Go Mets.