Commentary

Despite mess, Jose Reyes wants in

Mets would be wise to grant their shortstop's wish -- even as they clean house

Updated: August 19, 2010, 9:55 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

Shortstop Jose Reyes said something short and sweet but important for the New York Mets over the weekend.

It just got hopelessly lost amid all the chaos caused by the Francisco Rodriguez debacle and -- before that -- Luis Castillo's griping that "I want to play," Jeff Francoeur's re-assertion that he still wouldn't mind being traded someplace where he'll be used more (even as fellow outfielder Jason Bay is still out with a concussion), and the blank looks that overtake Ike Davis and David Wright when both of them have stopped hitting.

[+] EnlargeJose Reyes
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesNo, he's not kidding. Jose Reyes really wants to stay a Met.

Did you notice Reyes actually said he not only hopes the Mets pick up their club option for the lone year and $11 million left on his current contract in 2011 -- he actually wants to remain with the Mets long after his contract expires after next season?

Imagine that.

With the Mets you have to take any splinter of good news wherever you can find it. The idea of Reyes unequivocally saying he wants to stay with the team is beyond encouraging or even completely in character -- it's trailblazing in a way, a trait that Reyes is not often accused of having. For so long he's seemed like everyone in the clubhouse's goofy little brother.

Reyes will never be a team conscience like the Yankees' Derek Jeter, or a vocal leader like shortstop Jimmy Rollins is for Philadelphia. He's no longer the effervescent kid he was when he first came up with the Mets and celebrated good plays a bit too exuberantly for some opponents' tastes while dazzling everyone with his enthusiasm and sheer speed. From the start, Reyes could make legging out a triple seem like the most exciting play in New York City baseball.

But Reyes is 27 now and he's all grown up. You can't tell when he's in uniform on the field, but walking around the clubhouse now his upper body looks as muscled as your average NFL wide receiver. Even after two injury-interrupted seasons that dimmed his star a little, Reyes is still a top-tier shortstop. So after all the Mets have been dragged through, when he was asked about his contract over the weekend he could have just said nothing or, worse, "I want out" -- same as Francoeur or Castillo already have suggested, same as people privately wonder if Johan Santana or even Wright secretly wish they could do, too.

Why would Reyes not think to play out next year and then bolt for a place where there isn't a drama du jour and the ballclub isn't haunted by more late-season collapses or karmic bad luck than other franchises endure in 10 or 15 years? Why not?

"This is the only team that I've played for so far in my career," Reyes said. "This is the team to give me the opportunity to play here in the big leagues. I've got my daughters. They go to school in New York. I've got a house in New York. I feel good here."

As an organization, the Mets have been listing ever since they blew their first division title race to the Phillies. Even mediocre free agents spurned them last winter. Bay strung them along forever before swallowing hard and agreeing to take their $60 million, his highest offer by far.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya's magic fades in and out more than it did five years ago. For every nice surprise such as R.A. Dickey or Angel Pagan or Davis that the Mets' front office unearthed this year, there are the offsetting disasters such as the high-priced contracts Minaya never should have lavished on Castillo and Oliver Perez, making both of them untradeable.

The Mets -- presuming they do pick up the final year of Reyes' contract -- are already committed to $120 million in player salaries next year.

Accomplishing dramatic changes will be hard unless they're willing to step up and play like the rest of the big boys that lead the majors in payroll and start eating some big salaries just to be rid of problems like Perez. But the Mets have never shown a proclivity to do that.

The Mets badly need a housecleaning for the psychic overhaul it would provide as much as the roster turnover it would bring. If you had to describe what lies beyond this disappointing year for the Mets in just one word, it would be uncertainty. Manager Jerry Manuel figures to be gone. People fantasize that Bobby Valentine and the Mets would be crazy enough for a redo, or 70-year-old Joe Torre would leave the Dodgers for one last stand in New York. But neither looks even remotely likely to happen.

So the word that Reyes doesn't plan on asking out and doesn't look at the Mets like the lost cause so many others do is a trailblazing idea, all right.

But again -- what about the perpetual-looking chaos here?

"I'm focused on playing baseball," Reyes says. "So I don't worry about what's going on. I just try to do my job on the field."

No whining, no woe-is-me griping, no temper tantrums in the Family Room at Citi Field? Just a guy who wants to do his job, come what may?

Imagine that.

The Mets should get Reyes' name on a new contract, like, yesterday.

Johnette Howard is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow her on Twitter.

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