- Johnette Howard, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- If Fred Wilpon had any sense -- and no, that's not the first line of a knock-knock joke -- Jose Reyes would've found one of those enormous flower arrangements, the kind that need a tripod to hold them up, standing by his locker as a thank you when he rolled into Citi Field for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. Why? Because it was the morning after Reyes reminded us that if the New York Mets have any hope of keeping him, it's going to be because of what Reyes is not.
What Reyes is not is a guy who pouts, vaulting to the top of the National League batting-title race since Wilpon mocked his supposed contract demands in that embarrassing New Yorker profile a few weeks ago. And what Reyes is not is a guy who holds grudges, as he has refused to rule out re-signing with the Mets.
And now Reyes told Scott Boras no?
Think about that for a minute: Over the weekend, Reyes confirmed that he told the biggest barracuda/rainmaker agent baseball has that he didn't want to hire him and fire his existing agent, even though Reyes had a front-row seat for one of the more remarkable heists of Boras' career -- the three-year, $36 million deal that Boras extracted from the Mets for Oliver Perez a few years back.
Reyes told Boras no, even though he's having the walk year that every free agent dreams of, and nearly everybody but Reyes thinks the previous four-year, $23.25 million contract extension that his current agent, Peter Greenberg, negotiated for him looks puny compared to the six-year, $55 million extension David Wright got shortly afterward.
Boras has a supercomputer off in his Southern California headquarters that could spit out a few hundred pages of printouts to show just how wrong Reyes is on that last point.
But Reyes' insistence on remaining true to who he is is one of Reyes' charms.
Reyes is conducting this free-agent sweepstakes about as professionally as anyone could -- and not because he's oblivious, which is the flip and easy thing to presume, given how happy-go-lucky Reyes is.
But to presume that about Reyes would also be wrong.
He's 28 now, he's the father of three children, ages 6, 5 and 2, and he's no longer just the ball of energy that former Met Cliff Floyd dubbed "the Dominican Lenny Kravitz" because of Reyes' flash and sense of style.
Reyes is now the longest-tenured current Met. He knows what people are saying about him, all right. He hears the talk.
"There are a lot of things going on and said all the time," he said Sunday, "but I just stay focused on what I need to do. I can't let some of that other stuff get inside my head."
So no grudges?
"Nah," he scoffed, smiling.
No pouting, no anger about being disrespected by Wilpon?
"No, no, nahhhh," Reyes repeated. Then he burst out laughing, as if he couldn't imagine himself that way. Exactly how would that go? If someone took a picture of him pouting, how would that look?
"None of that bothered me," Reyes continued. "I just tell myself I have my job to do."
Wilpon and prospective minority owner David Einhorn should be dancing in their skybox over the large hint that Reyes threw out over the weekend. If Reyes wanted to wring every penny out of whomever he signs his next contract with, Boras would have been the way to go.
Of course, right about here a cynic would say it's easy to be as upbeat as Reyes is when you're ripping up the league and you know the money will come. But again, he's actually gotten better, not worse, since Wilpon mocked him. The idea that his future is unsure hasn't paralyzed him, hasn't affected him the way it has other athletes, especially those stuck in the white noise of New York, who often tend to get worse.
Until the Mets mounted a little bit of a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback in their series finale against the Angels Sunday to make their 7-3 loss look a little better than it was, Reyes was about the only Met who gave the Father's Day crowd something to rave about on the way home.
The Mets' pitching, which has been on a month-long roll, suddenly wasn't. And Jason Bay, who's been stirring a little at the plate, stopped. And the the go-go style Terry Collins has the Mets playing, an approach the Angels are known for, also faded.
While the Angels kept getting hits all game long off Mets starter Jonathon Niese and the Mets' bullpen, the Mets weren't on base enough to steal or force the action like they had in their 6-1 win Saturday night. They also had an error, a passed ball and a hit batsmen as the Angels stole off to an early 4-0 lead.
"When you don't pitch -- but especially when you don't pitch and you don't hit at the same time -- it's going to get ugly. And it got ugly," Collins said.
But Reyes -- as he has so many other times this season -- did provide the Mets' play of the game by flashing deep into the hole in the third inning to snag a three-hop smash by Vernon Wells, then pop up and throw out the Angels' left fielder at first base.
It was the highlight of an otherwise dreary day for the Mets and a reminder that even when the rest of the team sags, Reyes is still alive and on fire and just different.
It's not all raw talent. A lot of it is Reyes making up his mind to be different. No grudges, no pouting, no anger or crippling pressure to prove Wilpon wrong.
And now, thanks but no thanks to Boras.
"Lots of stuff going on," Reyes repeated with a nod and a smile as he bounced out the door. "But I'm happy.
"I just do my job, you know?"
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