Joe Posnanski
Thursday March 11th, 2010

Of course, different people have different ideas about what makes an exciting baseball player. But, in general, the blueprint would look an awful lot like Jose Reyes.

In fact, not that long ago, Bill James and I plotted out a formula (admittedly the formula is a lot more me than Bill -- he just offered suggestions) to try and determine the most exciting players in baseball. I lost that original formula, but I tried to recreate it, taking into account triples (the most exciting play in baseball!), stolen bases, batting average, defensive excitement (subjective) and a couple of other things. I'm pretty sure I created the most wildly flawed formula to appear on the Internet today.

Here then, according to this wildly flawed formula, are the 11 most exciting seasons of the last 25 years:

1. Jose Reyes, 2006. 2. Jose Reyes, 2008 3. Jimmy Rollins, 2007 4. Ichiro Suzuki, 2001 5. Carl Crawford, 2004 6. Jose Reyes, 2007 7. Chuck Knoblauch, 1996. 8. Hanley Ramirez, 2006 9. Tony Gwynn, 1987 10. Tim Raines, 1985 11. Carlos Beltran, 2001.

Obviously, you can create your own formula -- and I hope you will -- but the point is that at least according to one fairly standard view, Reyes defined exciting baseball. He hit lots of triples. He also hit doubles and a few home runs. He led the league in stolen bases three years in a row. He made dazzling plays at shortstop. Sure, there were always people who thought Reyes needed to get on base more and could have been a touch steadier defensively. But that stuff would come! The point with Reyes was excitement. He was exciting. The Mets were exciting.

Anyway, that's how it was in 2006, when Reyes was 23 years old and the Mets won 97 games. That's also how it was in 2007, when Reyes stole 78 bases -- most in 20 years -- and the Mets led the National League East by seven games in mid-September, you know, before losing 12 of their last 17 and blowing it to the Phillies.

Oh well, there was excitement even then. The Mets signed the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana. Reyes has probably his best season -- led the league with 204 hits and 19 triples, stole 56 bases. And the Mets led the National League East by 3½ games in mid-September, you know, before losing four of their next five and never again getting back into first place.

Sure, the late season fadeouts hurt. They hurt a lot. But -- and it's easy to forget this -- the Mets still looked to be in awfully good shape. Reyes was exciting. Santana was dazzling. Third baseman David Wright was one of the best players in baseball. Center fielder Carlos Beltran was one of the best players in baseball. Carlos Delgado had hit 38 home runs -- the 11th time in 12 years he hit 30-plus homers. Francisco Rodriguez came to New York after he had set the single-season save record in Anaheim -- finally, the Mets had their answer for the Great Rivera.

So, how did it all go so wrong? Just look at the Mets now. They are now arguing over Jose Reyes' thyroid. That's the big story at Mets camp these days. The Mets seem to believe -- based on what they're hearing from doctors -- that Reyes has an overactive thyroid. Reyes seems to believe -- based on what he's hearing from doctors -- that his thyroid is fine. Everybody is waiting for the results from the latest tests. These days, Jose Reyes' thyroid has the third highest Q-Rating in New York, behind only David Paterson and David Letterman. It could get its own show by the weekend.

Of course, the thyroid talk is just an emblem of the Mets' issues -- of Carlos Beltran's knee surgery, of David Wright's power outage, of Carlos Delgado's hip injury, of the surgery Johan Santana had to remove bone chips, of the Mets' abominable 70-92 record last year.*

* The Mets became the first team in baseball history to spend $140 million (well, $149 million and some change) and have a losing record. Here is a list of all the teams to spend $140 million on payroll in a season and their win total:

2009 Mets: 70 wins 2009 Yankees: 103 wins 2008 Yankees: 89 wins 2007 Yankees: 94 wins 2007 Red Sox: 96 wins 2006 Yankees: 97 wins 2005 Yankees: 95 wins 2004 Yankees: 101 wins 2003 Yankees: 101 wins

In other words, the thyroid talk is just the latest in a whole bunch of really weird things to happen to the Mets. Of course, Mets fans -- at least the ones I hear from all the time -- seem to think this is all just part of being ... Mets fans. It's all part of the tradition. The Mets have a proud history of "The Mets Being The Mets" that, of course, goes back to the 1962 team that most people would agree was the worst baseball team of the last 100 years.

The teams that followed were not much better -- until the 1969 Miracle Mets and the 1973 Ya Gotta Believe Mets. Then, the late 1970s, another dreadful lull, that time when Joe Torre came to understand that it's hard to be a genius with Lenny Randle at third, Doug Flynn at second and Craig Swan as your Opening Day starter.

Then, came the great mid-80s Mets that didn't win quite as much as they should have won. Then came the dreadful early 1990s Mets, the good-but-not-good enough late 1990s Mets, the dreadful early 2000s Mets, and finally this team dealing with a spotty lineup, a spotty rotation and a thyroid problem.

The thing is, that if they could stop the bad momentum ... this Mets team has talent. Johan Santana, if he's healthy, is as good as anybody. Beltran appears to be on the mend after knee surgery -- he says that he's feeling better about his knee than he has in years. You would like to believe that David Wright, having worked out whatever swing problems he had last year, will return to being a terrific player. Jason Bay gives the Mets a strong middle-of-the lineup bat. The rotation -- with 20-somethings Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Oliver Perez -- could be OK, and K-Rod is still a top closer no matter what Goose Gossage may have said about him.*

* I guess Gossage called K-Rod a "clown" because of his theatrics on the field, and K-Rod responded by saying he had never heard of Gossage. So, that went well. Gossage also suggested that while Mariano Rivera is the best "modern reliever," he prefers himself and the 52 saves in which he got at least seven outs. Rivera, he points out, only has two of those. Case closed.

And while this is off-topic, it should be pointed out that Gossage does not have the most seven-out saves in baseball history, and he doesn't have the second most, and he doesn't have the third, fourth, fifth or sixth-most either. One of his teammates, Sparky Lyle, had more.

The list of most saves, 7-or-more outs:

1. Rollie Fingers, 74 saves 2. Dan Quisenberry, 65 saves 3. Gene Garber, 64 saves 4. Hoyt Wilhelm, 61 saves 5. Mike Marshall, 57 saves 6. Sparky Lyle, 56 saves 7. Goose Gossage, 52 saves 8. Lindy McDaniel, 51 saves 9. Bill Campbell, 49 saves 10. Bob Stanley, 48 saves.

And then there's Jose Reyes. He was hurt for almost all of the 2009 season. He has had a rough camp with his thyroid issues and with the FBI questioning him about his connection to Canadian doctor Tony Galea, who has been charged with conspiring to smuggle HgH into the U.S. But here's the thing. He's only 26 years old. He says that he feels healthy. He still has the talent to be one of the most exciting players in the game. And he and the Mets are due for something good ... it has to happen one of these days.

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