Reyes turning his year around as Marlins' season goes south
NEW YORK -- Jose Reyes is all too familiar with this scene, finishing the season with a series of unimportant NL East games at Citi Field during the dog days of August.
It's the same story, just in a different dugout for Reyes, who pictured greener pastures when he left the Mets last winter and signed with the Marlins. He was the second of three big free agent additions for the seemingly revamped franchise with the new name (now the Miami, not Florida, Marlins) and the new ballpark, a glistening modern update closer to downtown than its predecessor.
The great experiment in Miami, however, failed in its first season. The Marlins are 16½ games out of first place and recently traded away several key players, including Hanley Ramirez, their former face of the franchise.
"It's been different," Reyes said of how the season played out compared to his expectations. "You see what the team did the last few weeks -- a lot of trades. But it is what it is. I came here to play baseball. [Trades] are not something that I can control. I just continue to play and do my job on the field."
For the past month he's done his job especially well. During Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over the Mets he extended his hitting streak to 25 games -- the longest in the majors this season. During the streak he has gone 37-for-101 (.366), making his season numbers far more presentable than the .226 average he had on May 8 or even his .264 before the hitting streak began.
"Probably in the beginning I tried to do too much," Reyes said. "I just need to try to be me and play my game."
For the season he's now batting .287 with a .350 on-base percentage, 60 runs and 27 steals in 109 games.
"I respect people who play the same way day in and day out, no matter how good or how bad the day is," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's one of those guys. You can build around him."
Miami had hoped to build its lineup around Reyes, Ramirez and rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Ramirez is now gone, however, after being traded to the Dodgers, and Stanton just returned to the lineup Tuesday after knee surgery sidelined him for a month.
Reyes, on the other hand, has played in 109 of Miami's 110 games this season, a fact of which he said he is "very proud," given that he averaged just 98 games the previous three years. If he maintains such durability and production at a premium middle-of-the-diamond position such as shortstop, Reyes may well prove to be worth the six-year, $106 million contract he signed with the Marlins last December, though of course it is several seasons too early to make any big-picture evaluations.
As Reyes explained last winter, the Mets didn't make him a formal offer to stay in New York, meaning there was never any doubt his talents were South Beach-bound.
Unlike some of the big pieces -- infielder Omar Infante, pitcher Anibal Snachez, Ramirez and others -- that were jettisoned, Reyes seems wedded to the Marlins, for better or worse. The club also kept their other high-priced offseason acquisitions, starting pitcher Mark Buehrle and reliever Heath Bell, not to mention other core pieces such as Stanton and starter Josh Johnson.
The trades may have been an admission of defeat for 2012 but enough key players remain that, with a few additions, a turnaround the next couple of seasons hardly seems far-fetched.
"I'm very happy where I'm at right now," Reyes said. "I like Miami. The fans there, they've been supporting me. That's good to see. There's no regrets for me. . . . We still have some good pieces here, and we're still going to continue to play and give everything that we have."
Therein lies his inherent optimism, yet he could hardly muster much encouragement when asked about the Marlins' future right now, saying, "It's hard to know right now."
Still, Reyes appeared to be his same buoyant self in his second return trip to Citi Field. He flashed smiles, winks and hellos to even the most casual acquaintances, always eager to please. Before the game Reyes sat in his chair, reached for his phone and said to no one in particular, "Let's see how many people called me for tickets."
What did seem to bother him, however, was that Mets fans again booed each of his plate appearances, a harsh welcome back for a man of accomplishments during his time in New York -- four All-Star appearances in total and a batting title just last season -- who was celebrated with cheers and serenaded with chants on a daily basis while wearing the blue and orange.
"It is what it is, man," Reyes said after the game. "I'm fine with Miami fans, so I'm good. They can do whatever they want to here [in New York]. I'm a Miami Marlin now, so that's my concern."
The boos seem particularly unfair given that Reyes didn't exactly spurn a similar offer -- or any offer -- from the Mets to return. But, if nothing else, his productive play and infectious smile ought to win over another fan base while he's in their uniform, even if it's for another team going nowhere.