2003-06-13 / Sports

Reyes Arrives At Shea, But Not As The Mets’ Savior

Baseball Columnist
By Bryan Hoch
Reyes Arrives At Shea, But Not As The Mets’ Savior By Bryan Hoch Baseball Columnist

Jose Reyes (AP/Tony Gutierrez)Jose Reyes (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Jose Reyes can’t save the Mets’ season, which was over long before the team got pounded 20-1 by the Mariners in a doubleheader sweep at Shea Stadium on Sunday, hours before they headed out to Texas and Anaheim for some more AL West punishment.

Reyes also can’t save the job of GM Steve Phillips, who should have received his pink slip from the Wilpon & Son management tandem about six weeks ago.

What Reyes can do during his brief stay in the major leagues – which is unfortunate news in and of itself, because it implies that injured shortstop Rey Sanchez will be back for at least one more at-bat in a Mets uniform – is impress and entertain the millions of disenchanted disciples who pray to the gods of Mr. Met and the Home Run Apple.

Where were you when you celebrated your 20th birthday? Reyes’ came on Wednesday, and he spent it in the visiting clubhouse at The Ballpark in Arlington, admiring both the stitching on his major-league issue uniform and the rippling physique of Mo Vaughn.

OK, we made that one up. Vaughn’s not traveling with the team – heck, it’s too much effort for him to even come around Shea Stadium once in a while, and he’s collecting his paychecks there. We can only imagine what it’s like for those poor gluttons of punishment who pay their way in for a Gold or Silver-tiered game.

That’s all beside the point. This story, and the next two weeks around the Mets, are all about Reyes – he may not be able to legally purchase alcohol in any big-league city (although we’re guessing one of the senior citizens in the clubhouse may be able to help him out on that one), but the kid can pick ‘em with the best at shortstop, gallop like Empire Maker in the Belmont and belt out more hits than Sinatra.

Or can he? That’s what we’ll all be intently watching to find out, and it’s also the reason the Mets have waited until June to call up their most promising position player prospect since Darryl Strawberry – to protect him from the unreasonable expectations of Mets fans desperate for a savior, and from the Shea branch of the New York media desperate to squeeze some blood out of a dead season.

Believe us, if Reyes was a Brewer, a Padre or a Tiger, he’d have broken camp with the team and would already be in the running for his league’s Rookie of the Year award – or at least he’d have enough at-bats to qualify.

Here’s our New York Mets public service announcement: don’t believe the hype.

According to everything we’ve read, heard and seen on Reyes, he’s not the next Alex Rodriguez, he’s not the next Nomar Garciaparra or even the next Derek Jeter. Shoot lower – think Edgar Renteria, a speedy, slap-hitting player with a great glove and some occasional pop.

A good ballplayer? No doubt. But Wheaties box material? The magic eight ball reports that results are cloudy, try back later.

What is crystal-clear is that Mets fans and the New York media shouldn’t ride this youngster as though he’s the cure-all that ails Shea – all of the Benjamin Moore paint (an actual between-innings giveaway) in the world can’t cover up that mess. Sure, we’ll encourage you to sit back and enjoy the kid as he plays his heart out on the diamond, but unless he develops one heck of a curveball and a 75-game winning streak, he’s not saving your season.

Is it 2004 yet?

WEAVING HIS WAY: The man of a million opportunities, Jeff Weaver, will receive his latest chance to prove he’s not the next big Yankees bust thanks to a strain in the pitching shoulder of righthander Jose Contreras.

Weaver’s acquisition last summer has been a mystery, not for the reason it was made – pitchers with the type of repertoire Weaver possesses, a 90-mph-plus fastball and hellacious breaking stuff, cause a drooling effect among scouts and GMs alike – but for how poorly he’s pitched in pinstripes.

When he was rescued from the baseball oblivion that is Detroit, Weaver was a luxury, a simple case of the rich buying some insurance for the postseason and beyond. Since then, he’s been more of a liability than anything else.

Now, the most baffling Bombers tomato can since Ed Whitson is back in the Yanks’ starting five.

"That’s where I want to be. If that’s what I have to do to get back in there, take advantage of this opportunity, this is what I’m geared up for," Weaver said. "I want to start, and whatever’s called on me is what I’m going to do."

For what it’s worth, manager Joe Torre has his back.

"I want Jeff to be a starter because he can do good things as a starter," Torre said. "He hasn’t done that. He hasn’t been God-awful bad, but he hasn’t been probably as consistent as I think he’s capable of being."

Bryan Hoch appears regularly in The Wave. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

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