A little over two hours before midnight, it was revealed that Jose Reyes decided to accept the Marlins' latest contract offer of six years and $106 million to leave the only team he'd ever known. I'll let that sink in before I continue...
...I know. It'll never sink in. Soon he will take his physical, pass it and appear before the Miami media (which probably outnumber the true Marlins fans in South Florida - the ones who still proudly wear their Charlie Hough Marlins jerseys to games).
Gone will be the legs that produced 1,300 hits, 99 triples, 370 stolen bases and the only batting title in franchise history. Replacing him at shortstop will be Ruben Tejada, who shows promise defensively and is very good at working the count. That being said, this is the equivalent of replacing Tom Seaver in the rotation with Pat Zachry, who was also a promising young player in 1977 coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign with the Reds. Pat Zachry was no Tom Seaver. He was barely better than Nino Espinosa, but Nino rocked his afro better. Ruben Tejada might not be able to rock anything, other than an occasional double or two that might hit the moved-in walls at Citi Field on three hops.
None of this is Ruben Tejada's fault and fans should not expect him to replace Jose Reyes' production on the field. Similarly, no one should boo Angel Pagan if he's not the leadoff hitter Reyes was. However, those two players will probably be heckled when they go through a slump, prompting the 7 Line to create "Bring Back Reyes" T-shirts and placards for display at an empty Citi Field. (Note to the 7 Line: If you do create "Bring Back Reyes" shirts, can I have one for free for giving you the idea?)
The Marlins are giving Jose Reyes $106 million for the next six years. That's more than the Mets are willing to commit to every player on their roster in 2012. The average annual value of nearly $18 million is more than the $15 million the Marlins spent on their entire 25-man roster in 2006, which coincidentally was the last (and only) time Jose Reyes played in the postseason.
You might say that $106 million is too much to pay for a player who'd been on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons. You might also say that six years is too much for a player whose game depends on his legs, especially one who will still be earning $18 million annually when he's in his mid-thirties.
But one thing is for sure. Jose Reyes was a dynamic player, one who could change a game like no other player on the Mets could. The Marlins noticed that and were willing to take a risk, one that might bite then in the end, but for now makes them a far better team than the one that finished in last place in the NL East in 2011.
The Mets never had a chance. And the way things look now, they're not going to have a chance in the NL East for years to come. Last night, the current generation of Mets fans lived through their version of the Midnight Massacre. If the Marlins ripped the fans' hearts out in 2007 and 2008, then they took their souls last night when they acquired Jose Reyes.
It's always been hard to be a Mets fan in this town. It just became harder.