They all leave. Just about every last one of them. A handful of the New York Mets' homegrown cornerstones left of their own volition. Some were forced out. And others left due to the combination of the two. Tom Seaver left. Tug McGraw left. Cleon Jones left. Jerry Koosman left. Jon Matlack left. Bud Harrelson left. Mookie Wilson left. Lenny Dykstra left. Darryl Strawberry left. Dwight Gooden left. Todd Hundley left. Edgardo Alfonzo left. Ed Kranepool was one of the only ones who made it all the way to the end. And Ed Kranepool was the least talented of the bunch. Now it's Jose Reyes' turn.
It's a sad day for any team when they lose a franchise player, and one in his prime to boot. This is the type of move that usually happens to the Kansas Citys and Pittsburghs of the baseball world (or even Florida), not New York. Those players usually come here, not leave. But the Mets are entering a bold, new world. Or maybe returning to an old, dark world. Of all the Mets' stars departures of the past, Reyes' may most closely mirror the one of Strawberry. They were both 28, still in the midst of the most productive years of their careers and they chose to leave via free agency.
Though Seaver's best days were behind him (but he still had a few good ones ahead of him, too) and he was traded, the Reyes situation calls to mind that transaction as well. The Mets of 1977 wanted no part of the new free agency that had just begun. They didn't want to pay their stars what the market had brought. The team had been going downhill since their 1973 World Series performance, ownership and management weren't trusted and fans stopped going to Shea Stadium, as it received the nickname of Grant's Tomb, named after team president M. Donald Grant. The last five seasons for the Mets have been disastrous on and off the field in their own unique way. Like the late-'70s, ownership is deeply mistrusted. They don't have money to spend. Or they just don't want to spend what they have. The team's future doesn't seem bright, and Citi Field is in danger of becoming Fred Wilpon's version of Grant's Tomb.
Maybe not giving Reyes a long-term contract was the proper move. His whole game relies on his legs and his speed, and those legs have proven to be fragile. And with the team as presently constructed basically being a placeholder until the Zach Wheelers and Matt Harveys arrive, maybe spending $100 million on one player wouldn't be the prudent thing to do. Maybe the Mets will let out a sigh of relief if the star shortstop makes one stop after another on the disabled list over the next few years. Big-money, long-term contracts are often filled with regret. The Mets only have to look to their left fielder to see an example of that. But sometimes, a big contract can be more symbolic, as in the case of a Pedro Martinez. They can be a statement that the team is doing all it can to win and putting a solid product on the field, and the franchise in question is entering a new era.
Emotionally, Met fans are most likely angry. Not going after Reyes is a sign of waving the white flag for the next few seasons (though Sandy Alderson insists he's not conceding anything, when it comes to competing and winning). Whether one wanted him back or thought the price was too high and agree with the Mets' position, Reyes will surely be missed. Sure, he made a few head-scratching base-running and fielding moves over the years, but he was a fan favorite, filled with a childlike exuberance for the game with unbridled flash and flair and possessed an electrifying style of play.
At any rate, with Reyes now down in Miami, we now know who the face of the franchise is these days for the Mets -- it's a grimacing Sandy Alderson dealing with a stark, new reality in Queens.