Jose Reyes is Back in New York…But How Should We Feel About It?

Figuring out the right way to receive Jose Reyes’ return to the New York Mets.

Jose, Jose, Jose, Jo…the whole “prodigal son returns” narrative takes a bit of a hit when the prodigal son is returning in the wake of a domestic abuse suspension, and no one else in the league will touch him, doesn’t it? Alright, let’s not dust off the old Jose Reyes jerseys just yet.

A week and a half after a team official said there was “virtually no chance” of a reunion, Reyes is once again a New York Met. His second stint with the ball club will (hopefully) serve as a much needed spark to an injury laden offense that currently ranks 29th in the league in batting average, 28th in runs scored, and 24th in on-base percentage. The move itself is a mutually beneficial one–it gives the Mets the unique opportunity of enhancing their bench mid season with a former all-star, and for Reyes, he’s found a team desperate enough to add him to their roster. He’s providing the team with an upgrade from the lowly, yet lovable Ty Kelly (currently hitting .148).

But the Reyes homecoming also provides the fanbase with a dilemma. During his 11 seasons in New York, Jose Reyes was a fan favorite, beloved for his energy and childlike demeanor on the diamond. He truly enjoyed playing the game, and it showed. And that’s what resonated so strongly with New York fans. But now he returns under a very different light. Reyes is the prodigal son returning home. But he’s also returning as a man who assaulted his wife in a Maui hotel room. He’s coming back not as part of a blockbuster deadline trade, or as a free agent on a 5-year deal, but as a spousal abuser making a prorated portion of the $507,500 MLB minimum.

So how are Mets fans supposed to receive a former all star coming home? What are they supposed to do when he makes his Citi Field debut? Does he get the standard standing ovation that any fan favorite would get? Does everyone sit on their hands in silence? Something uncomfortably in between?

It’s a sports dilemma we’ve become far too accustomed with handling over the past few years. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Jared Sullinger, Ray McDonald–the list goes on. Each incident forces us into deep moral thought, and questions and conversations about how we value the actions of our athletes off the field, and along side those ones on the field. For the teams that employ these guys, the decisions often seem to boil down to balancing on-field ability, with the potential image hit. Ray Rice wasn’t run out of the NFL just because he hit his then fiancee. He’s out of the league because the league possesses a seemingly unlimited number of capable running backs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Dallas Cowboys brought in Greg Hardy, who was ardently unapologetic about his role in alleged domestic violence incidents. But hey, he’s great at getting to the quarterback.

For the Mets it turns out, all it took was a few injuries around the infield for them to be swayed. And that’s okay. They saw a hole in their roster, and were presented with a rare, (relatively) easy fix. In the end, it is all about what happens on the field isn’t it? We can all make our moral stands about it now, but if in September Jose Reyes comes up with a huge game-winning hit, those same people who grandstand today, will be behind him then. And that too, is okay.

It’s an imperfect situation, and one that certainly doesn’t have to be absolute. It can be nuanced. Mets fans can 100% root for the man on the field, and still shy away from the one off of it. I’m sure there are plenty of people currently rummaging through their attics searching for their old Jose Reyes gear. And there are plenty of others who will recoil at the sight when Jose Reyes makes his debut. The one thing that can be said for sure, is that if he performs and this team makes another run in the playoffs, those “Jose” chants will be loud, and they will be sweet