Jockbeat: Is Manuel Down on Reyes’s Thievery?


Is Mets manager Jerry Manuel serious about moving Jose Reyes into the second slot in the batting order in back of Luis Castillo, or is he just making spring training chat? According to Ben Shpigel in the Times, “It is only an idea — ‘I would never do anything permanently,’ Manuel said, smiling – but it is one that epitomizes his commitment to smart, selfless play.”

How, we have to wonder, do fewer runs translate into “smart, selfless play?”

” ‘It’s about winning as a team,’ says Manuel, ‘and you have to put people in positions that you feel is best to win as a team …Whether that means Jose batting second, third, whatever … the game takes precedence over the individual stats.’ ”

Okay, but how does Castillo hitting in front of Reyes translate to “winning as a team”?  Over the last three seasons, Castillo and Reyes have had virtually the same on-base percentage, .358 for Castillo and .355 for Reyes. In every other area, there is no comparison. Castillo hit seven home runs over that span while Reyes hit 47, and Jose has stolen 198 bases to Luis’s 61. (Also, Reyes’s steal percentage is slightly higher.)

Just to add a bit more spice, Reyes has grounded into only 21 double plays over the last three years to Castillo’s 32.

The difference between the number of runs a team would get with Reyes batting first and Castillo second compared to the other around probably isn’t more than a few runs over the course of a season, but any time the game comes down to a crucial at-bat, who do you want to have that chance, Reyes or Castillo? If Manuel is serious about making the move — even if it isn’t “permanent” — it strikes us as one of those
pointless exercises that managers occasionally just for the sake of shaking things up. But if the Mets’ lead off spot isn’t broken, why waste time trying to fix it?

George Vecsey, also in Sunday’s Times, feels that “Manuel gave an unusual candidate to raise the Mets’ awareness on the field, nominating the mercurial Reyes to be involved in the pitch counts and positioning from shortstop, and to not worry about statistics, namely stolen bases.”

We’re trying to imagine of what help Jose Reyes could be in getting involved in pitch counts, and we’re wondering why anyone is worried
about how many bases Reyes steals. What is the implication coming from Manuel that writers seem to be picking up on, that Reyes is stealing
too many bases? That it would be beneficial to the team if he stole fewer bases?  We thought Reyes was stealing bases because they helped
produce runs – because nearly every time a Mets batter gets a hit with Reyes on second, it’s another run for the team – and that he can reach
second base more often than any other Met. How, exactly, would fewer stolen bases by Reyes benefit the team?

We have a feeling that if Manuel experiments batting Castillo and Reyes first and second, respectively, it will be quickly abandoned.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 17, 2009


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