Jose Reyes gets a warm ovation from Mets fans for some reason


Jose Reyes served his time. At least the time Major League Baseball gave him. The legal system, of course, couldn’t do much with him. So as far as all of the legalities and the workplace sanctions go, Reyes is in the clear.

I don’t begrudge Reyes playing baseball again. Domestic violence suspensions are not one-and-done lifetime deals and he’s eligible to play, so he should be able to play if someone will have him. Beyond the formalities of it, he has a family to support and keeping a domestic abuser away from his profession could perversely serve to harm the family he abused a second time. I can’t say that, were I running a major league baseball team, that I’d be eager to sign Jose Reyes, no matter how cheaply he came, but the fact that someone did is neither scandalous nor objectively wrong, even if it’s a most uncomfortable situation for many Mets fans to have their own self-interest tied up in Jose Reyes’ professional interests for the next three months or so.

But not all Mets fans are uncomfortable. Last night, when Reyes made his return to the Mets, he was greeted warmly by a great many people in Citi Field:

I understand that a lot of sports fans don’t look beyond what happens on the field. I likewise understand that a lot of Mets fans have fond memories of Reyes and the decade he spent in orange and blue. But it’s nearly impossible to believe that those fans giving Reyes an ovation last night are unaware of what happened last October 31 in that hotel room in Maui. Unaware that, according to Reyes’ wife in her statement to police, Reyes dragged her off the bed in their hotel room, choked her and slammed her up against a sliding glass door. That she was bruised in multiple places and had marks on her throat. That the hotel staff called 911 when they saw her and that the medics who responded thought it best to take her to the hospital.

The fans in attendance at Citi Field last night knew this, but many of them still cheered this man. They cheered this man despite the fact that far smaller transgressions — or even imaginary, made-up transgressions like, say, making a comment about testing free agency after the season — cause even hometown players to be booed, especially in New York.

Fans buy their tickets and they can do what they want. If they’d like to cheer for Jose Reyes, they can cheer for Jose Reyes. But I’d sure like to know what goes through the mind of someone who does. I’d like to hear the justification they make to themselves in which memories of some baseball exploits from five to thirteen years ago outweigh an ugly and violent act from eight months ago when it comes time to decide how to greet a guy.

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Nationals succeeded by spending money

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Throughout the playoffs, the Nationals have been cast as plucky underdogs fighting and scrapping their way into the World Series. It’s somewhat true: the Nats overcame a dreadful start to the regular season after losing their star outfielder in Bryce Harper, and were heavy underdogs in the NLDS against the Dodgers, who won 13 more games. But the Nationals are not David in a David vs. Goliath story. They’re closer to Goliath because they have flexed their payroll muscle to fill the roster with talented players.

The Nationals didn’t come close to matching the 13-year, $330 million contract the Phillies wound up agreeing to with Harper, instead offering a 10-year, $300 million deal of which about $100 million was deferred. Losing Harper has somewhat defined their 2019. But they did sign starter Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract, and they’re paying Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg $38.33 million and $37.4 million, respectively. As we saw in the NLCS, it was the starting rotation that carried them into the World Series.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, will not win the award again this year most likely, but he once again ranked among the game’s best pitchers. During the regular season, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts across 172 1/3 innings. Strasburg led the league in wins with 18 and innings with 209 while authoring a 3.32 ERA with 251 strikeouts. Corbin continued to impress with a 3.25 ERA and 328 strikeouts in 202 innings. As a unit, the Nationals’ 3.53 ERA from starting pitchers ranked second-best in baseball behind the Dodgers. Sounds about right for a rotation collectively earning about $100 million.

We — the royal we — have been quick to point out when an uncommon strategy works, like the Cubs’ and Astros’ rebuilding strategies before they came in vogue or the Rays’ use of the “opener.” It’s only fair to point out that a time-tested strategy, spending money on good baseball players, also works. The Nationals’ current payroll of about $204.5 million is third-highest in baseball, according to USA TODAY.

In September, the Nationals’ NL East rival Phillies were reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal to have curtailed efforts to compete for a Wild Card because of a lack of certainty. The front office didn’t want to invest significant resources into grabbing a lowly Wild Card only to have to match up with the behemoth Dodgers in the NLDS. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did. The Nationals also swept the slumping Phillies in a five-game series September 23-26.

The Phillies aren’t alone. We’ve seen in the last few offseasons that teams have become loath to invest in free agents, particularly ones 30 and older. Even Scherzer took notice. Asked about the Nationals’ collective age, Scherzer said via The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd, “It just seems everybody wants younger and younger players. And everybody wants to forget about all the old guys. We see it in free agency, we’re not dumb. And the fact (is) we’re the oldest team and we won the National League.”

Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Josh Donaldson will highlight the upcoming free agent class. They could be joined by Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman, and J.D. Martinez if they exercise the opt-out clauses in their contracts. In the cases of Cole and Rendon, at least two-thirds of the league should be actively pursuing them but if the past few years are any indication, the actual interest will be muted and they won’t end up signing until after the new year. Front offices have continued to blindly recite the phrase “aging curve” while pointing at the Rays in an effort to scale back payroll. The Nationals, meanwhile, are putting the “money” back in Moneyball and they might win a championship because of it.