Leonard C Suskin's musings on writing, parenthood, and the wonderful world of commercial AV.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
On Fallen Heroes - Thoughts on Reyes and Wright
I've talked here
about Matt Harvey, about the act of watching baseball, and how the game is, in
many ways, not merely a story but a part of our uniquely American mythology. In
Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and Ty Cobb we have organically grown what L. Frank
Baum tried to deliberately create - a uniquely American set of folk stories.
Total we'll talk about the left side of the Mets infield, and the fall of two
of New York's heroes. Will either have a final act, and what will that act
entail? That we don't know yet.
Wright and Reyes.
Reyes and Wright. Two young Mets going the team in the early 2000s, full of
promise. Reyes was always the spark. Ebullient, enthusiastic, joyous. He ran
like the wind, once completing an inside-the-park home run in just over 14
seconds. Reyes of the elaborate post-home-run handshakes, he of the "Learn
Spanish with Professor Reyes" vignettes on the big scoreboard. He was
youth, he was fun, he was life.
Then Wright. Where
Reyes was all twitch and speed and flair, Wright was all business, class, quiet
confidence. A smooth swing, an easy smile, a quiet demeanor. He's the closest
the Mets had to what the Yankees had all those years in Derek Jeter; a comforting,
steady presence both in the line-up and in the clubhouse. He was front and
center with a grin after a big win, and front and center again to say the hard
things after a loss.
Wright and Reyes.
Reyes and Wright. In 2006, as young men, they'd lead the team deep into the
post-season, coming one game - one out - even one PITCH from an appearance in a
World Series which the Saint Louis Cardinals would eventually win.
Two Thousand six was
a long time ago. It felt like the beginning of something grand, although we now
know that it wasn't. The years which followed were full of disappointments,
struggles. Through it all, Wright and Reyes, Reyes and Wright, until that fateful
day after the 2011 season in which Reyes was seduced by riches (and, in
fairness, was outside the Mets budget) and took his talents to Miami.
Reyes wandered the
wilderness, trading from Miami to distant Toronto after just one season and,
when Toronto was finally poised to achieve success, traded again to Colorado.
remained the one link to 2006, started to grow old before his time, still a Met
for his playing life, however long that may be.
Wright and Reyes,
Reyes and Wright. Now both at a crossroads, Each fallen in his own way. Wright,
laid low by a failing body as he was diagnosed first with spinal stenosis, and
now with a herniated disc in his neck. He'll get surgery and may or may not someday
return to the field. If he does, it will be as a diminished athlete weakened by
the ravages of time - as we all are.
(As an aside, this is my issue with another American
mythology: superheroes, especially as portrayed in cinema; we get the beginning
of the story, but too rarely the end. Peter Park is always a young man. Bruce
Wayne is always donning the cowl for the first time after his parents' murder.
Before they can age, mature, move to a different part of their story -- the
universe resets and Parker is again bitten by a radioactive spider, Wayne again
orphaned. We tell half-stories, never getting to the point in which Sherlock
Holmes meets his nemesis at the Reichenbach Falls, or Ajax falling onto his
sword after realizing that his time has past. We don't even get Kirk at
Veridian III. I'll speak more on that in another post, but I wish we would
learn to tell full stories)
Reyes' story could
have been a classic - heroic figure leaves, wanders the figurative desert for a
time, returns triumphantly. His fall, however, was of a different kind in that
he spent fully the first third of this season suspended from baseball under MLB's
new domestic violence policy after throwing his wife into a glass door while
vacationing in Hawaii. He's since lost his starting job to a young rookie and
been essentially cut by the team, who will pay him the remaining nearly
forty-million dollars owed on his contract for the service of going away and
never being seen there again.
domestic violence incident, the story changes. Now the story becomes not only
about a hero whose fall is a moral issue, but it becomes part of a larger
societal story about abuse of women in the world of athletics and the lack of
repercussions. It's a story that includes Ray Rice initially suspended only two
games after hitting his wife. Brock Turner given a minimal sentence after
raping an unconscious woman. Aroldis Chapman pitching for the Yankees after
firing a gun during a domestic dispute with his wife. Santonio Holmes returning to the gridiron after beating his wife. It's Fransisco Rodriguez continuing to close baseball games after domestic violence, including assaulting his then-girlfriend's father at an actual ball game.
The story or Reyes can become part of another myth - the myth of professional athletics and the import of
success on the field. The story that the safety and health of the women
surrounding athletes are less important than success on the field. A story we tell every time Chapman dons the Yankee pinstripes and which Reyes would tell if again wore the orange and blue. This is why - after years of missing
his on-field ebullience - I'd be furious to see Reyes again don a Mets uniform.
Is what he did
forgivable, and can he have a path to redemption? Perhaps. That forgiveness cannot takes place on the baseball diamond, lest we reinforce the message that
women are less important than sport. That we cannot do.
And of Wright's future? He's in pain. He's played in pain all year, and all year last year. IT takes hours for him to prep his injured back before each game. Later? After neck surgery? Perhaps he'll be able to come back and the story will be that of overcoming hardship. Perhaps not and the story will be about how time finally defeated him. As it does everyone.
Wright and Reyes.
Reyes and Wright. Two stars, beloved by Mets fans from their youngest days.
Neither on the field at present. Wright's story is in its last pages. Reyes' - at least for me - is over. I won't watch him again, won't cheer for him again.
One may never play again due to age and injury. One should never play again for
the message his return would send.
It's not the way any of us wanted or expected either story to end.