With all due respect to Ed Kranepool, an original Met who held many team records, there is no doubt whatsoever Jose Reyes was undoubtedly the best player to ever wear the number 7 for the New York Mets.
From the moment, Reyes was called up to the majors, he was one of the most exciting players who ever donned the Mets uniform. He had this rare combination of speed, hustle, and a rifle of an arm. Really, the best word to describe him was “electric.” That was evident in his first ever game hitting an infield single to second in his first ever at-bat against John Thomson and then scoring from first on a Roger Cedeno double.
Not too long after that was his first injury, triple, homer, and stolen base. On the triples and stolen bases, no one in Mets history would have more. On the homer, it showed how Reyes was just a dynamic lead-off hitter who was this incredible combination of speed and power.
For some reason, the Mets didn’t quite know what they had in him, and they went out to sign Kazuo Matsui to be their shortstop, and they moved Reyes to second. Ultimately, as would be the case many times in his career, his talent would shine through, and he would eventually overtake Matsui and force him to second.
However, due to injuries, he wouldn’t have his first full season until 2005. In that year, the once injury prone player would play all but one game. That year would be the first year of a two year stretch where he would lead the league in both triples and stolen bases. It was the next year which would be year he figured it out.
Working with Willie Randolph, Reyes finally harnessed himself, and he would become an All-Star. Mostly, he was a dynamic threat atop the lineup. He drove that powerful Mets lineup, and he would be just about as important as any player in the league. We saw an example of that when he had a great Game 6 in the NLCS when the Mets were in danger of elimination:
That game could have been the best game of his career. He led off the game with a homer to help get the Mets an early lead. He was 3-for-4 with two runs, a homer, and an RBI. He was also a perfect 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts against Yadier Molina. After his second stolen base in the seventh, he put himself in scoring position for Paul Lo Duca‘s two RBI single to seal the game. In Game 7, he would be absolutely robbed of a series winning hit.
Really, it was during this 2006 season Reyes established himself as the best lead-off hitter in the game, and he was on his way to becoming the best lead-off hitter in Mets history. In 2007, he beat Cedeno’s record for stolen bases in a year, and by the end of 2008, before the Mets moved out of Shea Stadium, he surpassed Mookie Wilson for the Mets all-time record.
While Citi Field seemed ill-suited for the Mets, it wasn’t for Reyes. The ballpark seemed designed just for him. When he wasn’t dealing with injuries, he was hitting the ball hard into the gaps. Finally, in 2011, he did what no other Met had ever done by winning the batting title. For a moment, his bunt single to ensure the title on the last game of the season would seem to be his last moment as a New York Met:
There was a war of words over whether the Mets offered Reyes a contract or not, and for some reason, Reyes was actually booed when he returned to New York as a member of the Miami Marlins. From there, he would go to Toronto, and then Colorado. Things took a completely unexpected turn when Reyes was arrested for domestic violence on the same day the Mets blew a lead in Game 4 of the World Series.
Reyes found himself suspended and without a team as the Rockies used the incident as an opportunity to release Reyes to hand over the shortstop duties to Trevor Story. With his friend and longtime teammate David Wright unable to play due to spinal stenosis, the Mets came calling to bring him back and begin his redemption.
Even with all that happened, Reyes would be greeted with open arms by the fans, and he would be welcomed again with the “Jose!” chants. It was during this run, Reyes would have his truly last great moment as a member of the New York Mets homering in the bottom of the ninth against the Phillies in one of the games which propelled the Mets to the top Wild Card spot:
From there, Reyes would not be able to replicate the type of success he had in his brief 2016 stint, but he would stick around to mentor Amed Rosario. He would also be there for one last time to play alongside Wright in 2018 in what would prove to be the final game they’d play beside one another in what was the final season for both players.
Overall, Reyes is not just the best shortstop in team history, he is on the shortlist of the best players in team history. He is undoubtedly the best lead-off hitter they have ever have with team records in triples and stolen bases. While his story is as complicated as they come, he is undoubtedly the best Mets player to ever wear the number 7.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Reyes was the seventh best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 7.