WASHINGTON – Jose Reyes, like several of his Toronto Blue Jays teammates, heard the pointed and thorough on-air rebukes of his play delivered by radio broadcaster Jerry Howarth this week.
“It’s like, wow,” the shortstop says of his reaction.
“I don’t know (why he said those things), because he’s a guy that says, ‘Hello,’ to me every single day,” adds Reyes in his first public rebuttal. “If he’s got a personal problem with me, he needs to come talk to me to my face, like a man. Some of the stuff there I disagree with, because what he says is what the fans listen to, that’s what the fans are going to believe.
“I hate when people say, ‘He’s having too much fun.’ I’ve been in this game since I was 19 years old, did you see a different Jose Reyes? No. You see the same guy every single day, nothing changes. I can go 0-for-5, I can go 5-for-5, I’m going to be the same guy. I’m a happy guy, people have to deal with it.”
Howarth’s first harsh critique came during the radio broadcast of last Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, after a Reyes throwing error in the seventh opened the door to a two-run inning that proved decisive in a 6-5 loss.
Then, during a guest spot on Sportsnet 590 The FAN on Tuesday morning, he went even further, saying Reyes’ play made him sympathize with the coaching staff and Blue Jays players, described the 31-year-old as "a shortstop that’s not going to get better" and his defence as "porous," lobbied for Ryan Goins to take over at the position, called the $46 million he’s owed for 2016 and ’17 "a tough situation for the Blue Jays," and criticized him for having "too many smiles when he is in decline and making mistakes and hurting his team losing."
Reyes has made four errors in 76 chances over 25 games this season, all since his activation from the disabled list May 25.
His Ultimate Zone Rating, an advanced metric that attempts to quantify how many runs a player saved for his team through his defence, ranks 14th in the majors at 1.0, tied coincidentally enough with Goins. Defensive Runs Saved, a measure that aims to count how many runs a player saved through plays made in comparison to his peers, is less kind to Reyes at minus-3, compared to plus-5 for Goins.
While all defensive measures are flawed, the sample size this season is still too small to draw definitive conclusions from, anyway, although there’s no arguing Reyes has made errors at crucial times. He accepts responsibility for that, but doesn’t believe his game has diminished to the point he can no longer play shortstop and needs to be moved to left field, as some have suggested.
"Before I made those three errors that I made, (Howarth) didn’t say anything at the beginning of the season, because I didn’t have any errors before I came off the DL," says Reyes. "So I was playing good since spring training, moving around good. Last year, I know that I had a tough time playing shortstop, but at the same time last year, I played through the year with sore hamstrings. It was hard for me to move around. That’s not an excuse, that’s the reality.
"Now I make an error in Minnesota that cost us the game – it’s not the first time I did that, not only me, if you look around the league, mistakes happen that are going to cost the game sometimes, nobody’s perfect in this game. I have to learn from the mistake, I know that day we lost the game because of me, I understand that. I’ll try to get better and make the play next time they hit it to me."
Reyes missed 26 games with a cracked rib and strained oblique in his left side suffered during the season’s opening weekend in Baltimore. He played 10 of the team’s next 14 games with the injury before going on the disabled list, and has appeared in nine games since his activation.
The error against the Twins, "was in my (sixth) game coming back from a broken rib, I’m still trying to get my rhythm going because for me it was over a month, I don’t have everything together right away, that takes a little while," says Reyes. "When you miss some time in the big-leagues, it’s going to take a little while to get it back. There’s some stuff there that I disagree with him, but he can say whatever he wants to, but some of the stuff he said, I feel like, man this guy’s been around this team for (the past) three years but I guess he doesn’t know me, doesn’t know who I am. It is what it is."
The criticism from Howarth that most seemed to trouble Reyes was about his smiling and having fun amidst the Blue Jays’ recent struggles. By nature, he’s always happy-go-lucky, but he urges people not to mistake that for indifference when things go wrong.
"Nobody likes to lose," he says, "I’m not going to be happy and excited about that, but I’m still going to be me, because I know from the bottom of my heart there’s going to be a next game, maybe try to win the next game."
Howarth also said "even his offence has fallen off from where it was" in describing the extent of Reyes’ "decline." At the plate, Reyes is batting .284/.299/.353 with seven doubles, 12 RBIs and four stolen bases, although his numbers are skewed by the six games in which he hit only from the right side because of the injury.
Reyes was also chastised by Howarth for a pair of baserunning blunders over the weekend in Minnesota, when he was twice thrown out trying to stretch hits, once at second, once at third.
"I’ve been doing that all my career, trying to stretch singles to doubles," says Reyes. "They threw me out a couple of times, but I made it sometimes, too. That’s the way it is, that’s the way that I play the game. I hustle, that’s one thing that brought me to the big-leagues, hustling every single day. If they throw me out, I took the chance. What about if I made that play? Oh, unbelievable play by Reyes. They execute really good, threw me out? So what? Next time it happens, maybe I’ll try again, because I’m not afraid to play this game."
Reyes also took offence at the way Howarth described him as "a shortstop who has been hurt every year in April, and is a former all-star shortstop, but is getting older," and that makes him "feel badly for the team."
Injuries are a part of the game, Reyes points out, and "it’s not like I want to get hurt, I want to be on the field, I want to help my ball club every single day."
"Through my career, the kind of game I play, I know I’ve had a lot of injuries to my hamstring, but I’m a speed guy, that’s going to happen," says Reyes. "Look at track and field, what happens? They blow hammys, they blow quads because that’s what they do, running. My game is speed, stealing a lot of bases, hitting a lot of triples, sometimes you’re going to pull a hammy, that’s the way it is. I want to be on the field.
"Early this year, on a check swing I broke a rib. What can I do about that? A check swing. I got a crack in my ribs. Nothing really I can do, but work hard every single day with the trainers, during the off-season I worked so hard to get to this point, hopefully to play 150 games. If it doesn’t happen, that’s the way it is, injuries are a part of the game, I’ve had to deal with that throughout my career. I feel like, looking back, if I didn’t have so many injuries, who knows where my numbers could be right now. But only God can judge me."