Wilner on Jays: Reyes worth the excitement

January 18, 2013, 1:16 AM

Dynamic. Electric. Energetic. Exciting.

Alex Anthopoulos’ favourite player to watch in the big leagues. Blue Jays fans had heard all the things they were going to love about Jose Reyes, acquired in the huge November trade with the Miami Marlins, and Thursday afternoon they finally got to meet him in person.

About two minutes into his introductory news conference, it was pretty plain to see that the Blue Jays’ new shortstop is, indeed, a bundle of energy — and happy energy, to be sure, as the smile barely left Reyes’ face throughout the 15 minute chat with the assemblage.

When Anthopoulos revealed that Reyes is his favourite player to watch, Reyes’ smile got even bigger and he literally bounced in his chair.

Once the questions started coming, the 29-year-old said all the right things.

He’s very excited to be part of the Blue Jays and would be upset with anything short of a World Series, because he believes the team is that good. His game is speed — though injuries to his knees and hamstrings have dropped his stolen base totals from a career-high of 78 in 2007 to last year’s 40 in his first season without a stint on the disabled list in four years — and getting on base.

Reyes comes to Toronto with a career on-base percentage of .342, a number that ranks behind only Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and his OBP has been over .350 in five of the past seven seasons.

Reyes said that with the dangerous line-up the Blue Jays have behind him, his job is simply to get on and let them take care of the rest.

He’s not worried about playing the majority of his games on artificial turf, even given his past leg issues. Reyes bypassed that question by pointing to the fact that he was healthy enough to play 160 games with the Marlins in 2011, and said that injuries are part of the game, seeming to take the position that they’re all but unavoidable. If you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get hurt, whether you’re playing on the fake stuff or not. Reyes’ plan, as is every player’s going into a new season, is to play all 162.

As for Anthopoulos, he could not have been more thrilled to have acquired a player like Reyes. The Jays’ GM was effusive in his praise, saying that while the Blue Jays believed they had depth at shortstop with Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria (both of whom were traded in the deal that landed Reyes) and Maicer Izturis, they "didn’t have anyone like this. Find another player in the game today who does the things he can at shortstop."

It’s a good point. Only two shortstops other than Reyes have won a batting title in the 21st Century — Michael Young and Hanley Ramirez — and neither of them is a shortstop anymore (though Hanley may try it again this season). The last switch-hitting shortstop to win a batting title before Reyes did it in 2011 was, well, there had never been one of those before.

No big-leaguer has stolen more bases in a single-season than Reyes’ 78 since Rickey Henderson nabbed 93 back in 1988 — and Reyes led his league in stolen bases three straight years from 2005 to 2007. The last shortstop to do that was Bert Campaneris with the A’s. Campy led the league in steals four years in a row — and the first two years of that run, the A’s were still playing in Kansas City.

If Reyes can stay healthy — and despite what he says, it’s a big if with the turf and the fact that he’d averaged just 98 games per season the three years before his healthy 2011 — he could very well wind up giving the Blue Jays the kind of offensive weapon they haven’t had since some guy named Alomar suited up for them back in the early 1990s.

After seeing him smiling and bouncing and hearing him talk about bring a World Series back to Toronto, Blue Jays fans seem to be more than ready to catch the taste.


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