Yesterday, I had tickets to watch the Mets take on the Oakland Athletics at Citi Field. Hoping to watch Dillon Gee stay undefeated, I and my fellow Mets fans instead watched the A's hand the Mets a 7-3 loss and end Gee's streak.
Ho-hum. Another Mets loss.
What was more significant to me than the loss, and even more than Jason Bay's impressive night (finally), was a conversation I had with a fan sitting in the row in front of me.
As soon as Jose Reyes came up for the first time, the man brought out a big sign that read, "Mets—Keep Jose Reyes or the fans go home!"
Certainly a truthful premise.
When I asked him what he would do if the Mets were completely out of it, he said he'd stop coming to games and instead watch on TV.
I asked him if having Reyes would change that, and he flatly told me, "No."
For a team in as much distress as the Mets, there have been bright spots. At times, the Mets have played excellent baseball. They haven't been able to climb over the .500 mark, but they've certainly been better than expected, at least considering the absence of both David Wright and Ike Davis.
The brightest spot of all has been Reyes.
Normally, the Mets would be basking in the warm glow of one of the most dynamic players in baseball having the best season of his career.
Reyes leads all of baseball in triples (12) and the NL with a .336 BA and 103 hits. He's second in the NL in SB (26) and doubles (20).
The problem for the Mets is that Reyes will be a free agent at the end of this season, leaving Mets general manager Sandy Alderson with some rather large decisions to make.
He can trade Reyes, essentially mailing in the remainder of the season and telling the fans that they'll have to find a new favorite. He can keep Reyes for the whole season, try to re-sign him and then take the draft picks if Reyes signs elsewhere.
Most likely, Reyes' price tag will be far too high for the Mets, and Alderson does not seem inclined to sign anyone to a huge contract, not even Reyes. Even Fred Wilpon said that Reyes won't be getting big money, though he didn't explicitly say it just wouldn't be from the Mets.
Whatever the Mets do, their decision will come with consequences.
But let's be serious for a moment.
Whether Reyes stays or goes, the fans will leave when contention goes out the window.
Right now, fans can forget about the division. The Phillies have pulled away and now hold a 10.5-game lead over the Mets.
Focus should be kept on the wild card. After last night's loss, the Mets are now six games behind the leading Atlanta Braves.
If the Mets can get Davis and Wright back, both of whom are behind schedule in their respective rehabs, and Johan Santana can somehow be a source of production for the Mets, then perhaps they can surprise some folks in the wild card.
But if that six-game mark starts to grow as the season carries on, fans will start heading for the hills.
Right now, the Mets rank 13th in attendance, so it can obviously get much worse.
If Reyes is traded, it will.
But an irrelevant Mets team WITH Reyes won't outdraw an irrelevant team WITHOUT Reyes by very much.
Some of those fans holding up signs urging Alderson and the Mets to open their checkbooks to Reyes are the same fans who have cursed this team up and down for the last five years.
You know what? Reyes was on those teams every year.
The Mets have some big decisions to make. They can go in one direction or the other.
But no matter what they do, if this team isn't winning, the fans will only be going in one—out the door.