Jose Reyes made his 2016 debut last night, back in a Mets uniform. And many Mets fans made him feel at home.
Reyes was arrested last October in Hawaii, where he allegedly dragged his wife from the bed, choked her, and slammed her into a glass door. Responding EMTs took her to the hospital. Charges were dropped because his wife declined to cooperate with prosectors, but MLB issued Reyes a 52-game suspension. The Rockies tried to trade Reyes, but finding no takers, gave him his unconditional release and ate $29 million in salary. So he signed with the Mets, and before his first at-bat last night, the crowd let him know they were happy to have him back.
I wouldn’t quite call it a standing ovation from the entire ballpark, but it was something (mobile users watch here):
This was not particularly a surprise—we’ve come to know that some number of fans are able to completely compartmentalize what athletes do off the field, and all fans must necessarily compartmentalize to some extent if they are able to keep watching sports. This was a lot easier to do in an era when we didn’t know about players’ personal lives, but the idea has always been the same.
But then you see a quote like this, and it’s bracing to see it put so starkly:
“What he did during the offseason is none of my personal business,” said fan Joe Devine as he walked toward the stadium. “If he beat on his wife, none of my personal business. He wants to play baseball, let him play baseball.
“If he can hit, fine,” Devine added.
It’s the product of impermeable, tautological fandom: If Jose Reyes can help the Mets win, then all that matters is that he helps the Mets win. You know these exact same people will be booing Reyes by year’s end if he’s hitting .240.
So what’s the best way to react, on the spectrum from booing, to sitting on your hands, to offering polite applause, to bringing Jose Reyes signs and chanting his name? It’s each fan’s choice, obviously, but they should be aware that enough of them putting a baseball reunion first leads to front pages like this: