Sunday, April 1, 2007 By STEVE POPPER
Jose Reyes can't cook.
Yes, there is something he can't do. But that's in the kitchen, where his mom still helps him. On the field though, every day that passes seems to dispel another notion that there is anything he can't do. And that is why he is the best player in New York.
Actually, his manager -- Willie Randolph, who is not prone to excessive proclamations -- already bypassed this debate and announced that Reyes could be the best player in baseball. And teammates who could lay claim to that designation -- David Wright and Carlos Beltran -- didn't flinch at that assessment.
"He's dynamic in all aspects of the game. He does everything exceptionally well in all aspects of the game. You can't look around baseball and find many more well-versed, five-tool players than Jose. He can absolutely do it all. The scary thing is he gets better and better."
He is 23 years old and seems to be just scratching the surface, but this isn't about potential, just as it isn't about the past. Sure the potential is intriguing. Reyes has just two full seasons in the major leagues and reported this spring to camp looking stronger and bashing home runs at the same rate as Barry Bonds.
But he's already reached a level that no other shortstop in baseball today -- Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez included -- has reached. Last year, he led the major leagues with 17 triples and 64 stolen bases and hit .300 with 19 homers and 30 doubles.
The only other shortstop in major league history to hit at least .300 with at least 15 triples, 10 homers, 20 doubles and 50 stolen bases was Honus Wagner in 1908. Only one other player in history -- Willie McGee in his MVP season of 1985 -- has reached those levels. And Reyes is the only player in history with the combination of runs (122), hits (194), stolen bases and homers he compiled.
He starts rallies -- hitting .325 with 20 walks leading off an inning. But he finishes them, too, hitting .414 in 79 at-bats with two out and runners in scoring position. Dave Williams, a teammate now who has faced him, said, "You worry about a guy like [Carlos] Delgado for his power and you try to take that away. But with Jose, you can't take anything away. If he singles, he's on third."
Unlike Rodriguez, whose every move seems calculated on how it will move him closer to immortality and the Hall of Fame, Reyes, with his infectious smile, has ignited his clubhouse and even Shea Stadium. The stands reverberate with chants of "Jose, Jose, Jose" with his every scamper around the bases. The smile and the skills are his calling card. There is no celebrity dating and few endorsements.
But this argument isn't about who is dating Jessica Biel or Jessica Alba or whatever movie star emerges next week -- although Reyes has begun a music career. It's about what he does between the lines, and Reyes has a combination of still-developing speed and power, cannon arm and acrobatic glove that no other player can touch.
"I appreciate that," Reyes said. "But that doesn't go to my head. I have to worry so much about playing the game, doing my job, giving 100 percent every day. I can't worry about that kind of stuff. Whatever happens, happens."
It's already happened. Only two years after he seemed too young, too injury-prone, Reyes has emerged. Last year he finished seventh in the National League MVP balloting, hurt by the suddenness of his ascension and by the votes split among his teammates (Beltran finished fourth, Wright ninth and Delgado 12th).
Now, he seems better. This isn't about the rings Jeter has or the numbers being compiled by A-Rod. This is about 2007. One year. Who is the best player today? Who would you want on your roster? And the answer is Reyes. Or as they would say at Shea, Jose, Jose, Jose.
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- WHY REYES IS BETTER THAN JETER
Reyes is faster than Jeter and steals more bases.
- Derek Jeter is still a fast runner, and yes, he stole 34 bases last year. But for pure speed, few players in the league – if any – are as fast as Reyes.
- Reyes is nine years younger than Jeter.
- Jeter (June 26) and Reyes (June 11) share the same birth month ... but not the same year. Jeter was born in 1974, Reyes in 1983. When they're making room for Jeter in Monument Park, Reyes could still be at the top of his game.
- Reyes has more pop in his bat right now, and he's only getting stronger.
- Since hitting 24 home runs in 2004, Jeter's HR output has dropped in each of the past two years. At 32, it's reasonable to think that he'll never top 20 again. Reyes, however, could be the next perennial 30-30 guy.
- Unlike Jeter, Reyes gets along with his third baseman.
- For baseball fans who have grown weary of the almost daily Jeter and Alex Rodriguez soap opera, there's the Mets' clubhouse. Usually you can find third baseman David Wright cracking jokes about Reyes' wardrobe ... all in good fun.
- Jose Reyes on David Wright"We're just good friends. We joke around here in the clubhouse, but if we see each other outside, we're friends. We joke, try to have fun."
- Jeter's arm is strong, but Reyes has a cannon for an arm ... and may have better range
A few years ago, former Mets first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz went to Reyes and asked him not to throw the ball quite so hard because he was worried about getting a bruised catching hand. And just because Reyes has a cannon for an arm doesn't mean he's a loose cannon; his throws from the hole are as accurate as anyone's.
RE: Trading Reyes for Jeter / Rodriguez: NO!!!!! I don't want to get lesser value in the deal.