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Jose Reyes has stolen the hopes and dreams of every Mets fan faster than he swiped 370 bases for the club.

The Mets’ all time leader in stolen bases has reportedly run from his nine-year home in Queens and flown south this winter after biting on a six-year, $106 million contract the new Miami Marlins used to bait him onto their hook.

The shortstop leaves Flushing as one of the greatest statistical players to ever don a Mets uniform, ranking second in hits with 1,300, first in runs scored with 740, first in triples with 99 and his .292 batting average is the seventh best in franchise history.

Once time passes and cooler heads prevail, and Mets fans cease cursing the Wilpon name, wiping the tears from their eyes and looking up the career statistics of Reuben Tejada (.256 batting average with one homerun and 51 RBI over 174 games), they will realize Reyes’ exit should be of no shock to them.

Fans have surely heard an ear-full about the Wilpons’ financial troubles and learned months ago that the team will cut payroll significantly.

Considering Reyes’ career year this past season, during which he became the first Met to win a batting title, it was fairly obvious he would be highly coveted and likely not be back in Queens.

Reyes’ departure, which transforms Roosevelt Avenue into the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” is also the latest and largest example that the Mets have drastically changed their philosophy – the team’s free agent frenzy switch has been flipped from dim during last year’s offseason to complete darkness this winter.

In other words, if they weren’t in rebuilding mode before, the Mets just blew up their house.

According to reports, the Mets did not make a legitimate attempt to sign Reyes – as a matter of fact, they never even made an offer. The team has gone from chasing any and every free agent and having one of the largest payrolls in the league, to one of the clubs they used to pity, watching their stars leave for bigger bucks.

The sad truth, however, is that with or without Reyes, the Mets weren’t competing with the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves for the National League East title, let alone the pennant or World Series, in the coming seasons – reference this past season and the four previous years.

The team’s financial situation demands rebuilding, and giving Reyes over a $100 million (with a reported $22 million option in his seventh year) is too much cash to commit to a guy you have to pray plays over 120 games a season for a team that will be mediocre at best. His tremendous numbers this season also make Mets fans forget the multiple collapses and immaturity he has shown during his tenure as the team’s shortstop.

What rightfully stings is that he went to the Marlins – not only a division rival but a team that beat the Amazins’ on the last day of the season in 2007 and 2008, eliminating them from the playoffs on both occasions. It will be understandably difficult for fans to see Reyes in a Miami uniform, and not just because of how hideous they are.

Time, however, heals all wounds, and while it will be odd for many not watching Reyes between second and third next season, come April, the team’s supporters will have plenty on their plate to worry about.

What is certain is that Mets fans will be waiting with bated breaths until the team’s free agent switch is flipped back on.


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