Jeter, Reyes are Measuring the Cost of Greatness

Everybody is capable of greatness. Helen Keller earned a BA. Einstein, synonymous with “genius”, was probably just a bad decision away from becoming a hobo in his 30’s. Stephen Hawking defies so much logic that he must be from outer space.

The late bloomer of all the late bloomers.

And performing in a city such as New York, a longstanding farmland of success stories in every walk of life, Derek Jeter is the only person in the history of the five boroughs to assemble 3,000 baseball hits. Jose Reyes, Jeter’s relatively young, hotshot New York counterpart, will be asking for-and certainly receive-over $100 million dollars this coming winter.

This has to have all of us all wondering, just how much is greatness worth? Only God knows what exactly is wrong with a world that will overpay for a performer’s potential to earn 3,000 hits TWO or more contracts from now.

Jeter is probably the most decorated athlete to ever dress in New York City. Yet strangely, he had to Tap Out to the Yankees and take a major pay cut in this past off-season just so he could continue to be a role model in a community of roughly 15 million as well as wear the letter “C” on his chest to co-manage a clubhouse full of strutting and scratching boys. The Yankees could have done the right thing and just offered Jeter a guaranteed $100 million dollar lifetime contract with the club. But apparently, being the face of the world’s most famous, prestigious and most profitable sporting franchise wasn’t worth that.

It was probably not the first time Jeter dealt with professional and public humility, but at this point of his life, for a five-time World Series winner, it has to be as maddening as ever.

Reyes has been nurtured by the Mets as if he were a singing and dancing frog since signing in ’99. And since, he’s had a nice career; for a Mets fan he’s the kind of athlete that makes you want to Tweet about to your friends while taking in a helping of SportsCenter. Nobody scoots from home to third quite like the Dominican native. Watching the ball fly off his Marucci bat then beam to the gap in right-center, all while he jailbreaks to third, may even look better than a Springsteen hit sounds. Of course, he’s not much of a situational hitter, and his baseball IQ is certainly not over 140 like Jeter’s, but he’s got a Superhero quality that cannot be taught.

Jeter's flip: poetry in motion.

But is a circus freak entitled to more than an actual institution? Drawing from baseball’s past, there may be nobody to compare Reyes to. But there will certainly be another one. In Jeter’s case, how many baseball players can we truly identify as winners first?

What has to bother baseball purists, or anyone who can understand the Law of Nature or scruples in general, knows there’s something a little confounding about the brilliant season Reyes is now putting together. Sure he’s on pace to win a batting title, something even Jeter has never done, but it just so happens he’s also going to be a free agent at the end of this season. For a guy who’s spent more days on the disabled list than any owner shelling out over $100 million would like, Reyes might as well be a campaigning Barack Obama (circa 2008) wearing Met pinstripes in ’11.

It’s not that Reyes is doing anything immoral, it just makes you wonder what has been going on all these years underneath the bubbly demeanor that complements his play in ’11 and attainable services to be in ’12. Or at 28, has Reyes simply reached his athletic prime? Because if he can hit and field like this for five to seven more years, we’ll certainly be projecting the number 3,000 for another shortstop. That, of course, is worth $100 million in jersey and autograph sales alone.

As I was leaving my cousin’s pool party last evening, he walks me out to the driveway and utters, “What are you driving?”

“The Corolla,” I nodded in its direction down at the street.

“What year?” He asked.

“Uhh, ’94,” as I glance to the sky for accuracy. “But you know what? If I won a million dollars tonight, hand to God, I would still be driving that car a week and probably even a year from now.

“It starts without hiccups, it handles my satellite radio, gets great gas mileage, and it makes slick U-turns.”

My cousin then smeers at the look of the surrounding Land Rovers and Beemers. “Dude, shiny cars are overrated.”

I woke up this morning believing that owning a Jose (Mercedes) Reyes, is too.

The real Jose Reyes will stand up after he gets paid, no doubt about it.