Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets: Is Jose Reyes the Modern Day Juan Samuel?

May 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Fresh off of taking two of three from the New York Yankees in the Subway Series this past weekend, the New York Mets play host to Philadelphia for a three-game set starting Tuesday, hoping to get back into the NL East race. 

While the Mets find themselves looking up at the Phillies in the standings,  they may need to look into the Philadelphia Phillies’ past to figure out what to do with one of their current struggling superstars.

The Mets couldn’t be welcoming the Phillies to town at a better time.  Jimmy Rollins, the human embodiment of the Mets-Phillies rivalry, has just gone back on the disabled list with a lingering calf injury.  Rollins, who certainly draws the ire of Mets fans whenever his name is mentioned, also serves as a sparkplug in the Phillies offense and a motivating force in the Mets-Phillies rivalry.

The Rollins injury couldn’t come at a worse time for the Phillies, whose bats have suddenly gone cold for the second time this season.  After scoring 12 runs against the Pirates last Monday, the Phillies have scored a grand total of 15 runs in six subsequent games against the Bucs, Cubs, and Red Sox, including one game in which Daisuke Matzusaka came four outs away from no-hitting the usually robust Phillies offense.

The Mets are not without their own problems, however.  Just two years ago the Mets featured two of the most promising young players in all of baseball on the left side of their infield in David Wright and Jose Reyes.  In 2010, though, there is trouble in Mets-land.  Wright simply seems to have forgotten how to hit the ball; he is hitting a career worst .261 with 60 strikeouts in only 44 games.

Meanwhile, Jose Reyes, who missed almost all of the 2009 season due to injuries and discovered at the beginning of this season that he has a thyroid disorder, has entered the Quentin McCracken Zone (named after the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder who regularly flirted with a batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percent all under .300; this is also known as the 200/200/200 Club).  Reyes currently had an RSL of .222/.266/.284/.550.

So what’s eating Jose Reyes?  As soon as the Phillies get to town, the Mets should ask them what to expect from Reyes, because they’ve been here before.

In the early-to-mid 1980s, the Phillies had their own speedy five-tool infielder from the Dominican Republic by the name of Juan Samuel.

Like Reyes, Samuel could hit for power and steal bases.  Like Reyes, Samuel led the league in triples and at-bats multiple times, and regularly had over 700 plate appearances.  Like Reyes, Samuel had four great seasons in which he looked to be the paradigm for the new generation of ball players.

At the age of 27, however, Juan Samuel figuratively fell off the cliff.  All of his numbers dropped significantly; his on-base percentage went under .300, he had career lows in triples, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, and runs scored, while finishing with a below league-average OPS for the first time.

(Full disclosure: I’ve compared a current player to Juan Samuel before, and it didn’t turn out so well ).

The problem with Samuel was the same problem that Reyes may be having.  Like Reyes, Samuel was never considered to be a patient hitter.  Reyes, like Samuel, relies on his ability to make contact and use his speed to get on base.

The problem with that approach is that once a player who uses that approach begins to lose a little bat-speed, not to mention a little foot-speed, it becomes very difficult to continue to play at a high level.

Samuel was never the same player after he fell off the cliff.  Fortunately for the Phillies, they recognized this almost immediately and got rid of him while he still had some market value.  Ironically, the Phillies sent Samuel to the New York Mets for Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, and Tom Edens.  Dykstra, of course, became the centerpiece of the Phillies’ 1993 team, while Samuel was traded away to the Dodgers at the end of the season.

So what’s the point of all this?

Jose Reyes is either having a little trouble coming back from some injury issues, and needs some time to get his mojo back, or, he is at the beginning of the end of the productive part of his career and the Mets need to try to get some return for him while they can.  Whichever it is, the Mets need to figure it out before any of the other teams in the league do. 

Who knows?  Maybe Jose Reyes could be traded away for the cornerstone of the next Mets World Series run.

Let’s just hope that as the Mets look to Phillies history to figure out what to do with the 2010 version of Juan Samuel, the Phillies are also mindful of their own history and avoid sending the Mets the 2010 version of Lenny Dykstra.


Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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