Does Jose Reyes’ unique combination of speed, power and importance as a table-setter for the likes of David Wright and Carlos Beltran outweigh his occasional lapses in concentration?  I’ve argued the affirmative more times than I care to count, but the shortstop’s inability to stay healthy in recent years has been a key component in the Mets’ struggles.  With at least one recent rumor floating concerning Arizona’s alleged interest in Reyes, the Bergen Record’s Steve Popper warns, “if the Mets move him, I think the last long shot chance of seeing anything good out of 2010 at Citi Field will be gone.”

Even in a season that never seemed to get on track, Reyes still ranked in the top half of shortstops in the league in most statistical measures, not to mention ahead of Derek Jeter in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) while Jeter lobbies for a long-term, high-priced deal. But for the Mets to have any hope they have to count on Reyes returning to form.

Reyes is the one player who can be exceptional. His performance can rank above the average shortstop, making it acceptable that the Mets have a first baseman who doesn™t hit 40 homers or a catcher who might not hit 10. And there is some intangible in Reyes that will confound any sabermetric formula “ not grittiness, but a danger that helps hitters behind him and in front of him.

For the Mets to contend again Reyes has to be in the lineup and has to be at his best. While he might be the only player outside of David Wright who could bring back a roster-changing package, Reyes is the only one who you could search for years and not find a talent to match his ability.

“Maybe it™s some subtle racism that has depicted Reyes as some sort of malingerer,” considers Popper, though I’m sure there’s been much subtle about it. Certainly if Reyes were a more effusive public speaker in English, the New York media might hold him in nearly as high esteem as R.A. Dickey.  On the other hand, if Jose was a sound byte machine, he’d probably have indicted the Mets’ medical staff on more than one occasion.