Electricity has become an all-too-common meme in modern sports writing. Take any player with above-average speed, slap him with the "electric" tag, and voila, he is "exciting," "dynamic," "a sparkplug."
While New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes was certainly all of those things this past season, it was his similarity to the more practical aspects of electricity that earns him the nomination for the wow factor distinction of the 2011 Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) Awards. Where there was otherwise darkness at Citi Field this season, Reyes was light -- iridescent and uplifting, dimming only during two trips to the disabled list.
From the rubble of a Mets season of unsure finances, mounting injuries and a third consecutive fourth-place finish, Reyes emerged with one of the best years in Mets history -- one that might have topped the list were it not for his troublesome left hamstring. While the crosstown Yankees topped the Major Leagues with 17 GIBBY nominations, only one Met was deemed worthy of such recognition in 2011. Of course, it could only be Reyes, the first National League batting champion in the Mets' 50-year history.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home GIBBYs trophies -- the ultimate honors of baseball's awards season -- based on votes by you the fans at MLB.com, media, front-office personnel and MLB alumni.
The 2011 GIBBYs feature nominees in 19 categories.
Individual honors will go to the top everyday player, starting pitcher, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout player, comeback player, defensive player, wow factor, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's best play, moment, performance, oddity, walk-off, fan moment and postseason moment from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
Fan voting ends Dec. 4, and you can vote up to 25 times per category. Winners will be announced Dec. 16 from 9-11 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Reyes was surrounded by speculation this season from the moment he arrived at Spring Training. As he entered the final season of a four-year, $23.25 million deal with the only organization he's played for, everyone wanted to know whether Reyes would stay, whether the Mets could afford him and whether he would be worth it.
At every turn, the 28-year-old declined to speculate, and in June, he said definitively he would not negotiate with the Mets until after the season ended. It was a decision for the best, as it allowed onlookers to turn at least some of their attention to the things Reyes was doing on the field. And oh, the things he was doing.
Through the first half of the season, Reyes led the NL with a .354 batting average and had hit enough triples by that time (15) that he tied for the MLB season lead in the most exciting statistical category, despite hitting just one the rest of the way. Even then, those numbers fail to describe what it was like to watch Reyes play every day.
During Reyes' torrid June, it seemed impossible to turn on a Mets game without being greeted by the image of the dreadlocked shortstop standing on second base, grinning widely and flashing "the Claw" to a group of teammates who were turned into exuberant fans by his heightened level of play. He hit .385 that month and slugged .598 as a shortstop. It was a sustained run of brilliance unparalleled by a Mets position player.
Two hamstring injuries -- one right before the All-Star Game and a more serious one in early August -- slowed Reyes' frenetic pace, literally and figuratively. The speed that allowed him to dig out extra-base hits and steal bases was exchanged for a more hesitant approach on the basepaths, one that yielded just nine stolen bases after swiping 30 during the first half.
Still, Reyes persisted for a good, but not great, second half. In the penultimate game of the season, he swatted two home runs and reached first on a swinging bunt, boosting his lead over Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in the batting race he would claim the next day with a .337 average. When the fans at Citi Field greeted him with a curtain call after the second home run, the act was equal parts grateful and ingratiating, as much a show of thanks for his past nine years as it was a campaign for his return.
After all, Mets fans know as well as anyone that Flushing is a whole lot brighter with its star shortstop around.
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.