Jose Reyes and Joffrey Lupul: Two of a Kind


Jose Reyes and Joffrey Lupul: Two of a Kind

It’s interesting to reflect on the parallel careers of Jose Reyes and Joffrey Lupul.

Apr 11, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes (7) warms up prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Although they represent different sports – one plays shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays, the other plays left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs – both players have similar histories when it comes to success and failure.

At one point in his career, Reyes was one of the, if not the, most dominant shortstops in baseball. This brought him great fame with the New York Mets, a healthy raise by the Florida Marlins and eventually saw him land in Toronto. Along the way, however, his performance quietly declined and he’s been a regular visitor to the infirmary since joining the Jays in 2013.

To the point, Reyes will be spending the next 15 days on the disabled list at a time in the season where the Jays are struggling for consistency and looking desperately for anything that can be remotely considered good news. They won’t find it from him.

Apr 8, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Joffrey Lupul (19) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Jackets won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Lupul hasn’t enjoyed the same degree of success in his career, but it has proven just as wild. He began his professional career with the Anaheim Ducks where things looked promising at the outset.

He recorded 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists) in his second season in Anaheim. In recognition of his potential, Lupul was shipped to the Edmonton Oilers the following season as part of the Chris Pronger trade, but things took a quick dive after this and Lupul saw himself bounce from Edmonton to the Philadelphia Flyers, then back to the Ducks before the Leafs finally acquired him in 2011.

Injuries have played a major role in Lupul’s 11-year career and he hasn’t come anywhere close to playing a full season since 2008-2009 when he dressed in 79 games for the Flyers. He even basically missed a whole calendar year of action between 2009-2010 battling a back injury and subsequent infection.

Here’s the challenge: when both players are in the lineup and playing to potential, their respective clubs are undoubtedly better. The Jays have struggled to find a replacement for Reyes who provides dependable defence and a productive bat, burning through young players like Ryan Goins and Jonathan Diaz in an hopeless effort. It’s just not easy to replace Reyes even in the approaching twilight of his career.

Apr 1, 2015; Fort Myers, FL, USA; at Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jonathan Diaz (1) fields infield practice before a game against the Boston Red Sox JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The same basic situation applies to Lupul. When he’s sitting in the press box or plugging away on the third line, the Leafs don’t really have the depth to cover for his prolonged absence from the second line. This makes it hard to “punish” or “motivate” Lupul with a temporary demotion and it makes it equally difficult to manage Lupul’s various injuries. It’s just not easy to replace Lupul even when he’s struggling to find his game.

All of this puts management for each club in a difficult spot. Reyes plays an integral role on the Jays and Lupul plays an integral role on the Leafs – both are “core” players so they can’t be easily replaced – so that whenever they succeed, their respective teams succeed. Unfortunately, it also means that their respective teams falter whenever they falter and that’s been arguably the norm in Toronto over the last three to four seasons.

There’s no easy way out of this conundrum. It’s simply the price you pay for banking on unpredictable players.

Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson