A-Rod: Jose Reyes is 'greatest'

NEW YORK -- According to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the best player in baseball doesn't play in the Bronx, Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto or St. Louis.

He plays in Queens.

"They have the world's greatest player playing shortstop over there, and the most exciting," Rodriguez said, referring to electrifying New York Mets leadoff hitter Jose Reyes. "I turn on the TV every time I get a chance to watch him."

Reyes is enjoying what Rodriguez called an "all-world" season for the Mets in 2011. Through Friday's 5-1 loss to the Yankees, he leads the majors with 123 hits, 15 triples and a .352 batting average. Reyes ranks second in stolen bases (30) and runs scored (65).

The Mets shortstop seemed surprised by Rodriguez's appraisal.

"I appreciate that from him. But that's something that, it's not going to go to my head," Reyes said. "But I appreciate that, that he said that. He's a good friend of mine too, Alex. So it's good, man. He's one of the best players in the game. So I appreciate it."

Reyes is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and despite what Mets owner Fred Wilpon said, could very well command a contract equal to -- if not higher than -- the seven-year, $142 million deal given to Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford last offseason.

"I'm a huge baseball fan and anytime you see a kid like Reyes, he's very exciting," Rodriguez said Friday afternoon before the game at Citi Field. "If I wasn't playing third base, I'd definitely buy a ticket and try to come all weekend (to the Subway Series), because you have great players all over the field, and right now, there's not a player out there that's playing at a higher level than Jose Reyes."

Rodriguez, who was playing shortstop for the Rangers when Reyes made his Mets debut in Texas on June 10, 2003, has made comments about Reyes in the past that were perceived as somewhat of a slight toward Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

Back in 2009 at the World Baseball Classic, Rodriguez told reporters of Reyes:
"I wish he was leading off on our team or playing on our team, that's fun to watch.

"Anytime you have that type of speed, we have a guy in (Brett) Gardner, that's probably the most fun you can have is watching a guy like that run."

Rodriguez later apologized and said he didn't mean anything by his comments.

Jeter, who turned 37 on Sunday, is slated to return to the Yankees on Monday and resume his pursuit of 3,000 hits in Cleveland against the Indians.

"I hope that the next few days go well for him and we'll see him in Cleveland," Rodriguez said of Jeter, who is supposed to play a pair of rehab games with Double-A Trenton over the weekend. "We're looking forward to his arrival, and also celebrating his 3,000th hit is gonna be pretty cool."

ESPNNewYork.com asked Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran if he agreed with Rodriguez's assessment of Reyes.

"In New York?" Beltran asked. "I think right now he's the best player in baseball."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley was used in this report.