Occasionally, I talk sports here. Sports is big business, and there are some great lessons to be learned, whether from subjects like the NBA lockout and Journalism, The National Football League and Socialism, or the way my beloved New York Mets negotiated with a player who had violated his contract.

One of those “everybody’s heard it” business phrases is one that’s supposed to make those of us negotiating as hard as we can feel better about ourselves. “It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business” is something I’ve said, something I’ve had said to me, and something I’ve always believed in.

But sometimes it gets personal.

Yesterday, news broke that Jose Reyes was leaving the Mets, signing a six-year, $106 million contract with the Miami Marlins. Reyes has been with  the Mets for 12 years, since he was 16 years old.

While nobody is saying what the Mets offered Reyes to stay, speculation is that it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $90 million. Far be it for me to turn up my nose at $16 million, and so far be it for me to tell Jose Reyes that he should have done so.

But he should have.

Speaking financially, I suspect that by going to Miami instead of staying in New York Reyes is passing on at least that much money in endorsement contracts that just aren’t going to be available in the smaller market of Miami. At this level of business, with business managers to advise the not-so-terribly-unsophisticated players, Reyes knows that.

Speaking at least partially as a dyed-in-the-wool Mets fan, I’ll take that statement a step further: Practically, even if the $106 million is all the money Jose Reyes ever earns, the chance of that extra $16 million making a difference in his life, that of his children, or their children is pretty much zero. $90 million is see-ya-later money. Getting $106 million doesn’t elevate Reyes to another level.

So why do it?

First, I’ll give Reyes the benefit of the doubt in one way: he comes from the Dominican Republic, his family still lives there, and Miami is a couple of hours closer to his home than New York.

Second, I can get behind the “sinking ship” theory that Mets fans and followers have in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal; this is a team losing money and pulling in the reins, so maybe Reyes is hoping that by jumping ship to Miami, a team with a new stadium and open purse strings, he has a better chance at playing on a championship team.

But I can’t see anything else. And yes, I’m taking this it’s-just-business move personally, but it seems personal. Reyes could get back to the Dominican Republic pretty darned easily from New York, thank you, and it’s not as though the Mets aren’t still trying to put together a winning team.

In short, I think Jose Reyes is acting in a disloyal manner jumping ship under these circumstances. Disloyal to millions of fans who pay his salary and have suffered with him through several painful injuries over his career.

When does business stop being business and start being personal?

In my opinion (and yes, readers this example is personal for me), business becomes personal as soon as you get too deep into the meaning of how it isn’t. “It’s Not Personal”? Nonsense.

Business DECISIONS aren’t personal, but business, especially in a global market and in the era of social networking on the Internet, is ALWAYS personal. It’s unavoidable.

And a business change I think you have to—have to—keep in mind is exactly that.

Business IS Personal.

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