With the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets playing an early afternoon match-up in Flushing today to end the season, controversy emerged after the first at-bat of the game. Jose Reyes led the game with a lead-off bunt single and was replaced by Justin Turner. Speculation ran rampant with people wondering did Reyes take himself out or did manager Terry Collins take him out with the intention to protect his lead in the batting race. With his 1-for-1 day, Reyes increased his lead average by .003 points to .337. This left the next batter in the race, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun with a .334 batting average and needing a 3-for-4 night to catch Reyes. As of right now Braun has gone 0-for-4 and it would seem as if Jose Reyes would be the 2011 National League Batting Champion and the only batting champion in the history of the New York Mets. But my question is this: Was the move the right one?
As we now know, it was Jose Reyes' choice to be taken out of the game after his only at-bat. Reyes was quoted by Adam Rubin of ESPN New York as stating the following:
"I said, 'If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game,'" Reyes said. "And I did that. If I went 0-for-1, maybe I'm still in the game until I get a hit. ... I wanted to stay in the game, but (Mets fans) have to understand, too, what's going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title. I do that for the team, for the fans too, because they've been supporting me all the way through. I've (had) throughout my career a lot of ups and downs here with a lot of injuries. One thing I do all the time is give 100 percent on the field."
When asked what he thought about the move, Braun took what I seemed to believe was a very diplomatic route:
"I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and ultimately he left the door open for me," Braun told MLB.com. "I know it's not impossible. I've gotten three hits in a game plenty of times. It's still attainable, still a possibility. If he had stayed in the game and gotten multiple hits, it would not have been a possibility at all. I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and I'm not really here to judge him."
It would seem as fate is not without a sense of irony. It would seem as if Reyes tried to protect his lead on a day when back in 1941 Hall of Famer Ted Williams could have taken a similar route to protect his batting lead. In Williams' case, he was batting .3999955 going into a season ending doubleheader. Had he decided not to play, he would have ended the season at .400 with his average rounded up to the highest number. Instead of taking that route, Williams validated his season and his place in history by hitting a combined 6-for-8 ending his season at .406 and being the last man to ever lead the league with a .400+ batting average. Sure Reyes wasn't going for .400, Maybe we fans would always like to see players taking actions that are for the good of the game rather than the good of their individual numbers. Like my friend Keith said, the Mets were not playing for anything important so why shouldn't Reyes go for his own individual achievement. Reyes is the one who will have to answer the questions and from what I've read in the Rubin piece, Reyes isn't concerned with his decision.
In the end, Reyes' actions in protecting his lead aren't unprecedented. ESPN blogger David Schoenfield his blogpost Jose Reyes leaves game to protect title describes six different occasions where players have have pulled themselves out of a game to preserve their batting title lead. It is an interesting read, I highly recommended it.
Reyes becomes the first New York Met player to win the National League batting title. What might be more important for the Mets is whether or not Reyes will be wearing the blue pinstripes next season or if he will be taking his dynamic mode of play somewhere else. Only time will tell.
For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Jimmy Hascup's article Mets' Jose Reyes Asked To Leave Game After Single To Protect NL Batting Title Lead from NewYork.SBNation.com dated September 28, 2011
- Click Here to access Adam Rubin's artice Jose Reyes: My choice to leave after hit from ESPN New York dated September 28, 2011
- Click Here to access David Schoenfield's article Jose Reyes leaves game to protect title from his blogpost the Sweetspot which is on ESPN.com dated September 28, 2011