Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Reyes proves once again, he's no Jeter
By Rob Parker ESPNNewYork.com
No matter how you look at this, it stinks.
In the end, Jose Reyes decided it was truly all about him. Not about the team. Worse, not even about the fans.
Yes, we all know his sudden exit from the New York Mets' season finale was about Reyes trying to win the National League batting title. That's why he took himself out of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon after getting a bunt base hit in the first inning.
Jose Reyes acknowledged the crowd after the game -- but wouldn't it have been better to honor them by playing?
No wonder some fans booed when they realized what was happening. They were being cheated out of watching Reyes play, potentially for the final time in a Mets uniform. He is about to become a free agent, and there's no guarantee the team will re-sign him.
For sure, it was a selfish move. Forget about helping the Mets win a game -- it was about Reyes trying to win a batting crown. Fair or not, it was a move his crosstown rival, Derek Jeter, never would have pulled.
That's why some Mets fans who wanted Reyes back might be rethinking that right now, wondering if he's the guy you really want to lead the Mets back to prominence.
In the Mets' 3-0 victory on Wednesday, Reyes -- who entered the game in a nip-and-tuck race for the highest average in the NL with the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun -- decided to take the easy way out. To not fight all the way to the end and let the best man be left standing.
After his first-inning hit, Reyes' average was .3371, compared to Braun's .3345, with the Brewers slated to play a night game.
Reyes removed himself from the game at that point. It was his decision. His season was over, and his average etched in stone.
Big mistake. Not just because of the way it looked, but because of the math as well.
It's not even like Reyes' hit sealed the deal -- that's the strangest thing about it! Braun could have beaten Reyes by going 3-for-4. If Braun got three hits in four at-bats, his average would have risen to .3375 -- better than Reyes'.
In other words, the guy trying to become the first Met in franchise history to lead the league in batting actually opened the door to let someone else beat him. Instead of competing all the way through, Reyes took the safe, selfish way out.
And even though his strategy worked -- Braun ended up going 0-for-4 -- it's hard to root for guys who act like that. Even Reyes, who had a tremendous bounce-back season.
Coincidentally, Reyes' decision came on the 70th anniversary of Ted Williams sealing his historic .406 batting average in 1941. Williams, the Boston Red Sox slugger, played in both games of a doubleheader on the final day of that season, even though he began the day with his average at .400. Williams believed he didn't deserve a .400 average if he sat out the two games against the Philadelphia A's, and he wound up going 6-for-8, finishing with the improbable .406. Most people think that mark will never be broken.
But Reyes isn't alone when it comes to putting himself and an individual honor ahead of the team. In 1976, a similar move backfired on Ken Griffey when he played for the Cincinnati Reds.
Griffey also tried to win a batting title without fighting to the end. He planned on sitting out the final game of the '76 season, thinking he had a safe three-point lead over Pittsburgh's Bill Madlock. After Madlock got two hits in his first two plate appearances, Griffey was inserted into the game and ended up going 0-for-2. Madlock finished the day 4-for-4 and won the title, raising his average from .333 to .339. Griffey, who started the day at .338, finished at .336.
No matter who ended up winning the NL batting title, it will be hard to forget how Reyes decided to exit on Wednesday, in potentially his final home game in Queens. He didn't give his all to the Mets' faithful. He didn't leave them wanting more Reyes in the years to come.
Instead, at the finish line, Reyes turned on his teammates, and the paying customers. Worse, he turned himself into a chicken.