By Chris Derrett
Editor in chief
I’ve been a baseball fan for quite some time now. I’ve heard of every statistic one can imagine, and I agree that just as Billy Beane found out, numbers aren’t everything in baseball. But at least one MLB player this season, in perhaps the weakest decision I’ve seen in a long time, thought one statistic was so important that even dignity was worth losing for it.
Every year somebody has to finish with the highest batting average. This year in the National League it came down to the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun. Going into the final game of the season last Wednesday, Reyes’s average bested Braun, .335 to .334.
The Mets’ game was scheduled to start in the afternoon, seven hours before the Brewers played.
Barely 10 minutes into the game in the bottom of the first inning, Reyes hit a single that raised his average to .337. And that was it.
In a move that virtually guaranteed him the highest average, Reyes pulled himself out of the game after the inning. He rode the bench for the rest of the game, not wanting to take anymore at-bats and possibly lower his average.
Braun would need three hits in his game, a doable but not common feat, and he got none.
Reyes had no excuse for not playing; he wasn’t hurt. In fact, he admitted after the game that he had every intention of quitting if he got a hit in his first at-bat.
“I said, ‘If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game,’” Reyes said after the game. “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.”
The fans knew exactly what was going on. They responded appropriately by booing Reyes when it became apparent he was not playing.
I think the only person who didn’t understand what was going on was Reyes.
Words like “coward” and “selfish” come to mind when I think about the situation. No, the game didn’t mean anything to the Mets’ season at that point, as they had been eliminated from playoff contention weeks before their final game. But Reyes, like every other player in the major leagues, was still under contract to do his best to help his team win in every situation.
Reyes is a great player and exciting to watch. His speed, which is paralleled by few in the league, makes each of his at-bats potentially electrifying for the crowd.
Instead of Reyes, the Citi Field crowd saw Justin Turner for the rest of the game, a .260 hitter with average speed and strength.
Braun took the high road, saying, “I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and I’m not really here to judge him.”
I’ll do it for you, Ryan.
Reyes cheated the fans and cheated the game.
Granted, as ESPN’s David Schoenfield reported, other players have done the same thing in the past in terms of removing themselves from the game to protect batting titles. But it doesn’t make that choice OK.
Indeed, numbers aren’t everything.