Players have pulled themselves out of games in the interests of individual pursuits forever.
They’ve adjusted their competitiveness to be part of history.
They’ve been placed in different parts of the lineup.
They’ve swung at pitches that were clearly out of the strike zone to get extra swings to achieve goals.
They’ve gone for doubles and triples to complete cycles.
They’ve done it all.
Baseball is an individual sport within a team concept.
There are 162 games in a baseball season and rules as to how many innings and plate appearances are necessary for players to be eligible for ERA and batting titles.
Do you really believe that as the season winds down that players are concerned—first and foremost—with winning?
No. They want to pad their stats and they do it intentionally.
Today Jose Reyes of the Mets went up to the plate leading the National League in batting over the Brewers Ryan Braun. (I’m not looking up the percentage points because, truth be told, I couldn’t care less about the batting title); Reyes had told Mets manager Terry Collins beforehand that if he got a hit, he wanted to come out of the game.
Then he bunted for a hit.
Then Collins took him out of the game.
Collins and Reyes admitted as such after-the-fact, in a matter-of-fact fashion.
Before this information was revealed, two of the most absurd places for the dissemination of fact on this or any other planet in the universe—Twitter and Michael Kay—went on abusive rants against the Mets as if they were the one perpetrating this act on an unsuspecting public waiting for aboveboard and fair victors in the all-important batting race.
Naturally, no one retracted their statements when the truth came out.
It was still the fault of the Mets somehow even if it wasn’t.
Never mind that Bernie Williams won a batting title in 1998 after starting the day tied with Mo Vaughn of the Red Sox and when Williams went 2 for 2 with a sacrifice fly, he was pulled.
Never mind that players like Bill Madlock won batting titles after taking themselves out of games to achieve that end.
Pete Rose bunted for a hit to win the batting title over Roberto Clemente.
Denny McLain threw a room service meatball to Mickey Mantle for Mantle to hit his 535th career homer because McLain wanted to be part of history; in fact, he asked Mantle where he wanted the pitch and Mantle obliged by telling him.
The St. Louis Browns let Napoleon Lajoie bunt to his heart’s content in an attempt to take the batting title away from the reviled Ty Cobb.
Reyes played in 126 games this season; George Brett played in 117 in the year he hit .390 and nearly hit .400.
Does the fact that Reyes pulled himself from a game to try and win the title and was injured with hamstring problems twice in 2011 “ruin” a title that few really pay attention to anymore? Does the fact that Brett was oft-injured as well somehow equate into the batting title needing to be put in a negative frame of reference in terms of competition?
When Roger Maris was chasing Babe Ruth‘s home run record, it was decreed that there would be two separate records, one for the 154 game schedule and the other for the 162 game schedule. Incredulous, Maris asked something to the tune of, “Which 154? The first 154? The last? The middle?”
The batting title is a resume builder; it’s an award; and it’s relatively meaningless.
This reaction is based on Mets hatred and the attempt to cast a negative light on a baseball player like Jose Reyes who looked to increase his own status with an “award”.
If you don’t know this or can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be talking about it in such a judgmental, holier-than-thou way.
They’re baseball players.
This is what they do.