By now, most of us know that Jose Reyes won the National League batting title yesterday, and the way he did has caused a lot of controversy among the baseball punditry. Basically, he played 12 minutes or so in the last game of the season, going 1-1, on a bunt single. He then took himself out of the game, with manager Terry Collins's blessing, so that his batting average was safe and that he would thus seal the deal.
Well, fans everywhere know that Don Mattingly played the entire last game of the 1984 season when he edged out teammate Dave Winfield for the batting title. Mattingly had to go 4-5 to do it, and the margin was only .003. I remember this game well because I was lucky enough to see it up close -- sitting a few rows behind the Yankee dugout with my wife, Meg, and my friend F.X. Flinn (it still amazes me how he procured these seats). Applause greeted both Don and Dave every time they returned to the dugout. These guys understood that you play the game hard, and you play it every day, even when the outcome is basically meaningless.
I wonder if Reyes knows about this. I wonder if he knows that Ted Williams played an entire doubleheader (going 6-8) on the last day of the 1941 season when he became the last player to hit .400 for an entire season. Yeah, he probably knows it and doesn't care. Because his agent probably has some clause that gives him extra bonus money for achieving the goal. How classless. Reyes couldn't carry Williams's cummerbund, let alone jock strap.
The capper of all this was Terry Collins, who apparently wept at Reyes's achievement during a post-game press conference. Hasn't Collins seen "A League of Their Own" with Tom Hanks?
On the talk shows this morning, several debates surrounded the issue of fans paying a lot of money to watch a ball game, and how disappointed they must have been when they saw the Mets star leave the game so abruptly. As a ticket buyer, I'd be furious. But it's even worse when you consider how many dads and moms took their kids to the game, and these kids wanted to see a hero/role model play the game. Gee, how do you explain it to them? Reyes cheated the kids, that's all.