Batting Champions Jose Reyes and Ted Williams Both Acted in Self-Interest

The criticism of Jose Reyes is unwarranted and just plain wrong. There are no heroes in the 21st century.

Reyes is the 2011 National League batting champion. In his last game of the season, he laid down a beautiful bunt toward third base on the second pitch from Cincinnati Reds starter Edinson Volquez. The speedy Reyes beat it out easily to raise his average to .337.

In his career, Reyes has bunted 155 times. Twenty-eight were sacrifices and 127 were attempts for a hit or unsuccessful sacrifices in which Reyes was charged with at-bat. He is batting .480 on bunts.

Before the game, New York Mets manager Terry Collins spoke to the media. “If he gets a hit early,” he told reporters, “there’s a chance he won’t be around very long.”

Justin Turner went in to run for Reyes.

We’ll get to Ted Williams shortly, but Reyes is not the first player to protect his batting average.

In 1986, Wade Boggs finished his season batting .357. He missed the last four games against the New York Yankees due to a hamstring injury. Don Mattingly, who had eight hits in the four games, finished at .352. Boggs didn’t miss a single playoff game that season.

In 1987, Boggs missed the Boston Red Sox last 10 games on his way to the batting championship and the following season, Wade sat out Boston’s last two games.

Another Red Sox batting champion, Bill Mueller in 2003, didn’t start Boston’s final game. Mueller was hitting .327, one point ahead of Derek Jeter, who went hitless in three at-bats against the Baltimore Orioles.

Mueller pinch-hit once he clinched the batting title. He finished hitting .326.

Jose Reyes did the right thing by leaving the game. He acted in his self-interest. Since the Mets season really ended before it started this year, Reyes cannot be criticized for hurting his team by sitting down.

Most players’ loyalty is to their family and to themselves. Wait. Most individuals’ loyalty is to their family and to themselves. Go on, refute that fact, those of you who think Reyes did the wrong thing.

Ted Williams wanted to be recognized as the greatest hitter in baseball history. In 1941, he was batting .39955 on the last day of the season.

As Bill James might tell us, numbers are constants. Batting averages are rounded off during the season, but if Williams sat out the Red Sox last two games, he would not, repeat, he would not have finished the season at .400. Official fiat cannot turn .39955 into .400. Neither can journalistic convention.

Let’s get the myth out of the way. Yes, Williams could have taken the “easy” way out by not playing, but Williams was no fool. He didn’t want the controversy that would accompany his “.400 season.”

Manager Joe Cronin revealed that if Wiilliams were over .400 after the first game, he would be benched.

Ted Williams played because of self-interest. To bat .400, he knew that he had no choice. He had to play.

Ted Williams did what was right. So did Jose Reyes.

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