Ted Williams, who was the last player to hit .400. Seventy years ago, Williams was hitting .39955 (which rounds up to .400). The Red Sox were closing out the season with a double-header and Sox manager Joe Cronin asked Williams if he wanted to sit out the final two games and preserve his magical .400 average. Williams declined the offer saying, "If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I’m going to be a .400 hitter all the way.” In his first at-bat in the first game, Williams singled, putting his average safely over .400. But he didn't stop there. He didn't ask to be taken out. Williams finished game one with four hits in five at bats, and then played the second game, going 2-for-3, ending the season with his legendary .406.
Jose Reyes, going in to the last game of the season today was leading Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the National League batting title by .336 to .335. After getting a bunt single in his first at bat, Jose asked to be taken out of the game to preserve his lead, disappointing the Met fans, many of whom came out to see this dreadful team for no other reason than to cheer Jose on in what might be his final game as a Met. Ryan Braun will need to go 3-for-4 in his game tonight to overtake Jose.
I love Jose Reyes, an extraordinary talent and arguably baseball's most exciting player. He is about to become a free agent and, as I've written before, the Mets would be making a huge mistake if they don't resign him. But leaving the game early to win the batting crown seems contrary to his passionate and joyous approach to the game. Dare I suggest that Jose did so because he recognized that leading the league in hitting will help him in negotiating a new contract?
Jose Reyes will likely become the first Met to ever lead the league in batting average. Cleon Jones came in third in 1969 (behind Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente) and in 1998, Jon Olerud finished second behind Larry Walker. This is a great achievement and Jose had a spectacular year. But as with everything else about the Mets lately, even when something positive happens, there is a downside.