New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes won the batting title today, but not in a way that will be looked back upon fondly by baseball pundits down the road. Reyes led off the game with a bunt single and was immediately pulled by the club in order to preserve his league leading .337 batting average. The Mets ultimately won the game, but Reyes has already taken flack from both players and writers for not playing out the entire game, and not allowing Ryan Braun a fighters chance at earning the batting title.
Halfway across the country another player sat himself today in order to preserve his batting average, but under incredibly different circumstances. Chicago White Sox designated hitter (and former Washington National) Adam Dunn sat our Wednesday’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays in order to avoid reaching 502 plate appearances, the number required to qualify for the batting title. In doing so his astronomically low .159 batting average will not qualify as the lowest ever recorded by a player in a full major league season. The previous record was set 20 points higher than Dunn’s, set by Rob Deer in 1991.
So which is worse? Pulling yourself from a game in order to be sure that you will mathematically give yourself the best chance to win an award? Or intentionally not finishing out a season in order to avoid breaking an infamous record as a result of a technicality?
It’s a tough call, they’re both pretty terrible. Reyes’ actions were gutless. He took the cowards way out, which is an insulting thing to do when you are trying to win a major statistical title. Batting titles and home run championships should be reserved for heroes, not cowards. It’s insulting that on the 70 year anniversary of Ted Williams hitting .400, Reyes would pull himself on the last day. 70 years ago today Williams could have sat out the final game of the season and had his .39955 batting average round up to .400, but instead he famously kept himself in and improved his batting average to .406.
Dunn’s actions on the other hand were just pathetic. The Big Donkey left Washington in search of a bigtime contract and rewarded Chicago with not only the worst performance of his career, but the worst of all time. By the numbers, Dunn finished 2011 with only 66 hits and 36 runs. He hit 29 less home runs this year than he did last year, and 61 less RBI. To put that in perspective, Dunn had more home runs and RBI in the second half of 2010 than he did in all of 2011.
Dunn’s poor performance wasn’t anybody’s fault but his own. He earned his lackluster numbers, and he deserved to go down in infamy with them.
Still, to me, since these numbers will go down in history, Reyes’ actions were the most reprehensible. On the 70 year anniversary of one of the most courageous personal acts in batting title history, Reyes showed no respect for the game and sat his way into the history books.
Rogieshan- well said. I concur that Reyes' move was less classy. I haven't been a big Dunn fan for a few years but I found myself feeling sorry for him this year, and hoping for his sake that he would pull out of this year-long funk. Alas, it didn't happen and I fear his career may be over. Kind of a shame as he seems like a pretty likable guy.
To William- nice post, but I agree with rogie that Dunn's move wasn't terrible as he has pretty much been relegated to a part-time player lately and who's to say he wasn't sitting out this game like the many other games he's been benched the last couple of months. It's possible.
Baseball has become so stats-driven that it is almost commonplace to find players take the easy route to protect their numbers. In many cases, coaches and management are guilty also of assisting and abiding the actions of these players. With Dunn, he was already relegated to part-time duty from late August on, so it was either sheer luck that he failed to reach enough ABs to avoid the dubious distinction, or his team had more or less given up on him and wanted to spare him the from going down infamy for the last month. Reyes, on the other hand, is self-serving by design. He may have a bonus clause to cash in by winning the batting title, plus he is a pending free agent.
I find it almost pointless to judge a player today against those from an earlier era. Ted Williams and his peers were mostly working-class individuals who rarely took the game for granted.
MLB rules don't allow bonus clauses for winning the batting title. It was the first batting title ever won by a NY Met, so it was a pretty big deal for the franchise as well as for Reyes. Unless you know him, it seems self-serving to call him "self-serving by design."
This is a good point; and one I had never realized. Any idea why MLB doesn't allow bonuses for batting titles? Is it the same with the Cy Young and MVP? @colinchristopher
Thanks! That does make sense. Plus, the MVP/CY are often subjective as they're voted-on awards - instead of the cut-and-dried type like batting title or RBI, HR, etc. @colinchristopher
They don't allow bonuses for the batting title specifically to avoid money being the driving factor behind a scenario like the way Reyes won the title. With a batting title, you can ensure yourself of winning the title with a singular, one-day performance the way Reyes did. With a Cy Young or an MVP, it is highly unlikely that a one-day performance wins or loses the award - it's more an award for a full-season, sustained performance - and therefore bonus clauses for MVP/CY are allowable.
@rogieshan You both may be right, but usually team's don't relegate their multi-million dollar players to the bench for just struggling. But there has been a lto of transition in Chicago in the last few days so it's certainly possible. Either way, im sure Dunn wasn't fighting to get in the lineup with that record looming.