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.