From the moment Jose Reyes dropped a first-inning bunt single and then checked out of the season's final game, leaving his average at .337 and all but assuring the Mets of the first batting title in franchise history, it was obvious that people who need something to yell about were going to yell about it. How dare Reyes cheat the fans by allowing them to say they were at the ballpark to witness the moment a Met nailed down the batting crown? Far better to hack his way through a meaningless game and take the chance on blowing it.
So right on cue comes ESPN New York's Rob Parker, scolding Reyes for deciding "to take the easy way out" (because, you know, bunting for a base hit is easy, which is why David Eckstein was a career .470 hitter) and calling him a "chicken."
Naturally, Parker compares Reyes unfavorably to Ted Williams, who made baseball history by refusing the chance to sit out a doubleheader on the last day of the 1941 season and protect his .400 average, then went out and raised it to .406. Ted Williams did this heroic thing specifically because he had internalized the spite and pettiness of sportswriters, to the point of obsession and derangement, so that he knew they would abuse him if he didn't play it out. And so instead he gave the Knights of the Keyboard an eternal, exceptional example they could use to rain spite and pettiness on future generations of high-average hitters, all of them gutless no-talent punks compared to the immortal Ted Williams.
Fine. That was Teddy Ballgame's hangup, and he earned it. But Parker's main concern is comparing Reyes to Derek Jeter:
No wonder some fans booed when they realized what was happening. They were being cheated out of watching Reyes play, potentially for the final time in a Mets uniform. He is about to become a free agent, and there's no guarantee the team will re-sign him.
For sure, it was a selfish move. Forget about helping the Mets win a game — it was about Reyes trying to win a batting crown. Fair or not, it was a move his crosstown rival, Derek Jeter, never would have pulled.
Derek Jeter would never win a batting title in such an underhanded way. This seems a little unfalsifiable, since Jeter has never won a batting title at all. But there are smaller selfish milestones in baseball, too. Such as the one that faced Derek Jeter on Sept. 26, 2008. There were three games left in the season, and for once, the Yankees weren't going to the playoffs. Jeter's hand was sore from being hit by a ball the week before. His batting average, which had mostly ranged from the .270s to the low .300s through the year, had finished an upswing and started dropping again, down to .301. There was nothing left to play for but pride and dignity and respect for the game itself.
So what did Jeter, the embodiment of everything that's right with baseball, do? He started the game 0-for-2 and saw his average drop to .300—one at-bat away from .2998. At that point, in the third inning, he left the game, never to reappear for the rest of the season. He chickened out, just like Jose Reyes. As would—and as have—legions of other players who've had a batting number on the line in an otherwise unimportant game, besides Ted Williams. Still, it's true Reyes is no Jeter. Reyes got the hit before he quit.