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Jose: Bunt hit, out of game, batting title
This was Jose Reyes' decision. After years of personal heartache, the frustrating buildup of injury-plagued seasons, Reyes stood on the brink of a batting title Wednesday morning and explained to Terry Collins what he wanted to happen.
"If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game," Reyes told him.
The strategy was unpopular, but successful. Reyes' first-inning bunt upped his average to .337, and when the Brewers' Ryan Braun went 0-for-4 later that night to finish at .332, the Mets' shortstop -- and pending free agent -- became the first batting champion in franchise history. Still, Reyes' plan was a controversial one.
"I just want to say I'm humbled and honored to win the batting title," Reyes said last night. "It means so much to my family and my country, the Dominican Republic. I have been through a lot over the past few years so this really means a lot to me.
"It's also very special to be the first Mets player to win a batting title. There have been so many great players throughout our history. I want to thank Terry Collins, my coaches and all my teammates and of course all the Mets fans who have always supported me and been behind me 100 percent."
In what could be his final game in a Mets' uniform, Reyes asked Collins to remove him early -- very early, in fact -- and that had the potential to create some blowback among the 28,816 paying customers at Citi Field.
As much as Reyes was able to remain coolly detached from those emotions, Collins could not. So in trying to explain why Reyes was taken out of Wednesday's 3-0 victory over the Reds after his first-inning bunt, Collins broke down at the podium during his postgame news conference.
"I heard some comments in the stands, and I don't blame them," Collins said, his voice beginning to crack. "People pay a good price to come to these games, and they got to understand that I ask these players to do a lot."
After a long pause, with tears in his eyes, Collins continued. "We worked hard to get their respect this year, and they deserve ours."
That was the bottom line for Collins, and he went to the mat for Reyes, a pending free agent who may not even be back next season. As for Reyes, his contract includes no financial bonuses connected to the batting title. This was about personal accomplishment and professional pride.
"It was kind of tough," Reyes said. "I wanted to stay in the game, but [the fans] have to understand too what's going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title.
"I do that for the team, and for the fans, too, because they've been supporting me the whole way through. I've been through a lot of ups and downs here, a lot of injuries. One thing that I do all the time, I give 100 percent on the field."
The disappointing part about Wednesday's game, from the fans' perspective, was that Reyes didn't stay on the field long enough. He received a standing ovation as he stepped into the batter's box for the bottom of the first inning, but that was pretty much the extent of his connection with the crowd.
With fans still filing into Citi Field, Reyes bunted the second pitch he saw from Reds starter Edinson Volquez up the third-base line. Juan Francisco charged in, but failed to make the barehanded scoop. Reyes would have beaten the throw anyway, but what happened next was surprising.
After momentarily standing at first base, Reyes suddenly headed toward the dugout as Justin Turner jogged past him as the pinch runner. Any lingering applause from Reyes' bunt single was soon replaced by boos as the crowd was upset to see him leave.
The Mets have never had a batting champion in their 50-season history and the timing could not be better for Reyes, who is heading to free agency for the first time in his career. The question of Reyes' future has loomed large over the Mets all season, but Collins -- who had his 2013 option picked up on Tuesday -- prefers to think positive.
"I think he'll be back," Collins said. "I really do. He loves it here. The fan base loves him. The ownership loves him. Everybody wants him back. I don't know what's going to happen. But I am going in -- I'll have two scenarios, with and without him. I hope he's here, but I've got to prepare myself in case he's not."