The 3-0 New York Mets' victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field was a sidenote to what occurred with (essentially now) free agent star shortstop Jose Reyes in the first inning of the game.
Facing a 1-0 count, Reyes decided to drop down a bunt for a base hit, which effectively padded his narrow lead -- .337057 to .334525 -- for the National League batting title over Ryan Braun. But in a shocking move, Reyes was pulled from the game for Justin Turner by manager Terry Collins. Or at least at the time, that's what we all thought.
In what could very well be his last game as a Met, the electric 28-year-old played just over a half-inning because he requested to be taken out of the game if he singled in his first at bat. Fans booed, some SNY announcers frowned the move and Twitter was abuzz with comments effectively likening the Mets to cowards and that this would create another public relations nightmare for a team that seems out of touch with its fans and the media.
Reyes told the media after the game that he understands how much the fans wanted to see him play, but winning the NL batting title is very important to him. It would be the franchise's first NL batting champion.
"I said, 'If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game,'" Reyes said as quoted by ESPN NY's Adam Rubin. "And I did that. If I went 0-for-1, maybe I'm still in the game until I get a hit. ... I wanted to stay in the game, but (Mets 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, for the fans too, because they've been supporting me all the way through. I've (had) throughout my career a lot of ups and downs here with a lot of injuries. One thing I do all the time is give 100 percent on the field."
The thing is, Braun could still claim the title if he smacks at least three hits in no more than four at-bats Wednesday night against the Pirates, so for Reyes, this will either be a spot-on decision, or a very premature one.
But what does his closest competitor think about the whole thing? Braun had a very classy response:
"I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and ultimately he left the door open for me," Braun told MLB.com. "I know it's not impossible. I've gotten three hits in a game plenty of times. It's still attainable, still a possibility. If he had stayed in the game and gotten multiple hits, it would not have been a possibility at all. I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and I'm not really here to judge him."
Following the game, an emotional Collins spoke about the respect he cultivated with his players this season, and he did not want to put it at risk by not complying with Reyes' request.
"I understand," Collins said. "I heard some comments in the stands. I don't blame them. People pay a good price to come to these games. You've got to understand that I ask these players to do a lot. We worked hard to get their respect this year, and they deserve ours."
While it may appear to be a weak request on Reyes' part, this is not the first time a player has left a game to protect his batting-race title. Dave Schoenfield of ESPN has a blog with few of the names he came up with off the bat: Ken Griffey Sr. in 1976, Bill Madlock in 1983, Willie Wilson in 1982, Bill Mueller in 2003, Terry Pendleton in 1991 and Tim Raines in 1986.
And Reyes has no regrets about that choice:
"I don't care what people say. Last year I played seven innings, and in the seventh inning I came out of the game -- the last game. I don't care what people think. I was happy. I discussed it with Terry early."
Altogether, while Mets fans should be disappointed if Reyes bolts town this offseason this is not the moment they should remember him for.