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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mixed Emotions

In his first at bat on the last day of the season, Jose Reyes successfully bunted for a single. Once he reached base, Terry Collins removed Jose from the game for a pinch runner, holding his batting title leading average at .337. Tonight, Ryan Braun will have to go 3-3 or 3-4 to pass Reyes.
Terry Collins spoke last night of possibly pulling Reyes today if he got a couple of hits. You may wonder, was this Terry's idea? Reyes's? Sandy Alderson's? The Wilpons'? Post game interviews confirmed that the plan was all Jose's. 

Mets Blob has always been a huge fan of Jose and at first glance found this move very disappointing. However, after doing some research the Blob learned a very important fact. Like it or not...what Jose Reyes did is the rule, not the exception.
Famously, Ted Williams did not sit out of a double header on the last day of the 1941 season to maintain his .400 batting average. The Splendid Splinter refused to sit and played both games. The Red Sox legend went 6-8 and raised his average to .406.

Do you know why Williams' manly act is remembered at folktale proportions? Because outside of Ted Williams - no one else in the history of baseball has made such a bold move.

In fact, numerous players have sat out to protect a lead in the batting race. David Schoenfield writing on an ESPN Blog provides some examples:

1976 NL: Ken Griffey Sr. Griffey entered the final day hitting .338. Bill Madlock was hitting .333. But Madlock went 4-for-4 for the Cubs to raise his average to .339. Once word reached Cincinnati, Griffey entered in the seventh inning, but went 0-for-2.

1983 NL: Bill Madlock. Now with the Pirates, Madlock was hitting .323 entering the final game. He sat. Lonnie Smith went 2-for-5 to finish at .321. Jose Cruz Sr. went 0-for-4 to fall from .320 to .318. The title was Madlock's. Actually, we could do a whole blog on Madlock. He apparently tore a calf muscle on Sept. 5 and only had 19 plate appearances the rest of the season. He had played the five previous games, however -- although he had left the final four before the fifth inning. In fact, in all of his batting title seasons, Madlock missed time in September with injuries. How many of these were legit remains open to debate. In 1983, it's odd that he kept attempting to play only to leave games early. Bill James once wrote, "I never saw any other player who was as focused on batting championships as Bill Madlock ... if he was in the hunt for the title the guys in the press box used to run a poll to see who could pick the days that Madlock's hamstring would keep him out of the lineup."

1982 AL: Willie Wilson. Hitting .332, Wilson sat out game No. 162. Robin Yount was hitting .328 and went for 4-for-5 with two home runs (in a game the Brewers needed to win capture the AL East), but fell short at .331.

2003 AL: Bill Mueller. Entering the last day, Mueller was at .327, Derek Jeter was at .326, and Mueller's Boston teammate Manny Ramirez was at .325. Mueller and Ramirez didn't start for Boston. Jeter went 0-for-3 for the Yankees to drop to .324. Mueller pinch-hit in the eighth inning -- but only after Jeter was already 0-for-3. Mueller finished at .326 to win the title.

1991 NL: Terry Pendleton. Hitting .319, Pendleton didn't play the final game. Hal Morris went 3-for-4 for the Reds to raise his average from .314 to .318. Tony Gwynn finished third at .317, but he was injured and didn't play the final three weeks of the season.

1986 NL: Tim Raines. Raines had a strained chest muscle that had forced him to miss three games the final week, but he had played all 14 innings in the game before the season finale. Manager Bob Rodgers informed Raines that Steve Sax would have to go 4-for-4 to catch Raines if he sat. Raines said he hadn't swung the bat well the night before. He sat. "I think it would be unfair for anyone to criticize him for deciding to sit it out, because he's been such a good team player all year," Rodgers said. Sax got just one hit and Raines won the crown.

To read David Schoenfield's story in its entirety visit:

Deadball Era Shenanigans 
Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie keep a safe distance

What is possibly the best batting title race story, goes back to the skullduggery that went down between Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie in 1910. Otherwise know as...

Going into the final days of the 1910 season, Cobb had an .004 lead on Nap Lajoie for the American League batting title. The prize for the winner of the title was a Chalmers Automobile. Chalmers later became Chrysler. Cobb sat out the final games to preserve his average.

Lajoie needed to have a perfect last few games to beat Cobb. With the Naps in St. Louis to wrap up the season, the Browns' manager, Jack O'Connor, decided to go the extra mile to help Lajoie win the batting title. Why? Because he, and all of baseball, hated Ty Cobb. In order to secure the batting title for Lajoie, Jack O'Conner had his rookie third baseman, Red Corriden, play near the outfield grass so that Nap could lay down bunts all day and beat them out. Lajoie went 8 for 9 bunting in almost every at bat. 

Lajoie's final at-bat resulted in a wild throw to first base, which was scored as an error. After news broke of the scandal, a writer for the St. Louis Post claimed: "All St. Louis is up in arms over the deplorable spectacle, conceived in stupidity and executed in jealousy." The issue was brought to American League president Ban Johnson, who declared all batting averages official, and Cobb the champion (.385069 to .384095). The Chalmers people, however, awarded automobiles to both Cobb and Lajoie. Cobb ultimately won the Chalmers Award in 1911 in his best year, hitting .420.
But that's not all...
In 1978, Pete Palmer discovered a discrepancy in Cobb's career hit total, and the story was broken by The Sporting News in April 1981. Initially recorded at 4,191 (still the total on, researchers say that a Detroit Tigers box score was counted twice in the season-ending calculations. The statisticians gave Cobb an extra 2-for-3. Not only did this credit Cobb with two non-existent hits, it also raised his 1910 batting average from .383 to .385. As Lajoie is credited with a .384 average for the 1910 season, the revised figure would have cost Cobb one of his 12 batting titles and reduced his career average to .366.

So, in all honesty, being outraged about Reyes' actions seems a bit silly now. He is falling in with a long line of players who did the same thing. 

Perhaps the best example to throw at Met hating Yankee fans is this: Thirteen years ago the Yankees removed Bernie Williams from the final game of their season to ensure a batting title over Boston's Mo Vaughn.
Hey Mike Francesa, put that in your vat of butterscotch pudding and smoke it.

Mets 3 - Reds 0
The Last Happy Daycap of 2011
Miguel Batista may not be a Met next year, but today he closed out the season with a 2 hit, complete game shutout. Thanks for stepping up at the end of the season, Miguel. It was nice having you here. You are a pro, and it's refreshing to watch.
Congrats to Mike "The Whitestone Whammer" Baxter who hit his first major league home run today. The 2 run blast landed in the Mets bullpen and it put the Mets up 3-0, and that's how it would stand.
Mets Blob wants to thank all of you Blobbers for being a part of the Blob's rookie season. It's been a fantastic ride, and we look forward to what 2012 will hold for the NY Mets and  Mets Blob. 

Mets Blob will be playing winter Blob in the Dominican Republic, so look for off season posts. Mets Blob will also be filling the off season void with reposts from the 2011 season. Enjoy the baseball postseason and thank you all for making 2011 the Blobbiest ever!

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