Jose Reyes was the major agenda at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon as the New York Mets concluded their third straight losing season with a 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Playing his last game as a New York Met, because Reyes is a free agent, he entered the game as the National League batting leader. And it became an interesting story in the first inning, when Reyes, leading off, hit a bunt single and was removed for Justin Turner.
A majority of the slim crowd immediately offered their displeasure at manager Terry Collins. But it was Collins answering for his star shortstop. Reyes asked his manager to remove him from the game if he got a hit in the first inning. So Reyes left Citi Field in the late afternoon as the NL hit leader at .337 and was going to watch how Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers faired later in the evening, second at .335 and would need at least three hits to surpass Reyes.
“I wanted to stay in the game, but Mets fans have to understand, too , what’s going on,” said Reyes who planned to watch the Brewers game against Pittsburgh with a circle of family and friends at his home in Long Island. If Reyes wins the batting title he would be the first Met to do so, and according to his Major League baseball contract there would be no extra incentives granted.
Reyes, doing what he did, made for plenty of controversy. He admitted after a Mets 13-inning loss, the night before to the Reds, that he would not get much sleep. He said the batting title would be a significant accomplishment and something his people in the Dominican Republic would want. And, Reyes made no reference to his free agency having more value if he secured the batting title.
Collins, who had respect of his players all season, and rewarded with an option on his contract to manage through the 2013 season 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.”
It was an emotional Collins making that statement in his last post game press conference. When asked about Reyes, Collins was obviously holding back tears. His teammate David Wright had no objection to what Reyes did, though some Major League players had their opinion in social media circles and did not agree what Reyes decided to do.
“I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion but in order to win a batting title you have to have a certain number of plate appearances during the course of a year,” said David Wright a teammate of Reyes the past eight years. “I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t think it’s fair criticism to get one more plate appearance? He had a great year and we are all rooting for him to win the batting title.”
Reyes was trying to become the 11th different shortstop to win the batting title and first since Florida’s Henley Ramirez hit .342 that led the National League in 2009. As to this being his last game as a New York Met, said Reyes, “A lot of stuff is going through my mind. At the same time, I know what is going on. I am going to be a free agent. So we are going to see what happens in the next few weeks.”
And Reyes heard the fans during the game, chant, “Please stay, Jo-se” They chanted again when Reyes sprinted out of the dugout after Miguel Batista threw the last pitch and got the complete game victory. “I want to stay here,” he said. “We see what happens.”
Alderson said the decision to pick up the option of Collins; contract was attributed to a lot of factors. “The way he communicates in the clubhouse and is appreciated by the players was a large part of it and he is committed to the organization,” he said. You heard the words from Mets players all season, and most who don’t know where they will be next season were all in agreement that Terry Collins was a player’s manager.
“He is patient, taught me a lot this year,” said Ruben Tejada who Collins has always said was developing into a fine player. Tejada could be a successor to Reyes at short, if not he certainly has earned a spot to be the regular second baseman in 2012. Tejada has one hit in 15 of the last 17 games and finished the season hitting .284. He also showed a flashy glove in the infield and has developed plenty of respect in the clubhouse…
Collins said about his contract, “It’s certainly an honor. I’m very proud of the way the player’s have played. Manager’s we get extended and we get a contract because you team plays well and hard. As I said in spring training we asked them to come out and play the game right, and they have.” He added the wins and losses could have been better, and enjoyed the experience of his first year in New York and watching young players develop….
Alderson is holding a post season press conference with the media Thursday afternoon at Citi Field. Surely questions will be asked about Collins’ coaching staff and word is all should return including pitching coach Dan Warthen though reportedly third base coach Chip Hale will take a coaching job with good friend Bob Melvin, manager of the Oakland Atheltics. Mets are leaning to returning starter Chris Capuano, a spring training signee who made over 31 starts and was the bad luck starter Tuesday night and did not fair in the decision.
“I am proud of pitching a full season and pitching every fifth day,” said Capuano who enjoyed New York City and finished with a 11-12 record and 4.55 ERA. “That was a big positive for me. The last time I threw a full season was ’06, 07. I threw over 200 inning s in ’06 and had less in ’07. There are some numbers I’d like to improve on. I guess I’d like to get that ERA a little lower….”
One uncertain player in the Mets clubhouse is outfielder Angel Pagan. Team doctors shut him down for the final three games with the Reds after Pagan sustained a mild concussion in the previous series with the Phillies. Though Pagan claimed it was not serious and wanted to play the final games. But there is more.
If Alderson can’t find another outfielder in the offseason there is talk he will be looking to convert Jason Bay into a centerfielder. Pagan, a close confident of the traded Carlos Beltran, fell in bad flavor with teammates on three separate occasions including a game in July when he asked to be removed from a game in Texas because of the excessive heat.
He had the boxes packed Tuesday evening and was ready to return home to Puerto Rico early Thursday morning. As players packed their bags, hugged each other and said their goodbyes, Pagan quickly got dressed and stayed away from the media. A fan of welterweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, Pagan plans to rest for a few weeks, go into an offseason workout plan and attend the Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas in November. It won’t be his last visit to New York this year as Pagan plans to attend the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight at Madison Square Garden in December.
“I have seven good years left in me,” he said. Packing two pairs of Nike shoes sent by Pacquiao, he said, “Someone will pick me up if I am not here next year.” He was not petitioning to keep his roster spot, and as players walked in and out of a back room to the clubhouse, it seemed the only communication was Pagan and getting out of town….
Miguel Batista, the 40-year old former Arizona Diamondback pitched the season ending two-hit shutout and was raving about his former team that is headed to the post season for the fifth time in their young history. As to his future, signed as a late season addition when cut by the St. Louis Cardinals, he said, “This is an organization with talent that will win. I felt good, my pitches had velocity and I know I can help these guys next year …
Mets finished the season with a final 77-85 record good for fifth place in the National League east, 25 games behind the first place Phillies… A final wrap up on the season with the Alderson press conference, and more from behind the scenes on the final game of the 2011 season at Citi Field coming tomorrow.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]