NEW YORK -- Fans at Citi Field got to see very little of free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes on perhaps his final day as a Met.
Reyes, in the lead for the National League batting crown, delivered a bunt single to lead off the bottom of the first inning of the Mets' 3-0 win over the Reds. He then was pulled as New York Mets manager Terry Collins adhered to the shortstop's request to be removed if he singled. Some fans booed after realizing Collins had sent Justin Turner to pinch-run for Reyes.
Reyes' strategy paid dividends, as
Milwaukee's Ryan Braun went 0-for-4 to finish at .332, five points behind Reyes' .337. Reyes becomes the first player in Mets history to win a batting title, finishing the season with 181 hits in 537 at-bats.
"I just want to say I'm humbled and honored to win the batting title," Reyes said in a statement. "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."
Reyes said postgame the idea to leave after one successful at-bat was his own, not Collins' call.
"I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and ultimately he left the door open for me," Braun said before the Brewers' 7-3 win over Pittsburgh. "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."
An emotional Collins, fighting tears during his postgame media conference, said he worked hard in his first season at the Mets' helm to earn his players' respect and did not want to jeopardize it by not adhering to Reyes' wishes.
"I said, 'If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game,'" Reyes said. "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."
Asked more specifically about criticism of the decision to leave the game, Reyes said: "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."
Said Collins: "I asked him how he wanted to go about this. I wanted to take him out at the appropriate time. He said if he got a hit his first time up, he'd like to come out. I said, 'You know, I want you to win this thing.' He said, 'That's what I want to do.' So it was decided then."
Still, Collins can see the counterpoint.
"I understand," the manager said as he began to get choked up. "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."
Per MLB rules, the shortstop does not have a financial incentive in his current contract for winning a batting title.
The decision to pull Reyes comes on the 70th anniversary of Ted Williams' deicision to play in a doubleheader on the final day of the regular season in 1941 even though his .39955 average would have been rounded up to .400.
"If I'm going to be a .400 hitter, I'm going to be a .400 hitter all the way," Williams was quoted as saying at the time.
Williams went 6-for-8 in the twin bill to up his average to .406.
Fans weren't the only ones who didn't like the decision. Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson tweeted: "Seriously people -- taking out a star player to preserve his batting average lead...weak! I hope ryan braun goes 5- 5 and wins the title now."
Third baseman David Wright, Reyes' teammate with the Mets for the past eight seasons, disagreed.
"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 over the course of a year," Wright said. "And Jose is well over that. The times that we've gotten to the last day and have been mathematically eliminated, I think the most at-bats anybody has gotten is two. Usually they kind of take us out after two, maybe three at-bats.
"I don't see what the big deal is. You have that many plate appearances, I don't think it's fair criticism. To get one more plate appearance? He's had a great year. Obviously that was his call. And we're all rooting for him to win the batting title."
Reyes planned to host 15 to 20 friends at his home to watch Braun's progress. Reyes could be in for some more fun. His friends in the Dominican Republic had said if he won they intend to hold a parade for him in his hometown.
As the Mets game concluded, the remaining fans from the sparse Citi Field crowd chanted, "Please stay, Jo-se."
Said Reyes: "A lot of stuff is going through my mind. At the same time, I understand what is going on. I'm going to be a free agent. So we're going to see what happens. In the next few weeks, we're going to see what's going on. Right now, I just need to sit down with my agent and discuss the plan -- what we're going to do for the offseason -- and go from there."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.