MILWAUKEE -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun took a diplomatic approach in addressing Jose Reyes' "bunt and bolt" approach to winning the National League batting title on Wednesday. Reyes, the Mets' All-Star shortstop, bunted for a single in his first at-bat against the Reds and then called it a season. He finished the year 181-for-537, good for a .337057 batting average. Braun entered an important game against the Pirates later in the day at 187-for-559 or .334526. Braun needed at least three hits to win what would have been the Brewers' first batting title and got none. He went 0-for-4 in the Brewers' win, and finished second in the NL with a .332 average. He will play on in the NL Division Series while Reyes waits for 2012.
"It's extremely difficult, extremely challenging to get to the postseason, and by far, that's been my top priority," Braun said after the race was settled. "It's made it really easy to not think about what's going on, not focus on some of my personal things that I had going on. I'm definitely excited about the postseason." He wasn't bothered by the ethics of Reyes' approach. "I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and ultimately he left the door open for me," Braun said Wednesday afternoon. "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. ... "I like Jose. I think he's a great person, he's a great player, he's a lot of fun to watch. It's not my position to judge him in any way." He was certainly given an opportunity. Reporters peppered Braun to see if he would criticize the Mets speedster. Braun never bit. "[Bunting], that's a part of his game," Braun said. "I can never fault him for trying to get a hit. That's what he does. He's fast, he's an exciting player, and I bet you he's gotten plenty of bunt hits this year. I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. "I said yesterday or the day before, it's cool that both of us are kind of sprinting to the finish line. I think I'm six for my last nine with a few walks; he's obviously swung the bat really well. It's exciting. It's fun that some of the individual races and some of the team races have come down to the last day. I think it's great for baseball." Braun insisted his priority on Wednesday was the Brewers' bid to win home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason, which they sealed by beating the Pirates, 7-3. The Brewers' lineup included most of the regulars, including Braun, who batted in his usual three-hole and played all nine innings.
The Brewers had been in this situation before. In 1982, the Royals' Willie Wilson decided to sit out the final day of the season to protect his .332 batting average from the Brewers' Robin Yount, who entered the finale at .328.But Yount went 3-for-4 in the Brewers' American League East-clinching win in Baltimore, belting a pair of home runs, and had a chance to pass Wilson in the ninth inning when Orioles pitcher Dennis Martinez hit Yount with a pitch. According to a contemporary report in the New York Post, at about the same time in Kansas City, Oakland manager Billy Martin delayed the Royals-A's game with a mound visit at the request of Royals manager Dick Howser, who was trying to determine whether Wilson needed an at-bat. When word came that Yount had been hit by a pitch, Wilson remained on the bench. Wilson won the AL batting title by .00092, then the sixth-narrowest margin in Major League history. Wilson was so infuriated by the negative press he received for his sit-out that he boycotted reporters until May of the following season, when he lashed out. "I was teed off at the whole media scene for giving me that bad press, undue bad press," he said, according to The Associated Press. "Everybody looked at it one way and not both ways. They looked at it just as me being the bad guy."