DENVER - He had the highest batting average in the major leagues, a remarkable .348 and ought to be ashamed of it. D.J. LeMahieu edged Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals by just one thousandth of a percentage point by sitting out four of the last five games, including the season finale.
I get what then-manager Walt Weiss was doing and respect him for his loyalty. Weiss understands how prestigious a batting title is and didn’t want his All-Star second baseman, who had an absolutely spectacular season, to have a few bad games and lose it to somebody who missed the last couple of weeks due to injury. But LeMahieu should have overruled his skipper. Should have told him he wanted to win the crown with wood in his hands, not under his bottom.
You may not think that many years from now, anybody will remember the circumstances surrounding the 2016 race for the batting championship, but it’s been three quarters of a century since Ted Williams hit over .400 and that story is still legendary. Williams entered the final day of the season with a .3996 average, which would have officially rounded up to .400, but he insisted on playing both games of a doubleheader, went six-for-eight and finished at .406.
The Rockies have now had nine batting championships in franchise history. Larry Walker won it three times, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and now D.J. LeMahieu, the only one of the bunch who backed into it.
What a terrible lesson for all the young Rox fans who were rooting for D.J. If you’re competing for something important, just shut it down once you get the lead.
The people who paid for tickets to watch the meaningless final few games against the Milwaukee Brewers deserved to see the league’s leading hitter. I’m assuming he would have been in the lineup if the Rockies were fighting for a playoff spot, but who knows? Would it have been worth the risk?
LeMahieu has such a sweet swing and incredible knack for hitting to the opposite field that he’ll likely get a chance to win another batting title. And if so, I sure hope he does it on the field instead of on the bench.