George Brett decided to spend a night watching the American League batting race from the dugout.
"It's fun. I'm an outsider looking in," Brett said after he held himself out of the lineup as his Kansas City teammates lost to Cleveland 13-3 Tuesday night.Brett, leading the league with a .328 average, wants to become the first player to win batting championships in three decades. He won his first in 1976 at .333, clinching it with three hits on the final day, and he ran away with it in 1980, batting .390 after flirting with .400 much of the year.
Today, a decision looms for Brett: Should he risk playing in the Royals' final game in hopes of improving his average, or should he call it a season and force Oakland's Rickey Henderson to catch him?
On Tuesday, Brett stepped aside and left the playing field to Henderson and Texas' Rafael Palmeiro, and the strategy paid off. Henderson went 1-for-4 against California, dropping one point to .325. Palmeiro was 0-for-4 at Milwaukee and fell from contention at .319.
"Baseball's a funny game," Brett said. "You can hit four on the nose and make four outs. You can fist four and get four hits. Why risk it unless you have to? From the people I talked to, the consensus was make him (Henderson) come to you."
If Brett decides to sit out today, Henderson could overtake him by going 2-for-2 or 3-for-4. The Royals' game at Cleveland begins at 12:35 p.m. EDT; Oakland's starts at 3:15 p.m. EDT, so Brett must make his decision without knowing how Henderson will do in the final game.
"I could sit on it and it could backfire in my face," Brett said. "I just wish I was the game behind him."
That Brett is in the race at all is amazing, considering his age and the horrible start he had this year. In early May, he was hitting .200, spurring talk that he was over the hill.
Manager John Wathan had no reservations about keeping Brett on the bench for Tuesday's game, even though he said Brett was 7-for-19 lifetime against Cleveland starter Tom Candiotti.
"You can throw all those stats out now in this situation," Wathan said.