The no-hitter. I have always believed this is a mere statistical glitch on the baseball landscape. As baseball fans, we are obligated to scream for joy and over-celebrate whenever a pitcher reaches this obscure plateau during the course of his career. And with the recent no-hitter thrown by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds, who defeated the San Francisco Giants 3-0, this is as good a time as any to discuss such a topic.
What is the difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game? A no-hitter occurs when a baseball pitcher does not allow a hit for the entire game, while a perfect game occurs when a pitcher does not allow a base-runner of any kind for the entire game. It never ceases to amaze me how excited the players and fans get after a no-hitter or perfect game. Usually, a 3-0 win in July is just another game in a six-month journey towards the post-season. But if the losing team was unable to record a hit or reach base during the game, then the winning team mobs the field as if they had just won the World Series. The major over-reaction to the no-hit/perfect game phenomenon completely boggles my mind because no-hit/perfect game shutouts are far from exciting.
In my opinion, a walk-off win deserves a much bigger celebration than a no-hitter or perfect game because the outcome between winning and losing was actually on the line and it took a clutch performance by somebody to decide a winner. The outcome of the San Francisco- Cincinnati game was not on the line, and there were no clutch performances by anybody to secure the win. If San Francisco managed to load the bases in the ninth inning, then there would have been an opportunity for a dramatic clutch performance from somebody. I’m not saying that Homer Bailey should have just walked the bases loaded just to humor me, but I am saying that it was an ant-climactic finish that wouldn’t get this type of nation-wide coverage if he surrendered a hit in the first inning.
Teams have been burned by putting too much emphasis on this precious piece of statistical bookkeeping. New York Mets manager Terry Collins over-extended ace pitcher Yohan Santana because of his no-hit bid on June 1st 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals. After missing all of 2011, it was Santana’s 11th game back after coming off of shoulder surgery. Mets manager Terry Collins allowed Santana to continue pitching in a game the Mets eventually won 8-0 because in the 50-year history of Mets baseball, no pitcher had ever recorded this “feat”. Apparently, it was of utmost importance to Collins that this feat occurs under his watch, even if it meant risking the future health of his best pitcher. After all, it’s not like the Mets are going to accomplish anything else under Collins anyway.
For whatever it is worth, Santana achieved Mets immortality after his 134-pitch performance against St. Louis. Shortly thereafter, Santana went from being the “Toast of the Town” to “Toast”. He lost his last five decisions in a row before being shut down for the 2012 season after his August 17 start against Washington. To make matters worse, the 34-year-old former Mets ace had his second shoulder surgery in 31 months to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder in April 2013. He is out for the entire 2013 season and with his contract expiring after this year, his career as a Met is likely over. The dog-and-pony show that is the baseball no-hitter may have cost Santana his career.
Granted, I understand that not allowing a hit or a base-runner in a professional baseball game is difficult to do. And I also understand that Yohan Santana was damaged goods to begin with, so he may have eventually succumbed to the same shoulder injury regardless of his pitch count. Nevertheless, I don’t get caught up in the hoop-la of statistical abnormalities. I simply call Homer Bailey’s no-hitter for what it really is: a great pitching performance, and a win for the Cincinnati Reds.