The New Rule


New Rule: If you Can’t Play Baseball, You Might as Well be Bitter and Write About Those Who Can

It’s raining in the Northeast, and we can’t watch Josh Johnson face Gio Gonzalez.  I talked to my father tonight, who was driving home after a couple of weeks playing bridge in Memphis.  His comment was: “visibility: spray.”  Never one to use two words when one would do, he was inbound off of I-81 on route 66, and was living a reminder that April still has its ups and downs. So, in the absence of a conclusion to a terrific series in the nation’s capital, I’d like to pass along my thoughts regarding yesterday’s exclamation point in the history books.

Last night, via chore-induced delay, I sat down and watched perfection, in the form of Philip Humber, as he retired 27 Mariners in a row. That was the first time I’ve watched a perfect game from front to back, although as a ten-year-old I listened to Vin Scully call one for Three-Two back in 1965. I was a skosh over a year old when he threw it, but my father had a tape of the game that I listened to years later.

The possibility of a perfect game was first broached in the broadcast in the bottom of the fifth inning, and that’s when the color camera started spending all of its time focused on the White Sox’ dugout during the top half of each inning. While the two guys in the booth last night would never be accused of using one word when twelve would do, they were adroit enough to let the camera do most of the talking as it focused on Humber on the bench between innings. It was really cool to watch the unwritten rule in action, as the rest of the Sox treated him like Typhoid Mary as the possibility of perfection was not shattered as the sixth inning passed, then the seventh, then the eighth.

The first few pitches in the bottom of the ninth did nothing more than prove that Humber was indeed human, and that he did feel the weight and the pressure of the scoreboard. You could see that the yips were right there in his pocket, waiting to take over and ruin perfection, but Humber was stronger than that. With that much pressure, I doubt if I could have counted on dropping the ball out of my hand and having it fall to the ground, but he managed to recover from a couple of bad pitches and resumed throwing the same well-located pitches that got him to the bottom of the ninth inning with a scoreboard loaded with donuts.

One other thing: He never shook off a sign from A.J. Pierzynski.  Not once in the entire game. He also never reached ball three until the ninth inning. I’d love to have an in-depth interview with Pierzynski, but I’m a catcher at heart.  What do I know?

So, the game finished, and the history books were duly updated and recorded. I was ready to totter off to bed with visions of perfection and a nice, warm, Ken Burns-style nostalgia. I got to watch a perfect game, and all was right with the world.

And then I stumbled across a Cliff Corcoran piece on the Sports Illustrated website, and all the little happy thoughts got run over by a truck.

Here’s a couple of nuggets from Corcoran’s write-up of Philip Humber’s perfect game:

"“Better yet, of the Mariners’ nine regulars, the only one who entered this game with an on-base percentage above .311 was Ryan, and he didn’t start this game.”“Unfortunately, that doesn’t get us all that much closer to an explanation as to why we’ve had a relative glut of perfect games in years, nor why the glut has included a larger percentage of unexceptional pitchers with Humber, Braden, and Galarraga authoring three of the last four perfectos (if you include Galarraga, of course).”“I’ve yet to see a replay of that final out that convinces me either way on the call, but one wonders if Runge had Jim Joyce, the highly regarded umpire who will unfortunately be remembered primarily from robbing Galarraga of his perfect game via a badly blow [sic] call at first base, on his mind before the pitch.”"

So, in Cliff Corcoran world, The Mariners suck, Humber is an unexceptional pitcher, and Blue was in the tank for the pitcher because of a mistake someone else made, making the twenty-first perfect game thrown since 1880 “Another perfect game? Ho Humber. This is getting routine.”

Un-be-freaking-lievable. How dare you, Corcoran?  The challenges to this level of asshat-grade arrogance started pouring out of me, along with the spittle hitting my monitor. An example or two:

  1. Impress me, Corcoran.  Grab a glove and a ball, walk out onto a regulation baseball diamond and send Ichiro Suzuki back to the dugout once.
  1. Let me see the stats from your major-league pitching career.
  1. I guess the nearest equivalence for you might be to try and sit in front of 22,000 people and pen the literary equivalent of The Great Gatsby in three hours with a Sharpie and a stack of cocktail napkins. Good luck.
  1. There have been roughly 350,000 Major League baseball games played that we have records for.  Exactly what is “routine” about something that happens 0.00006 of the time?

Corcoran didn’t actually get around to congratulating Humber until the last paragraph of his piece.  Utterly despicable, and yet all too common.

I listened to the same ESPN 760 broadcast that Al DeGaetano wrote about and had the same reaction he did. Seriously? We have a local radio “personality” that is hoping the Marlins’ attendance numbers will tank?  As proof of what, exactly?

Corcoran covers his dislike of a perfect game not being thrown in either Fenway or the Bronx with the fig leaf of statistics that show a recent concentration of perfect games. The straw men he uses to shore up his argument are a crappy opponent, a lackluster pitcher, and an umpire in the tank for the pitcher. I can think of no article that would be a better example of why sportswriters piss me off.

Philip Humber achieved perfection. Honor him for his demonstrated abilities. Take your cynicism and bullshit hipster desire to pan what you can’t ever hope to equal and spare us your “analysis”. Throwing a perfect game is a Big Deal, and always will be.  Don’t cheapen it by trying to cloak your disdain in a statistical red herring.