The Santana No-Hitter From Soup To Nuts

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Let’s go point-by-point on Johan Santana’s no-hitter.

The call at third base.

Umpire Adrian Johnson called Cardinals’ outfielder and former Met Carlos Beltran’s would-be hit foul when it was fair. He blew the call, but it wasn’t as blatant as it’s being made out to be, nor was it the opposite of Jim Joyce’s blown (and gutsy) call from two years ago on Armando Galarraga’s imperfect/perfect game. Joyce called it as he saw it in spite of the situation and not all umpires would’ve done that. Umpires know the circumstances during a game, but their training is such that they’re highly unlikely to openly let it influence a call. It might’ve been subconscious, but we’ll never know one way or the other. Johnson himself probably doesn’t know for sure.

It happens though. One of the best and most respected umpires in history, the late Harry Wendelstedt, preserved Don Drysdale’s consecutive scoreless inning streak by ruling that Dick Dietz didn’t try to get out of the way on a Drysdale pitch that hit him. Drysdale was able to extricate himself from a jam and continued his streak.

It’s possible that Johnson was hoping the ball would be foul to keep the no-hitter intact, but that doesn’t make it a preplanned decision.

As for the idea that it tarnishes Santana’s accomplishment, you can find any instance in baseball and diminish it. Did the 1985 Royals deserve their World Series win after it was helped along by Don Denkinger’s mistake on a Jorge Orta ground out in game 6 as the Cardinals were on the verge of winning the World Series and wound up losing that game and game 7? They won game 7 by a score of 11-0 as Bret Saberhagen pitched a complete game shutout. The Royals won the World Series. It wasn’t handed to them.

Does the blown call ruin Mike Baxter’s catch in the seventh inning? No.

The Cardinals had ample opportunity to break up the no-no after the mistake. They didn’t.

Santana and the Mets earned their moment.

The history of the Mets.

With all the great and very good pitchers that have come and gone from the Mets—Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Nolan RyanDavid Cone, Jerry Koosman, Frank Viola—it’s a testament to the luck involved with pitching a no-hitter. That it was Santana who accomplished the feat sweetens the moment more than if it was done by a journeyman who will never be heard from again.

The pitch count.

This obsession with pitch counts served to leave fans worrying about what Mets’ manager Terry Collins was going to do with Santana as his number rose further than it ever had in his career. A similar instance occurred with the Yankees in 2010 as CC Sabathia reached the eighth inning with a no-hitter against the Rays and after it was broken up, manager Joe Girardi needlessly said he was going to pull Sabathia rather than let him throw too many pitches, no-hitter or not. Sabathia himself was bewildered and it would’ve been interesting to see whether Girardi would actually have done it.

It’s possible that he would have and the only result would’ve been to bolster the assertion that he’s a puppet of management and slave to his ridiculous binder of arbitrary numbers.

Collins was right in leaving Santana in to finish the game. The players support Collins, but that support could’ve been destroyed with one paranoid and silly move in taking his pitcher out as he was going for history. Adrenaline carried Santana past any exhaustion and he appeared to get stronger as the game went along. Collins is the same manager who justified his removal of Jose Reyes from the final game of the season in 2011 after Reyes bunted for a base hit to preserve his batting title. It turned out to be Reyes’s final game as a Met, but Collins didn’t know that then. The club wanted to keep Reyes and Collins basically said after the fact and in response to the criticism that he wasn’t going to ruin his relationship with Reyes for one play in one meaningless game. To be sure an old-school manager like Collins didn’t like what Reyes did, but he let it go for the good of the franchise. He did the same thing with Santana. Whatever happens from now on, happens.

Social media egomania, self-involvement and what “I” would’ve done.

The word “I” is in quotes because I’m not talking about myself.

Twitter became a world of the media inserting themselves into the narrative as to how the Santana no-hitter was affecting them as if we care; as if it matters.

Gonzo journalism worked for Hunter S. Thompson because he innovated it and was good at it. Others are doing it now and doing it poorly. Nobody cares how the Santana achievement affects David Lennon, Bob Klapisch, Howard Megdal, Joel Sherman, Ken Davidoff or anyone else.

But it’s all about me-me-me-me-me-me. It’s ego, arrogance and nothing else.

Yankees’ fans were doing it as well. There was an aura of the maintenance of bullying and “dominance” over the “little brothers”. The tone was “Yeah, have your moment but remember who’s in charge here.”

The Yankees are in charge of nothing and until Mets’ fans and the organization as a whole pushes back against this perception that the Yankees’ money and history is a foundation for such a logically false statement, it’s going to continue.

There were also those who said something along the lines of, “I’d take Santana out because the season is more important than one game.”

It’s not absurd to say that the Mets had to keep an eye on that game and an eye on the rest of the season, but to suggest that it was an no-brainer to pull him is the epitome of the ease of decisionmaking on social media for those who aren’t making the decisions. They’re not the ones who have to face the player in question (Santana), his teammates, the fans and the media after making such a monumental maneuver. The Twitter experts have all the balls in the world sitting nude in front of their computer and expressing what they think they would’ve done but would probably not have had the nerve to do; nor would they ever be in a position to do it, rendering the point moot.

It was a great night for the Mets and any amount of contextualization and obnoxiousness isn’t going to ruin it regardless of how hard the perpetrators try. They have their no-hitter. It’s in the record books as such and it won’t be taken away. Ever.

*NOTE: Those winding up here searching for the naked video clip of a Mets player following the no-hitter, I had embedded it but the content was removed from Youtube due to copyright infringement and I deleted it because the video was no longer viewable.

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Ryan Braun’s MVP is Suddenly Not Kosher

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Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, AKA the Hebrew Hammer, saw the Kosher status of his Most Valuable Player award called into question when it was revealed that he tested positive for a banned substance.

Braun may not be the Chosen One of 2011 for much longer.

You can read the details here from the New York Times.

Braun is proclaiming his innocence, but that matters little in the world of rapid judgments and suggested punishments before an allegation has been proven to be accurate.

As long as the case is hovering over Braun, it diminishes the MVP award in terms of perception; but we don’t know what the other players were using—nor what Braun used to test positive. It might’ve been an over-the-counter supplement that had an ingredient that he wasn’t aware was banned.

Like the “war on drugs”, it’s pure cherry-picking of what’s okay and what’s not. MLB players can’t use amphetamines anymore, but until the new collective bargaining agreement, there wasn’t an attempt to test players for human growth hormone so players switched from anabolic steroids to HGH.

Chemists and performance specialists have little interest in the rules and regulations of a sport when it comes to drugs; their mandate is to help their clients play better; they do this by formulating the substances based on what works and how best to mask them to prevent a positive test. With the new testing procedures, these same chemists are trying (and presumably succeeding) in coming up with something new to stickhandle their way around the tests.

Some are saying that once his appeal is denied, Braun should be stripped of the MVP award.

Much like the instantaneous reaction to the Armando Galarraga perfect/imperfect game where, in the aftermath of umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call, there was consideration given to an overturn and awarding Galarraga an after-the-fact perfect game, there are other factors to gauge.

Since there was video evidence as to the gaffe, giving Galarraga a perfect game wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but where would it end?

If there was a call in a game that was judged to be wrong and it cost a team a victory, how would that be handled? Would the win be taken away from one team and given to another? Would they replay the game from the time of the mistake?

And what about the gamblers who were already paid upon the game’s result? (That’s the big one whether baseball admits it or not.)

People bet on the MVP as well. Would the winnings for those who selected Braun be demanded back? Would anyone give it back? I wouldn’t. Would the new winner—presumably the player who came in second, Matt Kemp—be tested and scrutinized as well?

These things have to be considered before automatically saying, “take away his MVP”.

Braun’s production wasn’t appreciably better in 2011 than it had been in previous seasons—he didn’t hit 73 home runs after a career-high of 49 as Barry Bonds did in 2001 at an age where players decline, not set records; he wasn’t injury-prone and possibly facing the end of his career as Mark McGwire was. There’s no glaring statistical anomaly to say Braun just started using whatever it was he’s said to have used that may or may not have helped him along.

Of course, he might’ve been using various substances throughout his playing career.

We don’t and won’t know.

He also might be innocent.

The fallout from this will be more scarring than the Hebrew ritual of circumcision; more annoying than performing a Bar Mitzvah like a moderately house-trained monkey in front of a group of people one doesn’t know, singing songs in a language he doesn’t understand.

Those things pass into memory.

If Braun is found guilty and stripped of his MVP, that will endure forever.

And there won’t be a catered affair in celebration of his downfall.

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Challenges Are The Way To Go With Expanded Replay

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In case you missed it, last night’s Pirates-Braves game ended on a controversial call by umpire Jerry Meals in which Julio Lugo was deemed safe when—by all angles—he appeared out.

You can see the clips and different angles below.

It was a horrible gaffe, but to suggest any malfeasance on the part of Meals is nonsense. Much like the reactionary idiocy surrounding Jim Joyce’s courageous (and wrong) call on the final out of Armando Galarraga‘s imperfect-perfect game, it was a mistake pure and simple.

Even the worst umpires don’t make it to the big league level with any essence of possible chicanery in their history. In short, Meals didn’t say Lugo was safe because it was the 19th inning and he wanted to leave. Like Joyce, the easier thing for Meals to do would’ve been to call the runner out.

As for the resurgence of demands for expanded instant replay, here’s my solution: the managers get one challenge per game. Independent of what’s already in place for reviewable calls for home runs, one challenge to be used at any time for the managers to protest.

That’s it.

No more than one.

Expanding replay to the degree that some are suggesting would take far too much time and—much like governmental intervention into too many aspects of our lives—where does it end?

One challenge. If Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had such an option, he could’ve used it in last night’s game. He didn’t, so now MLB is dealing with this debate again.

This is the simplest and most logical solution.

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