One of Major League Baseball’s great anomalies finally came to an end when, after 50 years, the New York Mets finally threw a no-hitter. It’s hard to believe that a franchise that produced Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden had not had a no-hitter until last night; all three men only threw no-hitters once they left the club. Like anything involving the Mets, it was not without controversy.
Santana set a career high in pitches thrown with 134. Manager Terry Collins had set a pitch count of about 110 pitches before the game for his ace, who had missed all of 2011 with arm problems. In the past 10 years, much has been made about pitch counts and keeping pitchers healthy. We know that pitchers who pitch while fatigued are a greater risk to be injured as the fatigue effects their mechanics. Pitch counts are a crude measurement of fatigue for a variety of reasons, and baseball would do well to reevaluate it’s adherence to them. For all we know, it’s just as likely Santana is fine after being given an extra day off or a lower pitch count his next start that it is he ends up like Bud Smith after his no-hitter.
The other controversy was the blown call by umpire Adrian Johnson in the sixth inning on Carlos Beltran’s smash down the third base line. Smash is the operative word. In the highlights I saw, the ball was hit so hard that the TV crew couldn’t switch cameras in time for viewers to see it live. The umpire who is straddling the foul line behind third base has to immediately jump out of the way in case the ball is fair. Johnson had to make that call literally in mid-air as the ball screamed over the bag and clipped the outer edge of the foul line. This was an exceedingly difficult call for Johnson, and if the ball is an inch or two more to the left, this whole thing is moot.
Beltran still had a chance to get a hit after the foul call, as did the 26 other batters Santana retired. You have to be a Yankees or Cardinals honk, or really hate the umpires to let this spoil the no-hitter. Beltran was correct to say that, even if the ball had been called fair, it would have had no impact on the outcome of the game. That does show how overrated no-hitters can be. As much fun as they are, it is still only one game. I imagine Bud Smith would trade in his no-hitter for a 10-year Major League career.