Last season, the Pirates were almost no-hit by Arizona Diamondbacks journeyman Yusmeiro Petit. Even though my team ended up losing 6-0, I wrote that it was still a good night for me as a baseball fan, as the mystique of that pitching accomplishment still held up. After all, no matter how bad the line-up he faced, if Yusmeiro Petit could do it, how hard could it be?
The story out of Detroit tonight will rightly focus on how pitcher Armando Galarraga was unfairly robbed of tossing a perfect game. There will be articles focusing on the pain of a pitcher coming that close to perfection, as well as the blown call being a strong indicator of the need for instant replay in Major League Baseball. However, I’m struck by something else.
We have, for all intents and purposes, really just seen the second perfect game in the last five days, and the third this season. Combined with the perfect game Mark Buehrle threw last summer and that’s four in one year. Prior to Buehrle’s, the last four perfect games were ten years apart (1994-2004). After Halladay’s performance on Saturday, Joe Posnanski had an interesting post comparing the act of pitching a perfect game to Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile.Â In Bannister’s case, once he removed the mental barrier that the feat was impossible, countless runners broke the mark, and perhaps now the same thing is happening with perfect games. And that was before Armando Galarraga happened.
I don’t know if the Galarraga’s near-miss tonight signifies the end of perfect games being something particularly historical and magnificent. A lot of me hopes that this is just a part of a phase or a statistical oddity, both of which baseball as a sport is more than capable of. Still if the perfect game has entered a new era, well, I enjoy this trend more than the single season home run record falling every other year, even if the all the record-setting hitters were clean.
I will also add that if the mystique of the perfect game really did end tonight, then it’s very fitting for me as a fan. The knowledge that no-hitters and perfect games were something special was drilled into me in the summer of 1990, when Pirates starter Doug Drabek came within one out of no-hitting the Phillies. The manager of that Pirate team was, of course, Jim Leyland. Tonight,Â it’s quite possible the aura associated with the no-hitter and perfect game disappeared for me. The Tigers’ Armando Galarraga came within one out of tossing a perfect game, and the image I’ll take away is Detroit’s manager, the same Jim Leyland, springing from the dugout to argue the painful safe call that took it away from his pitcher.