A year after nearly having his career derailed by injury,New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana celebrated after pitching a no hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field. Credit: Tim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Chalk Up Johan Santana's No-Hitter

It counts. Everyone can talk all they want and instant replays can be shown on a continuous loop with popcorn served, but New York Met pitcher Johan Santana pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals the other day no matter what anyone says.

And that’s because the umpire says so. It’s official. It’s in the books. Controversial play or not, a foul ball is a foul ball when the umpire says it is regardless of whether or not your eyes tell you differently. That’s the rule of the game. That’s the law of the game. It happens every day, too, even if we don’t care as much because in the cosmic big picture there isn’t much difference between a six-hitter and a seven-hitter, and there isn’t much difference between a ball and a strike.

As baseball fans we all know, of course, that there can be a tremendous difference between one ball and one strike called. But what is is based on what the umpire says it is. Likewise for Santana, the Mets, the Cardinals, and Carlos Beltran, who cracked the shot down the third-base line in the sixth-inning that everyone says should have been called fair for a hit, but was ruled foul and is not.

Suddenly, there is talk of putting an asterisk next to Santana’s feat in the record books to alert future generations that although his eight-strikeout, five-walk performance is listed with other no-hitters it wasn’t really a no-hitter. I thought baseball outgrew the notion of asterisks in 1961 when it was first mentioned as applied to Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s 60-homer record in a longer schedule. No asterisk was used then. There was talk that Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s career home run record needs an asterisk. There has been no asterisk placed next to Bonds’ name. (A question-mark maybe, but that’s unofficial).

You can’t convince me that in all of the no-hitters in baseball history there wasn’t a questionable call or two–hit or error by the official scorer, for example. But without instant replay being in use for all those decades we don’t know about them. Perhaps, and only perhaps, were they mentioned in the written account of the game.

Even with instant replay available and in use during the Mets’ 8-0 victory over St. Louis, all we can do is watch and form a judgment. Instant replay was not in use in order to allow Adrian Johnson to change his call. The umpires are judge and jury on the field and while we may occasionally bear witness to a perfect game in the sport we do not always benefit from perfect umpiring. The human element remains.

This entire incident is reminiscent of the 2010 Armandao Galarraga near-perfect game. The  Detroit Tigers pitcher was down to his last out against the Cleveland Indians and the umpire ruled a hitter safe at first when he was clearly out. The umpire goofed and it cost Galarraga. He lost out. This time Santana benefited.

As an aside in the midst of this hullabaloo, it is interesting that Santana, who missed all of 2011 with an arm injury and whose career was thought to be in jeopardy at the time, pitched a complete game requiring 134 pitches. For the Mets, who hoped to limit his pitch count to 100-to-110 for a while, the no-hitter was a mixed blessing.

Surely manager Terry Collins hated to leave Santana in and watch him strain that left arm with so many pitches. But if Collins marched out to the mound in, say, the eighth inning, and told Santana he was coming out because of a pitch count in the middle of throwing a no-hitter the hurler would have wrapped that same arm around Collins’ neck.

A clamor may be raised because the replay of Beltran’s swat is so readily available. But it’s not as if there will be a do-over. The game continued to its normal conclusion and is in the books. Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in Mets team history during the 50th anniversary season of the team.





Tags: Adrian Johnson Armando Galarraga Babe Ruth Barry Bonds Carlos Beltran Cleveland Indians Detroit Tigers Hank Aaron Johan Santana New York Mets No-Hitters Roger Maris St Louis Cardinals Terry Collins Umpires

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