It took over 50 seasons and more than 8,000 games (8,020, to be precise), but the New York Mets now have done something they had never done before. Johan Santana, two months into his comeback from shoulder surgery, threw 134 pitches to do it, far more than he has ever thrown in his career. He issued five walks along the way, but that isn’t the number that really counts. What counts is zero, as Santana threw a no-hitter for the Mets against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Except he really didn’t.
With the Mets, nothing is ever quite run-of-the-mill. It is a franchise defined by extremes. The team has experienced 120-loss awfulness and 108-win greatness; miraculous titles, and crushing collapses; jaw-dropping victories on opponents’ terrible plays, and their own jaw-dropping plays that presaged terrible defeats.
It’s probably fitting that this tale hinges on Carlos Beltran, the ex-Met in his first game back in Flushing since he was traded late in 2011. He led off the top of the sixth, right at the inflection point where you can start legitimately speculating about a no-hitter. He shot a 1-0 pitch just over the bag at third, landing it barely on the line, leaving a half-moon imprint in the chalk.
And third-base umpire Adrian Johnson called it foul.
Step back in time. Two years ago today, I got to see the last two innings of Armando Galarraga‘s masterpiece, watched him dominating batters with remarkable economy. And then I saw that play. The scream I loosed when Jim Joyce signaled “safe” is still echoing somewhere deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
That was a perfect game. The record book says it was not, but in my heart it was. That is my gift to Galarraga—and to Joyce. We recall how memorably Joyce lamented after the game that he had taken something special from Galarraga. Not from me, he hasn’t. (I could roll into a rant on instant replay here, but I won’t.)
And now we’re in the Mirror Universe, where Spock has a goatee, and where I, too, get to be the villain.
Because I have to be consistent, don’t I? If I bend the official records of MLB to acknowledge and restore what Galarraga lost to an umpire’s missed call, don’t I have to deny Johan Santana the no-hitter that was the gift of an umpire’s missed call?
Mind you, this wasn’t a scorer’s judgment call, hit or error, an act of subjective judgment we accept as part of the game. This wasn’t even a bang-bang play at first, gauging two objects in motion. This was a classic boundary play, fair or foul, and one that left concrete evidence on the field itself.
(Really, I am saving the rant for later. Several years later, if you’re lucky.)
Nobody is going to lament this missed call the way they did that blown call. Not even the Cardinals, not with an 8-0 whitewashing on the board. But even as my heart leaped and swelled as Santana struck out David Freese to seal the deal, I felt the undercurrent of sadness, disappointment that I couldn’t fully celebrate. I know that somewhere in the compartment of my soul that’s reserved for baseball, there will always be that asterisk. Because I have to be consistent, don’t I?
For once, why couldn’t the Mets have found a less amazin’ way to be Amazin’?