Thursday, July 23, 2009

Perfection Correction

Today in Chicago, against a very good offensive team, in a park that favors hitters, in a time of the year when offense is usually on the upswing, a soft-tossing lefthander threw a perfect game, just the 17th in baseball history. It's also, amazingly, the second time that Mark Buehrle has come really stinking close to it, as he has another no-hitter on his record, along with a World Series championship.

The thing about Buehrle is, of course, control: 19 of 27 hitters faced a first pitch strike, and 76 of his 116 pitches today were strikes. He also works quickly; the game today closed in just over two hours. But as to why this guy has the specific juice to go twice to where the entire Mets Franchise hasn't gone in nearly 50 years of trying... well, it's just kind of stunning, really, and makes one think supernatural thoughts of non-probability, which is just a long way of saying that God really doesn't seem to be a Mets Fan. But I digress.

The single and best takeaway about Buehrle's gem is as follows. You can, actually, have exciting baseball without a ton of offense. Throughout the history of the game, attendance has generally suffered in times when offense has suffered; this is also the single biggest reason why the game turned a blind eye to steroids after the strike. But a tight game, with real drama and a crisp pace? You can't beat it, really. And it's no accident that Buehrle got the catch of the year from centerfielder DeWayne Wise, who robbed Gabe Kapler of the killjoy homerun in the ninth. When you work quickly and well, that's exactly what you inspire from the team behind you. There are any number of lessons for young pitchers to take from the guy, starting from the fact that you can succeed without incredible velocity, and that working quickly and with control will make you beloved by everyone but the beer vendors.

This year in the MLB, there are no players threatening to hit 70 home runs, no one flirting with a .400 batting average, no one on pace to come up with 200 RBIs. Instead, we're got teams that are supposed to play in bandboxes (Texas, Colorado) having sane games at home. We've got a large number of players stealing bases again. If we could only get ticket prices down, and have true revenue sharing, you'd be looking at the new golden age of baseball. (Hell, maybe we're already there as is.)

And, finally, this: in every baseball game that you go to, there is the possibility of extreme history. If the pitcher starts off with outs in the first few innings, it's in the back of your mind and growing, and on those rare and amazing days when the drama is allowed to build, it's just one of the best experiences in all of sports fandom. I've been fortunate enough to witness a live no-hitter (Terry Mulholland for the Phillies against the Giants, with third baseman Charlie Hayes squeezing a laser with men on base to end it), and it was just as good as you might imagine. I congratulate Buehrle and the White Sox, but today, the real winners were the South Side fans. You saw something today that you'll remember for the rest of your lives, and for one day at least, no fans in all of MLB got more for their involvement. That's just freaking cool, no matter what laundry you root for.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Manny's Bobblehead Night and his pinch hit home run was a pretty memorable night too. Definitely not as memorable as a perfect game, but that Manny moment was pretty cool.

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