8,020*

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’?


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A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
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plasmaj
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plasmaj

I think you should carefully review videos of all past no-hitters to see how many should also have an asterisk. This one gets more attention due to the much better video replays now available as well as the internet

Randy Sutton
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Randy Sutton

Yeah, go rain on someone else’s parade. I have a good place to put that asterisk…

Mark Himmelstein
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Mark Himmelstein
Yeah gotta agree with what plasmaj said, but also wanted to add, compared to the Galarraga play, this one was probably much more difficult to make in real time. This one really was fractions of an inch wrong. It was barely even noticeable in a full speed watch that any chalk got kicked up, because there was lots of dirt in there too. The Galarraga play was so blatantly wrong that it was near unforgivable. At least 90% of people watching that play in real time new it was wrong. This one was probably much more of an even split.… Read more »
Mark Himmelstein
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Mark Himmelstein

I also wanted to add, if somehow that high pitch count comes back to haunt Johan and the Mets, I suspect the asterisk is going to suddenly feel much larger in retrospect. If it doesn’t, the Mets simply handle Johan with kiddie gloves for a few starts and he finishes out the season strong, it will likely be just something Mets fans and baseball historians chuckle about over their $10 bud lights.

Mets Fans
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Mets Fans

Thought about it….don’t care

Mets Fans
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Mets Fans
Mark,there are some things in baseball worth the physical risk and some that are not. Mike Baxter nearly ran through a wall for Johan and the Mets last night and I suspect he’d do it again. No matter what from here on out, the risk was worth it. It’s probably kind of difficult for fans of most other teams to understand how much this meant to us or how much we appreciate it because no other team has gone nearly this long without a no-hitter. It probably means the same to Johan and his teammates. Not to mention what he… Read more »
Erik Christensen
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Erik Christensen

This makes up for the bad call by the official scorer in 1984 when Ray Knight bobbled an easy ground ball and one of the slowest players in the game at the time got an infield single in Dwight Gooden’s 1 hitter.

Erik Christensen
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Erik Christensen

why not bitch about the walk Milt Pappas gave up with 2 outs in the 9th on a 3-2 pitch in his no hitter?

Or some of the bad calls that cost teams a championship (Game 6 in the 1985 World Series comes to mind)

Or do you only bitch about bad calls made recently?

Shane Tourtellotte
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Shane Tourtellotte
Erik:  Griping about current events is done under the THT Live heading.  Griping about historical events goes under the main banner. (At this point, I feel like I should hold up a sign reading “Joke”.) I wrote my thoughts about an important game that was played yesterday, and how it tied in with another game in the still recent past (and with the instant replay controversy, which I’m still not going to rant about yet).  Maybe I should be explaining or defending my words, but I think I will just let them stand. I will say this:  if you don’t… Read more »
plasmaj
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plasmaj

In 50 years, all pre-Robo Ump no-hitters should be labeled with an asterisk

Kyle
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Kyle
The Beltran play happened in the 6th inning, the Galaragga play was literally going to end the game and seal perfection. Santana still had to earn a lot of that no-hitter after the foul call. I think this makes it hard to use them as 1-1 examples that you need to be consistent over. Beltran’s play was a foul ball and kept him at bat. Santana still had to get him out after that foul call. If the Galaragga call had gone the correct way the batter would have been out. I think that this also makes it hard to… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.
I would say that this commentary has deep philosophical underpinnings that are greater – dare I say it – than the baseball game itself. (This is going to go on for a while and I had to split it into two parts, so feel free to skip to the next-next comment.  I was in one of those moods.  You have been warned.) My reaction to the game was different than Shane’s (and probably most of the commenters) in the fact that I was not watching the game.  (I will apply the wet noodle as appropriate.)  When I heard that Santana… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.
There. So what to make of this?  Well, first of all, it was Santana’s job on this particular night to get 27 outs without a hit as determined by the umpires.  He did that.  So it is a no-hitter.  It is not Santana’s job to umpire the game and it is not remotely his fault that the man in blue, well, blew it.  It happens.  Task accomplished, if at least technically. On the other end, we do know that umpires are not infallible.  Joyce’s call could have been made by just about anyone: five-year-old children, people who have never seen… Read more »
Josh S
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Josh S

Shouldn’t I? Don’t I? Could I? If the question is, “should I give up journalism?” then the answer is a resounding “YES.” the asterisk argument is a tired one. The game is what it is and umpires are part of that. Instant replay may change the rules but it won’t change the game. Get over it and let Johan and Meta fans have their moment.

Kyle
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Kyle
Shane: that distinction is not lost, but there is a major difference that is not being talked about. Both the Larsen and the Galaraga play were with two outs in the 8th. This Santana call that we are talking about happened in the 6th. Santana was very far from being out of the woods and had a lot more batters to face. This makes the “he really didnt get a no-hitter” argument pretty petty and worthless in my opinion. Once you start requiring this level of perfection from baseball, or any sport, you are being unreasonable. You have to accept… Read more »
Mike S.
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Mike S.

Don Larsen’s last pitch in the ‘56 perfect game, a called third strike, is widely agreed to have been outside the strike zone.
Guess that’s got an asterisk now, too.  I’m sure Yankee fans will be glad to hear that Larsen’s feat has been annulled.

Obsessivegiantscompulsive
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Obsessivegiantscompulsive
First off, I agree with Shane that instant replay should be implemented. That said, If I could have liked Kyles response, I would have.  He changed my view of Johan’s nono, he still had to do a lot to reach the no hitter.  I was open to the asterisk, at least mentally. Still, if one takes that stance, then that 13 inning nohitter that failed in the 14th should be considered a no hitter too, Pittsburgh, dang my memory has been bad since taking a fall.  His only “failing” was that his team could not score a run.  And how… Read more »
Kyle
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Kyle

Or Pedro’s nine perfect innings v. Tampa….before losing it in extras.

We could do this ad infinitum.

Shane Tourtellotte
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Shane Tourtellotte
Mike S.:  I’ve noted that before … but watch the final pitch again, and watch Dale Mitchell’s check swing.  Could Babe Pinelli have been ruling that he went around? Also, one distinction I think is getting lost (there are a couple) is between a call that did end a bid and a call that could have.  Joyce ended Galarraga’s bid; Adrian Johnson’s call, had it gone the way the video shows, would have broken up Santana’s no-no.  But if Pinelli calls ball two?  It’s still a 2-2 count on Mitchell, and Larsen is still odds-on to get his man and… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.
To make my last comment on the subject, I find it interesting that many of the comments here confirm the phenomenon that Shane is describing.  Baltimore fans are still sore at Jeffrey Maier.  Cardinals fans still use “Don Denkinger” as a four-letter word.  (Yes, it is more than four letters, but not after Cardinal fans get through with it.)  This is not the first time I have read about Don Larsen’s last strike being a “gift.”  For that matter, it was not by accident that ESPN replayed that line drive (and the ensuing argument) over and over again on SportsCenter. … Read more »
Erik Christensen
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Erik Christensen

Why stop with the asterisk on no-hitters?

What about the Jeffrey Maier game in the 96 playoffs? Do the Yankees win that game, series, and world series without that blown call?

Put an asterisk on it!

Greg Simons
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Greg Simons
I like Paul G.‘s take most of all. The game has its official record books and official rule books, and instant replay is applied according to the current rules. How we personally choose to view the game is solely up to the individual.  Some people still consider Hank Aaron the all-time home-run king.  Others are appalled that Barry Bonds is not given his due credit for hitting 762 long balls. It’s a game, and we can all enjoy it – and enjoy to argue about it – as we see fit.  Yes, stating one’s opinions can rub some the wrong… Read more »
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