"I can't believe I blew it," he could have thought
Let me get something out of the way here at the very beginning: I don't really care that the Mariners just got perfect game'd. I don't really care that they got perfect game'd, and I wouldn't have really cared had they gotten no-hit. Do you know how long I've been waiting for something like this to happen to the Mariners? Of course you do, you're presumably a Mariners fan, or at least a baseball fan who's aware of what the Mariners have been like for a while. A game like this was long overdue. Every single time an opposing pitcher has held a no-hitter through the first four or five innings the past few years, I've thought to myself, yeah, here it comes. Improbably, it never came, until today.
Last year, the Mariners scored 556 runs. I know that last year offense was down league-wide, but it wasn't down to a sufficient degree to explain 556 runs. In my head, 600 runs is the lower threshold. Not even the lower threshold of acceptability - the lower threshold of reality. In my head, it's difficult to conceive of a team that doesn't score 600 runs over an entire baseball season. In 2011, the Mariners scored 556 runs.
It was even worse the year before. Remember that? The 556 runs in 2011 were a marked improvement from 2010. An 8.4 percent improvement. In 2010, the Mariners didn't just fail to score 600 runs - they struggled to score 500 runs. They ended at 513. Things were iffy until they scored 13 runs in two games in late September. We've watched some miserable Mariners offenses. Miserable offenses are no-hittable offenses. I was waiting for the Mariners offense to allow history to be made, and finally, it happened today. I've been waiting. I haven't been dreading.
I'm not even embarrassed. For one thing, I'm not a Seattle Mariner. Theshould probably be embarrassed right now. But for another, so what? A no-hitter or a perfect game is one game. It doesn't prove anything. It's awesome for the pitcher, but I don't care about Philip Humber or the . Like pretty much at all. They're an invisible team for me. We know that the Mariners haven't had a very good offense. The fact that they didn't get a baserunner for nine innings doesn't change that at all. The Mariners' offense has been embarrassing, and it is no more embarrassing after today. Most of the nation won't even remember that this happened a week from now. They'll just remember that the Mariners can't really hit. And they can't, or at least I won't assume that they can until they do somewhat consistently.
A perfect game is one game. It's a historically-relevant game, but losing in a perfect game is the same as losing in an imperfect game. The Mariners moved from 7-8 to 7-9. They moved there in an interesting way, but this is way bigger an event for the White Sox than it is for us. Personally, I'm about to settle in to watch another playoff hockey game. It's already started, and I'm turning it on as soon as this recap is over. That's the playoffs. That's important, as far as sports are concerned. This was one baseball game out of 162 baseball games. I'm far more excited about the hockey game than I am dejected about this baseball game.
Now let's see if I can get to the point. This afternoon, Philip Humber threw a fantastic game. It's always almost impossible to separate great pitching from bad hitting, but at least we don't have to deal with the defense variable. The defense didn't have to give Humber much help. I remember one hard-hit ball - a Dustin Ackley drive to deep right that Alex Rios caught over his head. Off the bat, I figured it was extra bases, but Rios ran it down and made it look somewhat ordinary. Outside of that line drive, the balls in play were more or less routine. Plus Humber had nine strikeouts. Philip Humber was outstanding. Absolutely, positively outstanding - that was probably the best pitching performance we've seen against the Mariners this season.
But now for the controversy. I'll review real quick if you weren't following along. Humber went into the bottom of the ninth with a 4-0 lead. He fell behind Michael Saunders 3-and-0, but he recovered with a called strike and two swinging strikes. It was upon the second swinging strike that I realized Gameday was ahead of the TV broadcast for some reason. FOX must've been on a delay in case Michael Saunders shouted "FUCK" again real loud. After Saunders, John Jaso pinch-hit for Miguel Olivo, thank God, and didn't do anything. Pop out. One to go.
Brendan Ryan pinch-hit for Munenori Kawasaki. It was weird to pinch-hit a pretty bad right-handed hitter for a left-handed hitter against a right-handed pitcher, but I'm open to the idea that Kawasaki is a terrible hitter. Anyhow, Ryan quickly found himself in a 1-and-2 hole. Then he took a ball high, then he took a ball outside, then he fouled off a strike. With his perfect game on the line, Humber came with a full-count slider, and he missed low and away. It was nowhere even close to the zone. But Brendan Ryan started to swing, and then he checked his swing, and then home-plate umpire Brian Runge decided that Ryan had swung, and indicated that he struck out. A.J. Pierzynski had to throw down to first to finish the out, but Ryan had argued with Runge instead of running, so it wasn't a close race. Pierzynski threw to Paul Konerko, and Philip Humber had a perfect game.
Now, Brendan Ryan should've run. Obviously, Brendan Ryan should've run, instead of protesting. I don't know if he would've made it, and I doubt he would've made it, but arguing with officials never gets anything accomplished. If I ever accidentally catch a basketball game on TV, every so often I'll see a player remove himself from the action to yell at a ref, while the action is going on. It's so stupid and selfish. They're not going to change their minds! You are doing nothing! You are actively hurting the team that you play for!
So I'm a little disappointed with Ryan. And I wish he wouldn't have even tried to check his swing at the pitch in the first place. Runge wasn't going to ring him up on an outside slider near the dirt. But I get why Ryan did what he did. When you play you're in the moment, and Ryan didn't think he went around. I didn't think he went around. In live action, it sure as hell looked like Ryan held up. Removed completely from context, that would look like a checked swing. I promise I'm not biased. I mean, I'm not free of bias, but if Ryan did swing, I wouldn't be afraid to admit it. Again, I don't mind that the Mariners got perfect game'd.
Here's the thing, though: it's 4:37pm right now. The perfect game ended about an hour ago. I still have no idea if Brendan Ryan swung. Not a clue.
Philip Humber's perfect game - one of very few perfect games that's ever been thrown - ended with a controversial swinging strikeout. If you paid attention to the TV, you wouldn't know it was controversial in the least, because nobody so much as acknowledged the possibility that Ryan might not have gone around. Nobody wanted to talk about that. They only wanted to talk about the perfect game. FOX never aired a side-view replay of Ryan's swing, and you know they have the technology to air side-view replays. You see side-view replays all the time. Usually on close check-swings.
This game is going down in history, and I still have no idea if Philip Humber's perfect game was a perfect game. I mean, it's going in the books as a perfect game, but for all I know, the final strikeout was actually a walk. It sure looked to me like a walk. Chone Figgins was standing on deck, so even if Ryan had walked, Humber probably would've thrown a no-hitter. Figgins isn't good, and Humber was very good. But I've been left with questions. Philip Humber made history, and FOX left me with questions.
I'm not even really mad at the umpires. If Brian Runge thought Ryan swung, hey, whatever. After the Armando Galarraga catastrophe, you could understand an umpire being a little hesitant to spoil something like this. On a close pitch, Runge probably thought it better to give the benefit of the doubt to the guy who'd retired 26 batters in a row. If Runge says Ryan swung, Humber gets a perfect game. If Runge says Ryan held up, Runge ruins the perfect game. In one, Humber is the story. In the other, Runge is the story. Maybe this isn't the way such decisions should be made, but you could understand if this is how the decision was made, because Runge's only human. Or maybe Runge didn't think it was close. Maybe it wasn't close. I don't know!
I don't know! That's exactly the thing. Doesn't FOX have an obligation to the viewer, here? Isn't one of the benefits of baseball on television that we can see exactly what's happening? On the final pitch of the game, on the most important pitch of the game - the perfect game - Brendan Ryan might or might not have gone around trying to check his swing. It is honestly unbelievable that FOX didn't show a replay. It is honestly unbelievable that FOX didn't show a bunch of replays.
You could say that maybe someone in the TV room saw that the side-view replay showed that Ryan didn't go around, and then FOX didn't want to air that because they didn't want to spoil the moment. But is it really spoiling the moment if you broadcast the truth? Wouldn't FOX live for that kind of controversy, anyway? The Armando Galarraga imperfect perfect game got a ton of attention precisely because the ending was so fucked up. The ending here was kind of fucked up. I want to know what happened! Why won't the television let me know what happened? Why won't the people on television acknowledge what might have happened? Why did they have to hurry to shift the broadcast to New York vs. Boston, rather than taking the time to talk about something controversial and unusual in the studio?
I don't want people to come away thinking that I'm a sore loser. Maybe I'm sounding like a sore loser but I promise that I'm not. I'll re-state: I don't care. The Mariners were due for one of these. The Mariners are due for more of these, probably. I just want to finish writing and turn on a hockey game. Brendan Ryan might have swung. Philip Humber's perfect game might have been completely legitimate. Maybe this is even what's most probable. I don't know. I don't know, and I won't ever know. I'm going to go to sleep tonight and I won't know if Philip Humber threw a real perfect game. I'm going to go to sleep in a month and I won't know if Philip Humber threw a real perfect game. I can know if Miguel Olivo went all the way around on a 2-and-1 changeup in the fourth inning of a seven-run game, thanks to the miracle of side-view instant replay. But I can't know if Brendan Ryan went all the way around on a 3-and-2 slider in the ninth inning of a perfect game. We're told that he did. I question the authority, but the authority holds all the evidence.
I guess really it's not that big of a deal. If Humber didn't throw a legitimate perfect game, he missed by a matter of inches. Round up and he threw a legitimate perfect game. Ryan's the one who started to swing. Ryan's the one who gave the umpire an opportunity to punch him out on ball four. Human element. If Ryan earned a walk, I wouldn't go so far as to say he deserved it.
I just...I can't believe it. The one replay FOX doesn't show in the vast history of sports on FOX is the final pitch of a perfect game. The controversial final pitch that, according to the broadcasters and national media, wasn't controversial at all. Confront one of them and they might say "gotta tip your cap to Humber, he deserved that." That's not good enough. I don't want to be left with questions after a perfect game. I want to be able to appreciate a perfect game for all that it is. I've got questions. Or, I've got question. I've really only got the one of 'em. It's a biggie.
I suppose the silver lining is that today I didn't have to try to find a new way to write about.