On April 14th, 2021, Carlos Rodón’s heart was beating faster than it ever had. He just needed two more. Two more, and he’d be a legend. Two more, and he’d be just the 24th person in the history of the world to throw a perfect game.
He sucked in a gulp of the chilly Chicago air, and fired a slider. Maybe it was the moistness of the windy air coming off of Lake Michigan that caused a bit of condensation to form on the ball. Maybe it was just fatigue, both physical and mental. Whatever the reason, Rodón’s fingers slipped the tiniest bit as he released the ball.
The slider cut in toward Cleveland hitter Roberto Pérez, who didn’t move an inch as it hurtled toward his foot (Pérez would later use the “I had no idea what the hell was going on” excuse). The ball skipped off of Pérez’s foot, and he hopped up and down a few times, favoring the foot. For a brief moment, there was doubt. At least, until home plate umpire Doug Eddings pointed at first base, signaling the end of Rodón’s perfect game.
Thousands of miles away, maybe in Baltimore, or Miami, or even in Seattle, Félix Hernández breathed a sigh of relief. For the moment, at least, the most recent perfect game thrown in Major League Baseball still belonged to him.
Hard as it may be to believe nine years later, but Félix’s perfect game was the third of 2012, following efforts by Matt Cain and Phil Humber (which, of course, came against the Mariners). Before that, there had actually been two perfectos in 2010, and one in 2009. In order to find a gap between perfect games as long as the current one, you have to go back to the gap between Catfish Hunter’s, which came in 1968, and Len Barker’s, which was in 1981.
Félix’s perfect game was emblematic of his legendary career, and the image of him pointing to the sky after striking out Sean Rodriguez to record the final out will be imprinted forever in the minds of thousands of Mariners fans.
That image, unfortunately, is not the only thing imprinted as a result of Félix’s perfect game.
Since Félix’s no-no there have been approximately 19,200 regular season MLB games played. Not a single one of them has resulted in a perfect game. Two pitchers start each game, so about 38,400 total potential perfect games have been spoiled.
Some have been closer calls than others. Mike Leake took a perfect game bid into the ninth inning in 2019. Max Scherzer lost a perfect game with a single out to go in 2015. But no matter when each perfect game has become imperfect, I posit to you that Félix Hernández has, on some level, known about it.
Whether it’s been off of a lead-off dinger or a ninth inning miracle, Félix has breathed a sigh of relief each time a perfect game effort has been spoiled. Unfortunately, these sighs are not without consequence.
The average human male has a lung capacity of about six liters. At sea level (where we’ll assume Félix has spent most of his time since his perfecto), the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air has been about 0.04% (or about 400 ppm). It has, of course, risen a bit each year. We’ll take the 0.04% as a baseline.
Exhaled breath, on the other hand, has a carbon dioxide concentration of about 4% to 5%. We’ll split the difference and call it 4.5%. If you take the six liter capacity of Félix’s lungs, and calculate how much carbon dioxide he produces with a breath, you get about 0.27 liters of carbon dioxide. This equates (at sea level) to about 0.49 grams of carbon dioxide.
It may not seem like a ton, but it adds up. Remember those 38,400 games? Well, Félix has taken a deep sigh of relief after every single one. The failure of MLB pitchers to notch even a single perfect game has, by itself, produced nearly 19,000 grams of carbon dioxide. That’s basically the equivalent of driving a car 46 miles.
The discerning among you might point out that Félix would have been breathing anyway. While that may be true, these sighs of relief are far deeper than any normal breath, and can be added above his baseline.
It should be clear now, if it wasn’t already, that Major League Baseball has an environmental disaster on their hands. If Rob Manfred wants to get serious about curating a league that stands for what’s right in the world, he’ll take immediate action. He’ll do what whatever it takes: deaden the ball, raise the laces, move back the fences. Make every team start with two outs. Abolish the designated hitter. Ban hitters from using pine tar. Better yet, force them to wear foam fingers while they try to hit.
If every single game is a perfect game, no pitcher ever breaths a sigh of relief again. You never know which 46 miles of driving might set climate change over the top. Most baseball fans are wringing their hands right now — has the recent deluge of no-hitters signaled an irreversible change for the worse for baseball? No, I say. It shows that Manfred finally has his priorities straight.