There's a part of me that thought this day would never come.
And there's a part of me that just recently dropped a bunch of money on tickets, flights, and hotels to see the Mets in Tampa for three days because in my mind, if I don't go and the first no-hitter in Mets history happens at Tropicana Field I'll never, ever forgive myself.
Well, I'll just have to settle for going to Tampa to hope to see the second no-hitter in Mets history. Because we now have a first one, thanks to none other than Johan Santana.
The next question is, how the hell do I blog about this? It's actually something I've wondered about: If a no hitter happens, how the hell am I going to blog about it? Now that question, up until tonight, could have been interpreted in multiple ways. "How the hell am I going to blog about this" could mean "Shit, a couple of people might actually be curious about what I have to say about this momentous occasion. I'd better have something interesting to say." Or, it could mean: "I'm 75 years old and I can barely move my bones. How am I physically going to be able to hit the keys on the keyboard?" Or, it could mean: "I'm 95 years old. What's a blog, anyway? And for that matter, what the hell is baseball?"
The first thing I'll say is that I wasn't there on Friday. But it's okay. I knew the odds were against me being there anyway. But there were two things I didn't want to happen when the day came: I didn't want to be at work, and I didn't want to be the guy that turned down tickets to the first no-hitter in history. Neither happened. And I did politely decline tickets to Wednesday's game, so it could have happened. It was so close to happening. Thankfully, I turned down tickets to a bullpen implosion. I was never offered tickets to Friday's game. So even though I wasn't there, I don't have to live with that black mark for the rest of my life.
There have been a lot of games lately where I've noticed no-hitters after a 1-2-3 first inning. Of course I wasn't even thinking about it since the beginning of the game was dominated by Carlos Beltran's return to Flushing as a Cardinal. And I'm glad he was mostly cheered by the Flushing faithful. I'm also glad I don't have to waste any time talking once again about how strike one from Adam Wainwright in 2006 was much more devastating than strike three. But that's enough of that, thanks to Johan.
I was slow on the uptake tonight. I first noticed the no hitter in the fifth inning ... late for me. That's when I pointed out the linescore to my wife and said "look, this is an interesting development. You see that?" To which she replied "oh a no-hitter?" Okay, two things. First off, the Mets went 8,019 games without a no-hitter. So when has not saying those words ever actually worked? And two, if you do believe in that (and I admit, even though my first point is logically correct, I'm not logical at all and I still didn't utter those words), I feel that if you do commit the ultimate flaw and say "no-hitter", you're only on the hook for an inning. You make the faux pas before the sixth, you're responsible for the sixth. After that, you're free and clear. So the sixth was the inning where my wife would have been on the hook if I actually believed in that superstition. Ironically, there was a hit in the sixth. Carlos Beltran had it. Landed fair past the third base bag. Of course it would be Beltran to break up the no-hitter.
Except that we got a little help from something I like to call, the human element. Adrian Johnson gave Johan Santana a little break on that ball and called it foul. Now, here's the thing: I want replay. I want the calls to be right. I called for expanded instant replay very recently, and that doesn't change because the human element benefitted the Mets. The time has come for replay. And I'm very happy that the powers that be are talking about expanded replay for the 2013 season. I'm happier still that the powers that be didn't talk about expanded instant replay for the 2012 season. As much as I'm against accepting the human element as part of the folklore of the game and celebrating it as part of some sort of mystical force that makes things better when there's technology that exists to make the game actually better and more accurate, I'll be happy to walk arm and arm with the human element forever and ever when it comes to June 1st, 2012.
I'll admit to spending the last four innings of the game wondering how a Cardinal was going to break my heart. Or how the weather was going to break my heart because as you know, rain shortened no-hitters aren't no-hitters at all. When Ike Davis took an Angel Pagan route to a pop-fly in the sixth (I think) because of the win, I thought Johan would never last nine innings ... whether it be by rain delay or pitch count. Barring that, I was sure it would be Yadier Molina in the seventh when he put a charge into a fly ball to left. I hallucinated Aaron Heilman's hangdog face laughing at me when the ball was in the air, and I didn't need to climb Kilamanjaro to have it. Then ...
There are some catches that are signature for a no-hitter, and signify the extra effort that comes with protecting such a feat. Think Dewayne Wise for Mark Buehrle's perfect game. Robin Yount's catch to end Juan Nieves' no-hitter. Mike "from Whitestone" Baxter's catch to rob Yadier Molina similarly signified extra effort for a no-hitter. But, and you know I prefer not to talk in cliches and rely on the abstract, Baxter's catch signified a sacrifice that these Mets would go through for each other all the time. To sacrifice life and limb for a no-hitter? (I know the wall was padded so his life really wasn't on the line) He's sacrificing life and limb for a teammate. Hell, for the whole team. There was something very Hollywood about Baxter walking off the field injured with that look on his face which said "I've done all I can do ... take this home, baby." It was like the starting goalie in Victory agreeing to have his arm broken so that Sylvester Stallone can break the team out of prison.
With all the talk of pitch counts and arm surgeries like the one that kept Santana out of action in 2011, I would have been fine with whatever Terry Collins decided to do after the seventh inning. All I kept thinking about was how pitchers like Francisco Liriano and Edwin Jackson were horrible following their no-hitters, especially Jackson and his 149 pitch history maker. Was possibly sacrificing Johan's season worth all this history? I was prepared for a pinch hitter, and I would have been okay with it. I was also prepared for what actually happened, which was Santana batting for himself in the seventh and giving history a go. I'm okay with it.
Then came the eighth, and Beltran again. I thought for sure this would be it. Beltran would become the first player in major league history to break up the same no-hitter twice. That would have been Hollywood all right ... more like the ending of Moneyball when the A's lose. But Beltran's liner went softly into Daniel Murphy's glove to send us into the journey of uncharted territory. A Met no-hitter entering the ninth.
(Oh by the way, Johan got run support. Eight of them. I feel bad mentioning it because I was rooting for the innings not to be so encumbered with all these runs. There was a bigger fish to fry.)
The ninth. First two batters dispensed of easily, even if neither fly ball to Andres Torres or Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked particularly easy to the nervous eye. David Freese at the dish, Yadier Molina on deck. Holy crap ... don't let Freese on base with a walk and let Yadier Molina and that puppy-killing look in his eyes anywhere near Johan's no-hitter. Don't let the Astros win Game 6 and give Mike Scott a third crack at the NLCS. Same principle. So what happens of course? 3-0 to Freese. Dammit. Yadier Molina is going to give me another reason to find Aaron Heilman and beat him to within an inch of his life for no good reason.
Strike one. How did Freese not swing at that?
Strike two. Holy crap he's one strike away from actually doing this. This is going to be particularly painful for Johan to lose this with one strike to go. As if we don't have enough of this horror to deal with. God, why do you insist on taking me this far into the light only to push me off the cliff? You couldn't make this quick and painless, could you? I mean why the hell would you ...
Holy hell. He did it. Johan Santana did it. And he did it the year the world is supposed to end (you're good, Mayans ... really good.) He went from major arm surgery to the first no-hitter in Mets history. The same guts he used for a year while coming back from injury was also used for nine innings on Friday. Is he going to fall off the table after going longer and harder than he ever did in his career? There's plenty of time to worry about that, but not tonight. In addition, I'm not even going to quibble about Bobby Ojeda saying that "this game will live in infamy." (No Bobby, that would be the Hindenburg. But I can see how you would get the two confused.) And I'm not going to let the fact that naked Mets anatomy made it on to my television screen while, of all people, R.A. Dickey was being interviewed. (I'm not linking to it. Find it your own selves.) Instead I'll show you:
Tremendous directing by the SNY folks. This is freakin' gold! Left on deck ... forever!!!
The best part of the video was Ron Darling squealing in delight from the SNY booth. (Besides of course the fan in the Carter jersey who made it on to the field to celebrate with the Mets ... I mean, was that awesome or what? And you know what, if I had seats like that I might have done the exact same thing. And then the Mets are celebrating and off to the side you see this poor guy getting tackled like he's armed or something. I'm sure he thought it was worth it. But poor guy's just celebrating a once in a lifetime moment and he gets mauled by security like he's at Citizens Bank Park or something.) Kind of ironic since I had always thought Darling would be the one to pitch the first no-hitter. I was close ... he was involved. He turned back the hands of time to when he was a player just like Santana turned back his own hands of time for one night. Gary Cohen admitted that he wondered what Howie Rose's call would sound like. Don't worry Gary, your soundtrack did just fine, as it always does.
The Mets have a no-hitter. And believe me, I know better than to take moments like these and spin them into some sort of proof that this is going to be a special season. Because first off, is all it took were a magical moment or two to win a pennant, then everyone's destiny would be fulfilled. 2006 would have ended a little happier for us if that was the case. And here's the thing: no matter what happens for the other 110 games, this season is pretty cool already. 2010 and 2011 started out okay too before falling off the cliff. But 2010 and 2011 didn't have a no-hitter. So even if this season does go completely south, 2012, the 50th anniversary season, has a no-hitter. A Mets pitcher pulled off what was previously thought to be impossible. That's special no matter what happens.
And if the previously impossible has already happened, is anything else impossible anymore this season?
Yes, it certainly is about time. And there has to be something to the fact that this happened on National Doughnut Day, right?