Whenever Adam Wainwright faces the Mets, I think about what a coincidence it is that the man who finished off the Mets in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS ended being the guy on the other side of Johan Santana’s no-hitter, the first in Mets history. I also think about what a coincidence is that the man Wainwright struck out to end that Game 7, Carlos Beltran, was the same guy who hit what should have been a double in the 6th inning of Santana’s no-hitter. Of course, umpire Adrian Johnson incorrectly ruled Beltran’s hit a foul ball, and that allowed Santana to go on to pitch a no-hitter. Meanwhile, this missed call begs the question, “How should Mets fans feel about Santana’s no-hitter?” I think about this too every time Adam Wainwright faces the Mets.
As I have mentioned in the past, I consider myself more or less a baseball purist. However, I am all for instant replay. No, there should not be four-minute replays. I think replays should be limited to one minute, simply to ensure that the obvious bad calls get overturned. However, I never understand the people who hold onto the past and say, “I hate replay. Umpires are a human element of the game, and I love that.” It is amazing how many times I have heard that line since MLB started with replay in 2014, yet I cannot remember a single bad call in baseball history spurring a person to say, “I love that the umpire got that call wrong. The human element is wonderful.” It is a part of baseball lore that the 1985 Royals won the World Series in large part due to a botched call by umpire Don Denkinger. That said, it is not a GOOD piece of baseball lore. It is not wonderful that, with a correct call, the Cardinals would have likely won the World Series instead.
Anyway, this discussion brings me to Santana’s no-hitter, pitched on June 1, 2012. Had the game occurred two years later, a 5-second review would have likely given Carlos Beltran a double. I say “likely” because the “dead ball” sign from the umpire still would have ended the play. Therefore, the review crew would have had to use discretion to award Beltran a single, double, or other. I do not love this discretionary aspect of replay, but the system is not perfect. Also, perhaps Adrian Johnson would have been more likely to rule the ball fair. The logic now is that it is easier to overturn a fair ball to foul than vice versa, so perhaps umps now err on the side of “live ball”. Anyway, semantics aside, in 2014 or later, the play in question is a hit for Beltran, and Santana likely leaves the game before the end of the 7th inning. Meanwhile, the Mets go on for a ho-hum win in a fourth of six-consecutive losing seasons. Most importantly, space-time-continuum issues aside, the Mets are now sitting here in Season 56 still having never had a no-hitter.
However, the game was not played in 2014 or later. It was played in 2012. Mike Baxter’s no-hitter-saving, injury-inducing diving catch happened. Terry Collins’s internal battle of whether or not to leave Santana in the game happened. David Freese striking out for the last out of the no-hitter happened. Gary Cohen shouting, “It has happened!”, after the no-hitter happened. I do not personally believe that Santana’s throwing 134 pitches – well over his “limit” entering the game – caused his career to end a few months later. However, many people do believe that it did. Either way, Santana’s career ending in 2012 also happened.
This all brings us back to the original question. How should Mets fans feel about Santana’s no-hitter? Should we embrace it as every bit as legitimate as any other no-hitter, or should we feel that it has an asterisk and that the team has not truly had its first no-hitter? Selfishly, I really want it to be the latter. I say “selfishly” because of this personal tale. As of 2012, my parents, brother, and I would always alert each other when a Met would take a no-hitter into the 7th inning. Of course, we would not jinx things; we would simply call or text (depending upon the era) each other and say, “You probably want to turn on the Mets game if you don’t already have it on.” However, on that night – June 1, 2012 – my parents and brother were at a rehearsal dinner in northern Virginia. I was en route to that area as well. While I am proud to say that I have listened to WFAN AM in North Carolina and Nova Scotia at various times in my life; I was not listening on June 1, 2012. The night was between Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, in which the Devils (my favorite team) were playing the Kings. I was in full-on hockey mode. Moreover, I was driving through a downpour on Route 15 through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia and actually avoided having the radio on for safety reasons. Plus, I figured subjecting my then-wife to a super-static broadcast of a June Mets game while driving five hours to a family wedding would not exactly win me “Husband of the Year”.
Therefore, my parents, brother, and I all missed the game. Plus, none of us had Smartphones at the time, so we had no idea what was happening. However, when I got out of the car at a Virginia hotel, my friend Dave had texted me to comment on the no-hitter. When I read the text, I felt an unprecedented bittersweet feeling. I had always known I would be incredibly excited when the Mets pitched their first no-hitter, but it was a tough blow not to witness it on TV or hear it over the radio. Therefore, I spent several minutes vacillating between euphoria and disappointment.
Because I personally missed the no-hitter, I really want to be able to say that it does not count. However, I have watched it so many times on replay, and it is an amazing night in Mets history. I get chills watching Baxter’s catch (“I’m not even mad; I’m actually impressed”) and listening to Ron Darling say, “(Leaving Johan in) is a runaway train right now. It’s out of (Terry’s) control.” It is always emotional to watch Santana rejoice with his fans and teammates, knowing that he had overcome major shoulder surgery to give Mets fans something they had never experienced. My friend Dayna was at the game and has talked about what an incredible experience the game was, and I know that anyone else who was at the game or watched it on TV feels the same way.
Therefore, it would be selfish for me to say the no-hitter is illegitimate because of the missed call, because all of that emotion for Santana, his teammates, the broadcasters, and the fans actually happened. Therefore, the no-hitter is every bit as real as any without botched calls. That said, if and when the Mets get a second no-hitter, all Mets fans can enjoy the fact that every call was legit, and I can hopefully enjoy having watched it live!