Let’s just get down to brass tacks, how much for the ape? Whoops, no not that. Sorry. Got confused. The brass tacks we need to get down to is that the seven-inning doubleheader is dumb. Not as dumb as the extra-inning rule, but dumb. The players seem to like it, and why wouldn’t they? But this is going to be more of an issue when teams can have full houses again and owners miss out on a full-gate to host these. That’s when this whole controversy will be gone, you can be sure.
To understand why this Madison Bumgarner/no-hitter thing is twisting baseball in knots, other than this is a sport covered by people who live to get tangled up in minutiae, you have to go back to why MLB decided that official no-hitters had to be nine innings.
See, there was this dude, Andy Hawkins. He pitched at the height of the Yankees’ “Kevin Maas Era,” we’ll call it. So they sucked out loud. Terrible for years. The Bronx was a barren wasteland. Perhaps the absolute hilt of this era of Yankees baseball was July 1st, 1990, when Hawkins threw eight no-hit innings at old Comiskey Park (itself something of a barren wasteland, but slightly more drunks than Yankee Stadium. But it was close). The problem was the Yankees clueless outfield, along with the combination of a strong breeze and wind, cobbled together three errors in the bottom of the 8th to surrender four runs. Mike Blowers (at third), Jim Leyritz in left, and Jesse Barfield in right, a three amigos of doofusness if there ever was one, all watched baseballs bounce off their gloves in Magoo-like fashion, and along with two walks, the Yanks found themselves down 4-0 in the top of the ninth where they surrendered meekly.
Hawkins never gave up a hit, but thanks to his defense and the paint they were huffing, he didn’t get to throw nine innings. Certainly no fault of his own, that was just what was on offer for him. He completed all of that without giving up a hit.
But because MLB hates anything that’s silly, they decreed that Hawkins’s effort wasn’t a no-hitter. But much like the pitcher “win,” or even ERA to a much lesser extent, that’s still dependent on what your teammates do. Which is out of the pitcher’s hands. It also matters a bit whether you’re at home or on the road. You can throw nine no-hit innings, but if your dumbass offense can’t produce a run — and this will happen to Jacob deGrom pretty soon, you have to figure — and the game goes to extras, you don’t get one either. That’s not all that fair either. Same thing for Randy Johnson’s 20k game in 2001. That game went to extras, but he’s not credited with sharing the record for strikeouts in a game because his offense didn’t back him up.
But yesterday, Bumgarner didn’t give up a hit in all the innings that were on offer, and his offense actually backed him up. So it’s a no-hitter. And if it’s not because it doesn’t match the nine-inning threshold, well then these seven-inning games shouldn’t count as a full-win either, right? MLB says they do, because they limited the innings by rule. But they’re not the same as nine-inning games. Why do they count in the way this no-hitter doesn’t?
Hawkins was undone by the original rules of baseball. Bumgarner by the new ones. Perhaps seven-inning wins should just be 77 percent of a win. Arizona’s record should be 10.54-11. That’s what MLB is saying when it comes to Bumgarner’s accomplishment, but it’s not like the D-Backs played two more innings without him. So that’s what Arizona should get, too. We can put 77 percent of a win in the standings. Apparently we can’t put 77 percent of a no-hitter in the history books.
It’s not the same as a rainout. It wasn’t artificially shortened at the time by unforeseen circumstances. It was scheduled this way. So either it’s a real game or it isn’t.
Not that it matters much. The only thing Bumgarner loses out on is the ability to say he threw a no-hitter. Which isn’t like getting to put “HoF” on his autographs that boosts their value by 40 percent or whatever it is. And he might get to do that one day anyway. But still, either these seven-inning games are official, or they aren’t.