During the time of the Tides’ last homestand, R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets pitched consecutive one-hitters. You may remember that there was some controversy about the hit he gave up in his first one-hitter, when third baseman David Wright tried and failed to make an outstanding play on B.J. Upton’s slow grounder. The consensus among the press box inhabitants was that the play was scored correctly as a hit, but a few felt that it was unfair for Dickey to not earn a no-hitter on a cheap play like that. Someone actually uttered the old bromide about “making the first hit a clean one” , and then he said that of course once the Rays got a second hit, he’d go back and change it.
I think that the latter position is hypocritical nonsense. A hit is a hit, whether or not it’s the only hit of a game or one of twenty. It cheapens the legitimate no-hitter when a Terry Pendleton waves a glove at a single, conning a friendly official scorer into preserving a no-hitter. And it legitimizes the practice of altering scoring decisions to benefit the home team.
I also wonder how the pitcher feels about it. I have to assume that pitchers are not idiots; they have a pretty good idea when a batted ball should be scored an error and when a batted ball should be scored a base hit. Does a pitcher feel that a no-hitter that is given to him by a well-meaning but misguided official scorer is really a no-hitter, or does he feel sort of guilty about the acclaim he receives but doesn’t deserve? I’ve heard that Kent Mercker is embarrassed that he participated in that “no-hitter” given to him by the official scorer.
I’ve never been a pitcher or even a baseball player — my parents did not let me play even Little League. So I don’t have an insight into how a player views his accomplishments — in this case, how a pitcher views a no-hitter. Fortunately, I work with — literally next to — the Tides’ Director of Media Relations when I datacast for BAM.
Ian Locke, the Tides’ Director of Media Relations, was a pitcher in high school and for NCAA Division III Ithaca College. He was a rotation starter for most of his career, although his spot in the rotation was varied because his team played a lot of doubleheaders. Although he had never pitched a no-hitter, to him it wasn’t a big deal. He would know if he pitched a good game or not, and it didn’t really matter to him how many hits he gave up. He implied that it would make no difference to him if a tough play was scored a hit, denying him a no-hitter; or an error, giving him a no-hitter. It would have no effect on how he pitched.
If Ian Locke is typical of baseball players, they don’t really care about no-hitters and the like. They care about doing their job well and helping their team win. If they do that, it doesn’t matter to them that they gave up three hits or no hits with three errors. Hence, the official scorers should treat each play in isolation, and not concern themselves with how their decisions will create or destroy accomplishments. The players themselves don’t care, and the baseball’s integrity is advanced.