To Cheer, or Not to Cheer? That is the Question

Earlier this week Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers came within one out of becoming the 24th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a perfect game.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a perfect game occurs when a pitcher (or combination of pitchers) pitches a minimum of nine innings in which no opposing player reaches base safely for any reason including hits, walks, hit by pitch, etc. In short, the pitcher has to be “perfect” on the mound.

Despite falling short in the bid to retire 27 Houston Astros batters in a row, the Rangers ended up winning 7-0 and Yu took his denial of immortality in stride.

Current Astros Bullpen Coach Dennis Martinez threw a Perfect Game on July 28, 1991. Martinez was rooting for Yu Darish to join the fraternity as well.

Current Astros Bullpen Coach Dennis Martinez threw a Perfect Game on July 28, 1991. Martinez was rooting for Yu Darvish to join the fraternity as well.

The game brought up many interesting questions. Chief among the debates that have occurred is the issue of whether is it okay to cheer against your team when one is witnessing potential history in the making.

With the Astros down by seven runs in the late innings few could argue that the odds of an epic winning rally occurring, while conceivably possible, were likely.

So the argument in one camp would say that with victory of your team out of the realm of possibility it is okay to cheer for the guy that is mowing down the batters one after another.

I was not at the stadium Monday night but I was watching along at home. I will admit I had the game on as background noise at first but as the innings were winding down I found myself glued to the couch watching and hoping that I was about to see history occur.

David Wells threw his Perfect Game on May 17, 1998.

David Wells threw his Perfect Game on May 17, 1998.

I am of the opinion that when it comes to the ninth inning you root for the pitcher trying to throw the perfect game regardless of whether or not it is your team that is on the losing end.

The Tampa Bay Rays have had three perfect games thrown against them since 2009. Does that mean that the Rays are a bad team? Far from it as their recent string of playoff appearances would attest to.

If anything one could argue that being at the receiving end of no hitters further fuels the fire of the team. And last time I checked there aren’t any teams that win all 162 games so whether you lose in a no hitter, perfect game or any other fashion doesn’t really matter in the final win-loss column in my opinion.

I know that there are people who will disagree with me. They will say, “But Ryan how could you ever root for someone to beat your team. Doesn’t that make you a fair weather fan?”

To that I say that there are moments in the course of baseball events when the time to rise up and support the singular performance temporarily outweighs one’s allegiance to a team.

Randy "Big Unit" Johnson threw his Perfect Game on May 18, 2004.

Randy “Big Unit” Johnson threw his Perfect Game on May 18, 2004.

In fact, after the game the Astros Bullpen Coach, Dennis Martinez, himself a perfect game throwing pitcher, admitted that he was rooting for Yu to get the perfect game and join that elite club of perfect game throwing pitchers.

So, if a coach on the team on the receiving end of the perfect game can see the history in the making aspect why wouldn’t it be okay for the fans to get caught up in the moment as well?

Think about it, in the entire history of Major League Baseball only 23 players have ever thrown a perfect game.  There is so much that has to go right over the course of 27 at bats and nine innings for that to happen.

While much attention is focused on the need for the battery of pitcher and catcher to work in harmony during a bid for a perfect game all nine players on the field have to be working in perfect harmony to make a perfect game occur.

Aside from the fans wanting to see the perfect game occur there is another group of people that was affected by the game not ending in a historic manner. That group is the media that was covering the game.

Current Texas Rangers executive and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan threw 7 no hitters during his career. Nolan Ryan did not however pitch a perfect game showing just how rare of an achievement they are.

Current Texas Rangers executive and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan threw 7 no hitters during his career. Nolan Ryan did not however pitch a perfect game showing just how rare of an achievement they are.

Back when I covered games on deadline I, like many other reporters, would try to get a head start on my articles before heading back to the newsroom to file them.

Despite the availability of laptops and internet connections that allowed people to file stories directly from the press box, I never had that option during my career as I always had to go back to the newsroom to write my stories and put the pages together for the next day’s paper.

So, during the game I would try to gain every time advantage I could when constructing the article. While entirely boring for half of the fans in attendance blowouts and total one sided games were definitely fun to cover from a reporter’s point of view since that gave ample time to get a head start on the article since the outcome was very much clear early on.

Nail-biting games where the lead changed hands several times were good for the fans but definitely hard for the reporters trying to get an early start on the story.

On Monday night when it appeared that the perfect game was going to happen I am sure that there were certain media members who had already written leads along the lines of “Yu can do it”, etc. I lost track of the numerous bad puns I read afterwards involving Yu’s name in headlines.

There were probably even some reporters who had a nice 140 character tweet all set to send out when the final out was made.

As an aside, let me just say that I am so glad that the bulk of my career, or at least the formative years, did not occur during the age of Twitter. I have nothing against Twitter when it is used properly to send out an important bit of data.  But, having to send out constant updates during the course of a game is a certain side of multitasking that I can do without.

So when the perfect game bid fell apart those preemptive tweets were erased and leads were rewritten as the reporters than tried to track down the player who foiled the game by getting the lone hit of the night.

So while the bid for perfection fell short for Yu Darvish this week as he became the 12th player to lose a perfect game on the 27th batter he faced, I am confident that he will have other chances to flirt with baseball immortality. And when he does, or when any other player does for that matter, just remember that regardless of whether the color of their jersey matches yours, it is okay to cheer for the good of baseball.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a baseball road trip to get to.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson