I hate Giancarlo Stanton. Until Sunday at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Sucking Time, I was fine enough with Stanton, and that had been true for the first 11,918 days of his life. He was perfectly OK. But then he had to turn on a first-pitch fastball from José Urquidy in the seventh inning of what had been a no-hitter for the Houston Astros and dump it beyond the center field wall. The evil bastard.
You see, this wouldn’t have been just any no-hitter. This would have been the first no-hitter in back-to-back games by the same team in baseball history and, even if you reject baseball as a proper form of entertainment in our rapidly decomposing culture, you don’t get to reject back-to-back no-hitters. This would have made Tim Kurkjian, our country’s last unabashedly joyous man, spontaneously combust into a journalist pyrospectacular that would have shamed the Fourth of July forever.
But no, Stanton had to ruin that for everyone everywhere. I hope John Sterling’s noxious home run call—”It is a Stantonian blast! … Giancarlo, non si può stopparlo!”—gets stuck in his throat and Suzyn Waldman had to perform a tracheotomy with her scorekeeping pen (spoiler alert: she didn’t).
Baseball is full of “This hasn’t happened since . . . ” moments, with the answer always being “six weeks ago in Cleveland against the Tigers.” There’s almost never a thing that’s never happened before unless you contrive the crap out of it, like the Shohei Ohtani two homers-then-13-strikeouts thing a week ago. I mean nobody’s ever done it, but the only other guy who could have was Babe Ruth, and he only came close once, striking out 11 and driving in three runs in a win over the St. Louis Browns. That was in 1915, while your grandparents were still trying to escape East Prussia or the Belgian Congo or Manchuria or the Holy Roman Empire or Mesopotamia or Transylvania or some other goddamned place that doesn’t exist any more.
But let’s set aside your withered family tree and get back to the point, which is that this would have been a grand moment to beat all other grand moments if only Stanton had done the decent thing and grounded meekly to Alex Bregman, or flied out to Mauricio Dubón, or just looked at three straight strikes and bowed at the waist before his overlord Urquidy. Of course, decency is dead in this nation, so Stanton, thinking only of himself, decided to excel rather than accept his fate, and for that he will never be forgiven.
More maddening, the Yankees not only got a second hit in the eighth by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, they tied the game on a D.J. LeMahieu homer and went on to . . . well, who cares, really? Does it make a bit of difference whether they ended the day 10 games ahead of the Red Sox or 11 games ahead of the Red Sox? Sorry for the florid language, but this was just plain irritating.
Among the things we lost when Stanton ruined baseball forever by being the evil bastard he is was the intellectual timewaster of wondering how manager Dusty Baker would have handled the eighth and ninth innings if Stanton and Kiner-Falefa and then LeMahieu had failed for the good of society. Urquidy left after the seventh inning with 100 pitches; the day before, Cristian Javier reached 115 before being pulled after seven, leaving Héctor Neris and Ryan Pressly to finish the second combined no-hitter of the year and agitate people into another tedious debate about why managers take pitchers out of no-hitters and spit in the face of tradition by doing so.
The answer is simple. General managers run baseball games now, and there is no longer such a thing as investing in an athlete’s heart, or chasing a memory that will be forgotten two starts later and ignored two more starts after that. The last two guys to throw their own no-hitters, Reid Detmers this year and Tyler Gilbert last August, are back in the minors now, and four of the last six no-hitters were thrown by multiple pitchers. The angriest we all got this year was when Clayton Kershaw got yanked after only 80 pitches of a no-hitter on April 13, and we got over that in about three days. That’s just the new baseball, Grandpa Fritz, and you’re going to have to deal with it.
But it would have been a dandy thought experiment for a lazy Sunday had Urquidy presented Baker with a second consecutive traditionalist’s conundrum. Or better yet, whether Baker had left Urquidy in and passed on the blown save opportunity Phil Maton ultimately achieved. The chance to help make something genuinely unprecedented as well as traditionally meaningful happen was just too delicious not to have.
The closest we have ever come to successive no-hitters by the same team was in 1917, the same year we showed enough gumption to join our first world war. The St. Louis Browns got a no-hitter in Chicago against the pre-Black Sox White Sox from the legendary Ernie Koob on May 5, and then another from Bob Groom the next day. The only problem was that, between those two games, was the first game of a doubleheader in which St. Louis’s Allan Sothoron got nudged around for about five innings and change but ultimately won 8-4 with a save from, yes, Bob Groom. Tradition that.
In the end, of course, none of it mattered. The White Sox won that World Series, threw the next one, and eventually inspired the best baseball movie of all time and no, your contrarian input here is neither correct, necessary, nor desired. Shut up. I’m not in the mood. And the Browns never won anything, never drew any fans, and ultimately moved to Baltimore, where they are now impersonating the Browns.
So anyway, the hell with Giancarlo Stanton, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and DJ LeMahieu, and John Sterling (but not Suzyn Waldman because she saved Sterling’s life in my alternate universe), and Phil Maton, and Ernie Koob, and Bob Groom, and Allan Sothoron, and the Yankees, and the Astros, and the Browns, and the White Sox. But not John Sayles, who made “Eight Men Out.” He is demonstrably noble. The rest of life just stinks in an airlock. Say something mean to your pet and yell at the neighbor’s kids for no reason. We’re just done as a species.
But wait, we’re wrong. There was also this:
Baseball’s the best thing ever. Sorry, everyone. I should have just waited an hour. I feel better now.
Update (7:26 p.m. Eastern Sucking Time): And, finally, this act of purest genius: