Yusmeiro Petit so far from and so close to perfection

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Yusmeiro Petit was one pitch away from what might have been the most unlikely perfect game of all-time. Inches really. The 2-2 pitch to Eric Chavez easily could have been called a strike in a typical situation, even without the help overzealous umpires sometimes give in no-hitter situations.

Then Hunter Pence came up just short on Eric Chavez’s liner. In any ballpark besides AT&T Park, it would have been more likely to be an out. Because of the depth and the angle of the wall in right, right fielders in AT&T cheat more towards center than anywhere else. Pence made his best effort to come up with the ball; if he had been shaded one or two steps to his left, he may have gotten it.

As is, Philip Humber is probably the weakest pitcher to throw a perfect game, but his feat last April came against a pretty awful Mariners lineup. And considering that he had a fine 3.75 ERA in the year before his perfect game, he was certainly held in higher regard then than Petit is.

Because of injuries, Dallas Braden hasn’t done much at all since his perfect game in 2010, but he was a fine pitcher while healthy. Len Barker, who pitched his perfect game in 1981, is known now as a free agent bust, but he led the AL in strikeouts in both 1980 and 1981. Charlie Robertson, who threw the second perfect game after 1900, finished up his career 49-80 and probably ranks next in line after Humber.

I’m still going with Petit, though. The one-time Mets prospect entered the night 12-20 with a 5.37 ERA as a major leaguer. In eight seasons in Triple-A, he was 31-32 with a 4,36 ERA. Two years ago, he pitched in the Mexican League.

And his near perfect game came against a team that’s had playoff aspirations for most of the year. The Diamondbacks entered the night fifth in the NL in runs scored.

But there was Petit setting them all down quickly with his high-80s fastball. He threw just 95 pitches in the game.  I can’t speak for the whole contest, but for those last two innings, all of those pitches ended up right where he wanted them to. With a little more luck, he would have entered the record books as just the 22nd pitcher since 1900 to achieve perfection. He didn’t get there, but he took a big step towards accomplishing another goal: achieving a spot in the Giants’ 2014 rotation.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.