Jose Tabata is at no fault for ending Max Scherzer’s bid for a perfect game

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Jose Tabata pinch-hit for Pirates reliever Vance Worley with two outs in the ninth inning, the only man standing between Max Scherzer and the 24th perfect game in baseball history. Scherzer was absolutely dealing and Tabata didn’t look like he was having any fun trying to make contact. He fouled off the first two pitches, worked the count back to 2-2, weakly fouled off three more pitches, and then was hit on his left elbow by a slider.

The video below shows what happened:

[mlbvideo id=”182371383″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

Rule 6.08b says:

The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when —

[…]

(b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;
If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.

Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy thinks Tabata wasn’t at fault, tweeting, “looked like a totally normal reaction from a hitter to an inside breaking ball- why the hate?”

Scherzer threw an 86 MPH slider. At 60 feet, six inches, a batter has less than a half-second with which to react. Considering how much movement Scherzer’s slider has, and how far away the pitch actually was from the strike zone, it’s perfectly reasonable that Tabata would get hit by it and not appear to have made much of an effort in getting out of the way.

But let’s play devil’s advocate here. Let’s say that Tabata intentionally leaned into the pitch to ruin Scherzer’s perfect game. He did it and got away with it, as home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski didn’t interject. How is that any different than a catcher framing a ball outside of the strike zone to increase the probability of a strike call? Both players are attempting to exploit a gray area in order to maximize their teams’ odds of winning.

Some have argued that Tabata should have been up at the plate with the intent of breaking up Scherzer’s perfect game with a hit. Why? Perfect games are special because they’re so hard to attain; they would start to lose their luster if we pressure players into ending them in only certain, approved ways. There have been 24 in baseball history, only a slightly more common occurrence than a four-homer game. If a player has hit three home runs and takes his next at-bat, do we expect the pitcher to throw him a meatball to make his attempt to make baseball history easier? No, the pitcher goes at the hitter with everything he has.

Furthermore, the game was not a done deal. In 999,999 of 1,000,000 iterations of the game state after Tabata was hit — two outs, one on, down by six — the Pirates lose, but Tabata should still have been trying to play for a win irrespective of Scherzer’s bid for a perfect game. His job is to get on base. If that includes getting hit by a pitch at the expense of Scherzer’s perfect game, so be it.

Some have advocated the Nationals throw at Tabata in Sunday’s series finale. Tabata did nothing wrong. That disappointment should be directed at more deserving targets, such as Scherzer for making a poor pitch.

Tabata talks about ending Scherzer’s perfect game:

Scherzer says he doesn’t fault Tabata and would have done the same thing in his position.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.