On Monday night a horrendous crime was committed at Minute Maid Park in Houston. My phone lit up with text messages, my voicemail inbox filled up and I was unable to process the true horror of that evening. No, it wasn’t the out-of-date greeting (do you know what yours says?), but what I saw on television before I went to bed. I paced back and forth, looked out the window and drove around town hoping I could shake the feeling. “Why, A.J., why?”, is all I could muster out. Memories of pitching glory came back to me at first, and I dreamed of lost no-hitters and being thrown off my no-no vibe: “Don’t talk to me! Don’t talk to me! Don’t talk to me!”
What happened in Houston? Yu Darvish was throwing a no-hitter and an unspoken code of baseball etiquette was broken by A.J. Pierzynski.
1. Yu Darvish was throwing a perfect game.
2. A.J. Pierzynski is one of the most outspoken players in baseball.
3. The Texas Rangers lead the AL West by 1 game.
Before I break down the evidence, the reader must understand the context. Yu Darvish, in his second major league season, has put together numbers (2.64 E.R.A, 207 Ks) that are worthy of the coveted Cy Young Award. At the time of the “the incident”, Texas had a 2-0 lead over Houston in the bottom of the 6th inning with two outs. Not only was Darvish throwing a no-hitter but it was a perfect game. No walks. No errors. Jonathan Villar was at the plate with a 3-2 count and Darvish threw the baseball…
Look at the location of the baseball. It almost bounced off the ground and was clearly ball four. It wasn’t just a tad off the inside or outside corner, it was in danger of being smeared with the brown dirt of home plate. Not a strike. What happens next?
Words are spoken. The tension is high. Pierzynski, a smack-talk all-star, says something to upset umpire Ron Kulpa. I like to imagine Kulpa standing up and delivering his best DeNiro impression from “Raging Bull”:
Kulpa: I heard some things, A.J., I heard things.
This is the point when you walk away. What does Pierzynski do? He keeps arguing about a ball that almost bounced off the plate as poor Yu Darvish watches in silence.
Pierzynski is then ejected from the baseball game. Why is this significant? Wasn’t ol’ A.J. just standing up for his pitcher and ballclub? Of course he was, and I commend him for that. Darvish still had the no-hitter intact, but this is the moment where A.J. Pierzynski scored a massive FAIL in regards to no-hitter etiquette and something that only baseball fans can understand. Darvish lost his catcher. The Mojo is gone. The vibe is off. Everyone knows that you don’t talk to a pitcher while he is throwing a no-hitter, but you also don’t mess with his Mojo on the field. Why did you do it, A.J.?
Darvish still appears to be in command of his no-no vibe, but it is clear that outside forces are threatening to throw him off. He waits calmly by the pitching mound and kindly asks for a new baseball.
Darvish: Deep breaths. Focus. No-No. Deep breaths. Breaking Bad. How awesome is that show? Tread lightly. DVR.
Kulpa: Ok, that’s it, Pierzynski. Don’t you get it? Turn around…slow. Not so fast! Look at Darvish out there! Just look at him! Look what you’ve done! It’s not about you!
Washington: Ok, look at my man Yu out there, Ron. Help me out. Us Rons have to stick together.
Kulpa: You’ve done this to yourself, Washington. Why are you even out here? Let him pitch. Let the boy pitch!
Washington: Yeah, you have a point. Stand in front of me. Hide me. Yu hasn’t seen me yet. Stand in front of me, Ron. Walk to my dugout. That’s it. Keep going.
Washington: Ron, he saw me. What now?
Kulpa: Walk to the mound and talk to your pitcher, Ron.
Washington: Talk to him? About what? You don’t talk to a pitcher during a no-hitter!
Kulpa: Calm him down. What does he like?
Washington: He doesn’t shut up about Breaking Bad.
Kulpa: Breaking Bad? Oh, c’mon Washington. Don’t talk to him about that. Has he seen Mad Men? Do you want the truth? You need to reverse what just happened. It’s up to you. I’m just calling balls and strikes.
Darvish (to himself in best Walter White voice): Say my name.
Darvish: You’re damn right…and tread lightly.
The moral of this story is that the no-no Mojo had indeed disappeared after the Pierzynski ejection. Darvish held himself together until the bottom of the 8th inning until he served up a homer to Carlos Corporan. Texas won the game 2-1 and Darvish compiled 15 strikeouts, but this game will linger in my mind as classic case of poor no-hitter etiquette.