I’ve been waiting to write this post for a while now. Not specifically about the Mets’ appeal of the Rays’ one hit on Wednesday night — that only happened in the last couple days — but about what is, to me, one of the most annoying things in sports. I call it the “would’ve fallacy.”
Before I get to that, let’s quickly clarify that B.J. Upton’s infield single off R.A. Dickey was just that — a single. A weak single, yes, and one that could have been an out if David Wright made a very good play. But he didn’t, and unless Joe Torre is losing his marbles, the decision will stand.
But here’s the more important point. Saying that Dickey “would have had a no-hitter” if Wright made the play, or if it had been scored an error, is illogical and, in this case, probably false. Dickey himself summed it up best: “I think the asterisk beside the no-hitter would get more attention than the no-hitter, plus you’re not pitching the eighth or ninth inning with the pressure of a no-hitter going.”
Or the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
There’s no denying that Dickey was dominant on Wednesday, and it would be fair to say he had no-hit stuff. But in throwing a no-hitter, handling the pressure is half the battle. Met fans should understand that better than anyone. As much as I love R.A., he does not deserve to be credited with a no-hitter, even if the call is overturned.
Call it “a game in which he allowed no hits,” if you must, but don’t give it a title that indicates the pitcher has — as Johan Santana did — displayed the remarkable physical and emotional poise necessary to accomplish one of baseball’s toughest feats.
Because of the pressure involved in a no-hitter, the “would’ve fallacy” is clear to see in this scenario. But I think it still applies, pressure or not. Suppose for a moment we live in a pressure-free world, where the burden of knowing one has a no-hitter going does not affect him whatsoever. Now, suppose Wright makes the play on Upton’s grounder to end the first inning. Some may be inclined to say that, in this environment, a no-hitter would have been inevitable.
Some take it even further, like Grantland’s Shane Ryan, who takes into account Wright’s error in the ninth inning that gave the Rays their first baserunner since Upton in the first. “The fact is, we could have had two perfect games in the same night if Wright could field his position,” Ryan writes. “Dickey was robbed, once by a scorekeeper and once by his own teammate.”
I hate to do this to you, Mr. Ryan, but let’s get philosophical.