As if on cue, Corey Kluber added to the total number of no-hitters in the 2021 MLB season last night beating the Rangers 2-0. That makes 6 no-hit games for the year just one short of the modern record for a season, [Aside: If you want to start an argument, suggest that we have already seen 7 no-hitters this year because of the 7-inning no-hit game thrown by Madison Bumgarner that will not go in the record books as a no-hitter because of the truncated length.]
No-hit games in baseball are fun to watch; they are inherently a good thing for the game. However, Mark Twain’s adage applies here:
“It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right.”
The reason no-hit games are fun to watch is because they are – or at least have been – rarities. There is a fundamental difference between an “event” and an “occurrence”. So far in 2021, MLB has seen almost one no-hit game per week. No-hitters are close to losing their status as “events”.
Why is that happening? There have been 4 no-hitters in the 14 days between May 5th and May 19th; there have been entire MLB seasons without 4 no-hit games. [Aside: In fact, there have been 19 seasons in MLB since 1900 without a single no-hit game – – assuming I have counted correctly.] Let me offer up a few stats; baseball loves stats:
- As of this morning, MLB teams average 7.82 hits per game. Only once in modern baseball history have batters been less successful in getting base hits and that was in 1908. [Aside: As of today, the Seattle Mariners as a team are batting .199; the Mariners have been the victims of two of this year’s no-hitters. Seems like a correlation there …]
- As of this morning, batters were striking out 8.92 times per game.
- As of this morning batters were hitting a combined .236 for the season. If that persists, it will be the lowest combined batting average since the dead ball era.
Purists will point to “The Shift” as a contributing factor – and they may be correct. One other oddity for 2021 is that MLB quietly changed the way the ball itself is manufactured over the winter. Seemingly, MLB wanted to deaden the ball a tad; maybe they over-achieved?
Changing the subject … Returning to another story that has been the basis for recent commentary here, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) has suspended Bob Baffert pending the outcome of the investigation in Kentucky regarding Medina Spirit testing over the limit for betamethasone after the Kentucky Derby. The suspension bars Baffert from running any horse in any race in New York and it applies to any assistant trainers in his employ. As things stand now, none of the horses in Baffert’s wide-ranging operation is eligible for the Belmont Stakes on June 5th.
In announcing the suspension, the head of the NYRA sought to stake out the moral high ground:
“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants. That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
He went on to cite the recent history of Baffert-trained horses failing drug tests in California and Arkansas as part of the reason for this suspension. It seems clear to me from his statement that he is not going to lift this suspension unless he is forced to do so or unless Baffert is cleared of any wrongdoing in Kentucky. I am a bit surprised that I have not read that Baffert and his legal team have sought a temporary restraining order against the NYRA to prevent them from enforcing this suspension. While I totally agree that Baffert needs to be punished for the fact that too many of his horses “accidentally” turn up testing positive all over the country, I wonder how and why it is the purview of the NYRA to do the punishing when the instances cited here have nothing to do with racing in New York.
It would seem to me – – hardly an expert in legal matters – – that Bob Baffert needs to have this suspension defined and resolved rather than having it be a continuing thing. Even if he cannot run any horses in the Belmont Stakes, that is hardly going to shake the foundation of his racing enterprise. However, the focus of racing in the Summer and Fall is very much aligned with New York racing:
- Saratoga’s summer meeting runs from July 15 through September 6. If I count correctly, there will be a total of 29 graded stakes races at Saratoga this summer (9 Grade III, 8 Grade II and 12 Grade 1) and there are plenty of races for up and coming 2-year-olds in the meet. If Baffert cannot run any horses there, that could hurt his racing enterprise.
- Belmont’s fall meeting runs from September 18 through November 1. In that meet, there will be 7 more Grade I stakes races plus 7 other races that are qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup this year. [Aside: The qualifying races are set up on a “win and you’re in” basis; these are important events in the racing world.] If Baffert cannot run any horses there, that will hurt his racing enterprise.
This confrontation involves two of the heavyweights in the horseracing world. Given the public stances taken by both sides, it will not be easy for either one to appear to “back down” on this matter. For that reason, I suspect that this matter could wind up being decided by a judge and my guess is that his ruling will have nothing at all to do with picograms per milliliter of betamethasone – or anything else – detected in the bloodstream of Medina Spirit or any other equine creature.
Finally, since I mentioned Mark Twain above, let me close with two of his other observations about life:
“Get your facts first. Then, you can distort them as you please.”
“The trouble ain’t that there are too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………