Don’t Mess With The Johan

The only theory that ever held any water was that the Mets had played all of their home games in parks with three of the largest fair-territory square footage totals. Far-away fences might mean fewer home runs, but they increase the chances of hits in distant outfield corners, or even catchable balls that were just out of range of fielders who had just that much more ground to cover, and that’s why the Mets had never thrown a no-hit game!

The problems with this explanation still obtained as the New York team took the field for what we all presumed was the 8,020th game in their no-hit-free history tonight. Even such a simply understood theory of simple math did not account for the facts a) that they have played roughly half of their games in other stadiums with less hit-friendly terrains, b) that visiting teams threw no-hitters in the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium (hell, Bob Moose no-hit them at Shea Stadium when they were three weeks from becoming the Miracle Mets of 1969), and c) that the New York Giants, the previous occupants of the Polo Grounds, threw plenty of no-hitters there, even when the dimensions in straightaway center reached as much as 505 feet as recently as 1949.

However, with Johan Santana ending the Mets’ 50+ years of no-no-hitters tonight, the Square Footage Theory gained some new credence and respectability. Obviously, the Mets moved in the fences at virtually all points of the outfield at CitiField over the winter to increase home run production, and have gotten about a dozen dingers for their trouble. But it is unmistakable that just 28 games into the new, smaller fair footage field dimensions, the team got its first no-hitter. Fair territory is only 98 percent as large as it was last year in Flushing, and in those areas more than 300 feet from home plate, it’s only 95 percent as large.

Suddenly the theory has a lot more life to it, but I still feel like we’re in the dark ages of research here. As evidence of…something…eight ex-Mets went on to throw no-hitters for other teams (Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, David Cone, Dwight Gooden, Mike Scott, Hideo Nomo, Phil Humber and Jim Bibby, who was on the regular season Mets’ roster and in uniform in 1969 but never got into a League game). Finally, Santana has put a period at the end of all the data.

Of course, he really didn’t. Just as Armando Galarraga actually threw a perfect game for Detroit in 2010 but first base umpire Jim Joyce took it away from him by as mind-bogglingly lunkheaded a False-Safe call as any of us has ever seen, ex-Met Carlos Beltran actually broke up Santana’s bid leading the top of the 6th. Beltran sent a screamer over the bag at third that clearly caused the puff of tell-tale chalk as it landed fair behind the bag for what should have been a single or a double. Umpire Adrian Johnson flat out blew it – an undeniable fact that will always taint Santana’s effort tonight no matter how heroic, nor how extraordinary the saving catch by Flushing native and life-long Met fan Mike Baxter as he went shoulder-first into the left field wall to rob Yadier Molina in the 7th.

Incidentally, that fence would’ve been about thirteen feet further away last year. Baxter might’ve missed the ball, or not hurt himself, or been playing Molina differently, or who knows what.

If you want a more whimsical theory of why Santana finally did what Seaver et al did not do as Mets, there is this. I had personally witnessed only part of one no-hitter – Dave Righetti’s at Yankee Stadium in 1983. I had to leave that one to get to a sportscast I was doing for CNN. I thereafter instituted a rule that I would never leave a game before each pitcher’s no-hitter had been broken. Tonight was my first game back at a park in the two weeks since I underwent minor surgery. I underestimated the wear and tear of being up on my feet again, and also how quickly the post-op pain would kick in. So – yep – after two innings, with the discomfort literally making me feel faint – I went home.

Congrats to Johan Santana. I’m happy to take all the credit. Or you can rack it up to the Fair Territory Factor. Whatever: the Mets’ inexplicable streak is finally at rest.

Unless you want to make a dealio about that blown call.


  1. Marilyn Green (@Marilyncolor)

    Thanks for acknowledging the blown call. As a Cardinals fan it certainly hurts to be no hit, and the blown call makes it even worse. But, the no hitter still counts and no question that Santana pitched a hell of a game. Hat off to him.

  2. lifer

    That the blown call was on Beltran only makes it sweeter ( especially with him in a Cardinals uniform after he blew 2006 and never seemed to care )! For all of us born with Mets blood in our veins and raised to be loyal through it all, tonight goes down in infamy – and to watch it happen with three generations was the icing!

    • rct11

      A) As a Mets fan, please let go of the Beltran 2006 thing. It’s dumb to keep bringing it up, and to say that he ‘never seemed to care’ is absurd.
      B) If you are indeed a Mets fan, please look up ‘infamy’. It is a bad thing. Tonight does not go down in infamy.

  3. SL Cabbie

    Oh my, I was so wanting to say something about this game but there is no way I’m going to Twitter (and then there’s the last fellow who innocently started tweeting as “SL Cabbie”–perhaps a colleague in St. Louis; he changed it a week after I drove over to FOK News on the cyber highway after eight years of working the Planet Utah recovery circuit, helping teach critical thinking skills to formerly brain-numbed, religiously indoctrinated sorts).

    So thank you, Keith, and best wishes for a speedy recovery. BTW, I watched a perfect game on the tube one–don’t remember if it was rerun–and it was actually pretty boring. Now here’s my question:

    Are they going to put an asterisk on this one?

    Shoot, I was watching the Yankees/Tigers, and of course they kept cutting to the Mets game which was fine, and the announcers (Costas and Smoltz, I think) made sure they put a big one on Bonds’ home run numbers.

    Speaking strictly metaphorically, of course…

  4. Mary_Caruso

    Aside from the questionable call, I believe Johan Santana pitched an exceptional game.. But then again I am not an authority such as yourself. He did rack up 5 walks so he was not that hot. In any case, cut him some slack and let the fans relish the moment. They are so few and far between.
    By the way I hope you did not cause yourself any further damage by being on your feet too soon after your procedure. Please take care of yourself. Hope you heal quickly so that you can actually see a no-hit game at least once. LyK

  5. Nate Lopez

    Two huge droughts killed with Jose’s batting championship and Johan’s No-No, and both are overshadowed by a bunt and a blown call. Typical for the Mets. Tonight though? I don’t care. I finally saw something I didn’t think I’d ever see. Cheers to all Mets fans tonight!

  6. blair

    Re the moving of the fences, it was always a silly excuse. Fences out mean balls in play over fielders’ heads. Fences in, however, mean balls _out_ of play over fielders heads; i.e. home runs. Moving the fences out doesn’t make hitters hit the ball over fielders heads any more often. But people will believe what they will believe, whether lacking any evidence of the difference or being in possession of single data points satisfying their presumption. With or without evidence or faults, it’s a good streak to have broken. But I can still imagine the argument that would have ensued had the last pitch of Santana’s evening sailed a mere inch over the wall in the much-foreshortened corner.

  7. Sergio

    Well, then please leave the park when there’s a no hit bid going!


    (And post more often, yours is the best baseball blog)

  8. Joe Keyport

    Wow? Met’s Johan Santana throws franchise’s first No-Hitter?

    The franchise that reaped so much from Bernie Maddoff’s corrupt accounting system for the longest time (and that this week settled a suit involving their having to pay $162 million dollars to those that Bernie ripped off) seemingly used that system to declare a no-hitter having been tossed at Citi-Field last night.

    Video evidence clearly shows that a hit was made down the 3rd baseline – even disturbing the foul line chalk – but the Mets will have none of that kind of talk. While there was some amazing defensive plays on the Mets’ behalf, this 1 hit – No hit wonder will be forever in question.

    Sorry Met fans – so-close – the umps got this wrong and should be called on the carpet for it.

  9. rct11

    If you’re going to purport this asinine “Square Footage Theory”, you should probably mention a few things.
    1) You should mention what commenter Blair mentioned, in that less square footage = more XBHs both over and off of the closer walls. And because XBHs are hits, this would appear to negate at least some of the effect that ‘more ground to cover in front of outfielders would mean more bloop hits’ would have on no-hitter possibilities.
    2) Since you’re using numbers (sq. footage of fair territory in Major League parks), how about giving Shea and Citi’s (pre-2012) sq. footage numbers in relation to other parks? It’s pretty meaningless as stand-alone data. And: you also undercut the “SQT” when you correctly mention that other players have thrown no-hitters in Mets’ parks.
    3) And, maybe most importantly, the incredibly fluky nature of no-hitters. It’s kind of right out in the open that many no-hitters are thrown by bad pitchers and that many great pitchers have never thrown one. Yet you write a sentence like, “But it is unmistakable that just 28 games into the new, smaller fair footage field dimensions, the team got its first no-hitter.” Yikes. A blunder in causality.

    This whole blog post is kind of incomplete and does zero to defend or construct evidence for a theory that doesn’t really even exist. Just weird. Just enjoy the no-hitter!

  10. Helen Mules

    Speedy recovery Keith. Love you and miss you still from the MSNBC days–never got the Current channel. Hope you find a suitable venue for your amazing talent and truly wonderful persona–and that I will have access to it! Take care.

  11. rochdalian

    As a Mets fan since 1962, I’ve always wondered if I would ever see this happen. I will always be grateful to Johan Santana.

    One thing with the blown call: after seeing numerous replays, I wouldn’t have complained if theump had called it fair. But there’s some karma here. I was at Shea Stadium the night that Dwight Gooden threw a one-hitter against the Cubs. Doc was brilliant; no one could touch him. The one hit was a roller Keith Moreland up the third base line that Ray Knight botched (no offense meant and a lot of love to Ray Knight). The official scorer called it a hit; when he showed up at the US Open the next day, he was berated by John McEnroe for not calling it an error. Yesterday’s blown call makes up for that blown call.

  12. Hamblin

    MLB needs to do something about the officiating during games…Gallaraga at least had Joyce,who was willing to man up and say he made a mistake. I respect his admission, and his remorse at taking away the no-hitter from Gallaraga. Haven’t heard anything from Adrian Johnson, or MLB, that he may have made a mistake. A man with a conscious is hard to find.

    I don’t want to take away anything from Santana, but something’s gotta change. The NBA, NFL both have instant replay……and baseball only for potential HR’S? Having watching plenty of high school and professional baseball, umpires are fallible and big leagues are not exempt.

  13. Hamblin

    If MLB is worried that instant replay will add too much time to games, maybe take a look at time limits for pitchers and hitters who have to go through their ‘routines’. Jose Valverde, Detroit’s closer, is a total time-wasting goofball and some of my beloved Red Sox hitters are guilty as well.

  14. Mark

    “Blown call” is a rather subjective term one might define as what we all might reasonably immediately recognize as an “easy” call that was completely and unoquivocally muffed–such as the way Galarraga was robbed, or the Andujar call of 1985, or any number of others. A “screamer” down the line like Beltran’s, called foul instead of fair, is a call that seems to have a higher level of “honsety” or maybe a lower level of “incompetence”–sure, the replay confirms the rising of chalk dust, but in the moment it probably really looked foul. (Try comparing the reactions to the Galarraga call and the Beltran call.) So if we can grant “degrees” of umpiring mistakes, I can’t see this as being anywhere near what I’d call a “blown call” despite what the replays confirmed. Congratulations, Johan.

  15. Michael Green

    Seeing the moron who was personally critical of Mr. Olbermann, let me say this. I am on Keith’s side of the political aisle and often have found him maddening on the issues. But I am not here to discuss politics, etc. I’m here as a baseball fan, as Keith is. If he did political commentary here, it would make sense to discuss it in this forum. Those who do come here for those purposes–other than saying you agree with him, or you disagree with him but want to talk baseball–really should stop and consider that they are the ones who have neither class nor intelligence.

  16. Sam

    The Mets seem to be involved in all my baseball regrets and heartbreaks. In 1986 I became a baseball fan at age 12, though my family hated baseball. I saw Roger Clemens on TV and read an article about him in Sports Illustrated and, because of him, became a fan of the Red Sox (if Babe Ruth could switch to the Yankees, so could I– besides I used to be a Republican too!). And one of the few games I watched as a kid (my family didn’t own a TV) was Game 6 of the 1986 World Series! I cried all night. Fast forward to 2005 and 2006– subscribing to MLB Extra Innings, I became a Mets fan (in addition to the Yankees, breaking all baseball rules) on account of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in the SNY booth. I always said I better not miss the Mets’ first no-hitter, even if Gary said it would never happen. And it was just last Wednesday I lost my MLB Extra Innings channels on my TV. So Friday night I turn to the local news in Oregon and saw Santana and the other Mets celebrating– I knew that could mean just one thing and I cannot express my dread. I literally broke down and cried knowing I had missed that game (breaking another rule about “no crying in …”). There’s only one first no-hitter and it will never happen again. And to think it was Johan Santana– a pitcher I like, coming back from a serious injury so not expected to pitch even a complete game (though he did that against San Diego earlier). One of the top three regrets of my life. I’ll never get over this. And– to complete the picture: I missed the perfect game of Cone (ex-Met), the no-hitter of Gooden (ex-Met) and, to top it off, my childhood hero who threw a bat at Piazza and whose Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series, the guy who got me into baseball in the first place, Roger Clemens, turned out to be a steroids user. In other words, I should have stuck to opera. Maria Callas never let me down like MLB has.

    • Ed K

      I watch most games via DVR because I get home from work around 10PM. Came home, ate dinner switched on the DVR not knowing about the no-no and next thing I know it is 6AM. Figured I finish my sleep in my bed and watch the recording. That would have been fine as I was still in ignorant bliss. Went to the bathroom to do what one does there and put on the oldies station they rarely give scores. DJ said “Mets fans doing the happy dance” and mentioned you know what. Well there was one Mets fan defiantly not doing a happy dance. Did not cry but said every curse possible. My first thoughts, no point in watching my DVR recording, I blew it and the Mets will never throw another no hitter again or at least not in my lifetime. But I figured I better watch it so I am not totally clueless. I am glad I did, remember I did not know about the blown call, almost collisions, great catches etc. So finding out about these plays knowing they will eventually lead to a no-hitter was something and in some ways better then those that saw it live and who figured these plays would in the end be footnotes because the Santana would lose the no hit bid. Post game great also. It was the best thing to do for a bad situation as close to the real experience as you can get. But as the days go by the more I realize it was still was a bad situation and NOT THE REAL THING. Still glad I did it but still do not feel that I have watched the Mets pitch a no hitter. So that leaves us playing the hand we got and that probably is Mets no hitter number 2. We know Santana is capable but Collins won’t risk injury and leave him in in his is flirting with a no hitter and has a high pitch count because he and the organization have done it damm. Dickey a knukleballer definite possibility. Niese maybe when he is on he is really on. I’m am usually an Eddie downer but I feel in my gut I feel I will see get to see a non spoiled Mets no hitter be it number 2 or number 5 (knowing my luck I might miss 2 ,3 etc) but what will it feel like? Won’t happen tomorrow and the gushing reminders of Santana’s no hitter during slow times during the will be sickening. And we know invariably several Met pitchers will take a no hitter into the late innings and lose it. The urge to put one’s foot through the TV will be stronger then ever in light of what we missed. As you said there is only one first time so when number 2 occurs the media interest and fan emotions might be 5% of what it was Friday. Generally there will be no crying in baseball that night. So we should give it up now, it’s not worth it right, wrong. Think through what you wrote “There is only one first time” right it will be our first time. The fact that it won’t be the Mets or practically anybody else first time else won’t matter just as the blown call did not matter for the Mets or there fans it still was the first time. Could be on the road late in the season with 8,000 people in the stands won’t matter it still will be our first time. If the emotional reaction from Mets fans was caused by endless waiting and bizarre things getting in the way. We will have been waiting longer and have more bizarre thing get in our way then they did.

      • Sam

        When you watched it on DVR did Gary Cohen jinx it like he always does around the sixth inning? “So and so has allowed no hits through five.” Anyway, I called my mom and was telling her I missed the Mets’ first no-hitter, acting like it was the end of the world, and she later told me she lost her job. So that gives me some perspective. Getting back to baseball– I hope SNY releases a DVD of the entire game, including postgame interviews (for once I might enjoy Kevin Burkhardt!).

    • Ed K

      When the Mets got their first hit Cohen mentioned it was the first hit of the game by either team. But they really got into the no hitter mode about the 7th discussing how players react to the situation and stay away from the pitcher. The words no hitter were used a lot. the last few innings. Then him getting close and then over the pitch count should they take Santana out. Darling got very emotional saying for the first time ever he wanted the Mets to go out quickly 1,2,3 and he wanted to put on the stirrups and go out and. As for SNY video keep on checking their Website and call or email them requesting a video. As you can imagine they have been replying it like crazy. And while the frequency will probably drop off it will be replayed occasionally(again check website or call to ask for next broadcast and explain why) so get somebody in NY to record it and and mail it. Do what you like but I would make sure you really want to do this. Understand unfortunately you can never unmiss, unspoil the event or come close to really recreating it. It might be painful for you. My own opinion is if you do not know many details go for it there are many twists and turns that will have great meaning knowing the final result. . Good luck

    • Patricia Ellyn Powell

      Did he discover her? I hope Keith is listening to some Santana and relaxing. You know?

  17. Barb Goldstein

    oh, and met fan since 64. the game fri nite made me cry. i know there is no crying in baseball, but this is different. game on.

  18. Stephen Seplow

    You say the old New York Giants threw “plenty of no-hitters” at the Polo Grounds. In fact, Giants’ pitchers threw only four ho-hitters between 1911, the year the Polo Grounds was rebuilt after a fire destroyed it, and 1957, when the team moved to San Francisco. And the last of those was pitched in 1929 by Carl Hubbell. I’m not sure if all four were at the Polo Grounds, but even if they they were it’s hardly a bunch.

  19. Ed K

    Speaking of missing the game how can I forget to mention that Josh Lewin a lifer who does the Mets radio broadcasts missed the no-no to attend his daughters graduation.

    • Patricia Ellyn Powell

      Here’s to that guy! And every guy and gal in the world who knows what really matters in life. I love it. Thanks for sharing that with us. 🙂

    • Ed K

      Seinfeld also missed it from New York Post
      “As Johan Santana was no-hitting the Cardinals on Friday night, the long-time Mets fan was on a plane back from South Bend, Indiana. Seinfeld said his driver told him the news before he even got in his car.

      “And I just dropped my bags right there at the curb and went, ‘No!’,” Seinfeld or “Jerry from Queens” said in an interview with WFAN on Monday night.

      Though he missed it live, Seinfeld had seen parts of it and had planned on watching the full replay on SNY later that night.

      “The great thing about this world is that I have experienced it so many times by now,” he said.

      Seinfeld marveled at the historic evening, which was the first no-hitter in the Mets’ 50-year history.

      “This is the Yankee curse,” said, whose friend and fellow comedian Bill Maher recently bought a stake of the Mets.

      “When you’re a Yankee fan, you can’t have a thrill like this. It takes 50 years to make a thrill like this. If the Mets had three no-hitters, just think of what we would me missing, what we would have missed out on. That’s what we call ‘Mets Magic.’ They have this thing where they can thrill you in the most unexpected ways, and I really do think there’s something special about this organization. It’s why I love ‘em.”

  20. Ed K

    Nobody is reading this now but the Dickey comment was almost prophetic. Getting two one hitters and a no hitter that should have been made me both optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. Now that Dickey is back to being human I do have a sick creepy feeling that it will never happen again or I will always find a way to miss it if it does. Come to think of it olympics seems like a good time for the second scenario. Weird thing is before June 1 I just thought of it as an anomaly and a lot of times never knew a met had a no hitter going until the announcer mentioned it. Since then every time a Met pitcher gives up his first hit I say to myself “not tonight” even if it is the first inning which is usually the case. Oh the waiting

  21. Ed K

    Up above I said Dickey was the next Met likely to throw a no no. Now that it looks like he is going to be traded. If they get the right people back this is the correct move but still I feel in every bone in my body that Dickey will throw a no hitter on Opening Day for his new team and I will have just missed it yet again and my wait will go on and on.

    That it just the way it rolls for me. I not a big hoops fan but when I was little I was a fan of the Nets on Long Island with Dr. J, Red white and blue basketballs etc. When they moved to Jersey I changed to the Knicks. With the move to Brooklyn I am back. It is hard not to noitice the brand of basketball the Knicks are playing is quite diferent then most of the time when I was a fan of them. Yeah people say they are to old to keep this up but i know better.

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