There wasn’t much controversy associated with Felix Hernandez’s perfect game against the Rays yesterday – King Felix was dominant. He struck out 12 and there were very few outs on balls in play that could even be considered close calls – in fact, the Rays might have closest on the first out of the game. Indeed, Hernandez’ dominance left so little room for questioning that the most-talked-about moment from during the game was something the Rays, and specifically manager Joe Maddon, did – and whether it was some premeditated gamesmanship to try and end Hernandez’s shot at history.
It happened in the seventh inning, when Hernandez got a somewhat generous strike call against the Rays’ Matt Joyce. Far from the worst strike call you’ll ever see – especially when a perfect game is going and one might expect umpires would be a little more reluctant to go against the pitcher on anything remotely close – but the pitch was outside, and Joyce let the umpire hear it. And so did Maddon:
Some people weren’t thrilled by this move from Maddon – arguing balls and strikes meant an automatic ejection for him, but he still went out on the field and had it out with the umpire. Some figured this was a tactic on Maddon’s part to mess with Hernandez’s obvious rhythm, which would be a supremely Joe Maddon thing to do. Some didn’t like this:
Joe Maddon is such a shithead.
— Chris Mottram (@ChrisMottram) August 15, 2012
Joe Maddon coming out to argue with the home plate umpire while the opposing pitcher has a perfect game going is awfully bush league.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 15, 2012
Others didn’t care at all and thought Maddon was just doing his job:
Wait, people are blasting Joe Maddon for arguing balls and strikes in a perfect game? It’s 1-0 and TB is in a pennant race, you asses.
— Barry Petchesky (@barryap1) August 15, 2012
Joe Maddon’s supposed to NOT try and break up a perfect game against him?
— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) August 15, 2012
Count us on the latter side of this – the 1-0 score makes a whole lot of unwritten rules moot. If the Rays had gotten just one baserunner, it would have represented the tying run. When you’re in the thick of the wild card hunt – a race that, as the Rays can attest, can come down to the very last play of the very last game of the regular season – you do what you think will help your team, period. Of course, easy for me to say. Maddon’s plan – if it was indeed a plan – failed, and we all got to see history. And if Hernandez had been out of sorts after the mini-freakout and lost the perfect game, I would have been pissed.