In the late innings of a no-hitter, certain etiquette is expected from batters. A.J. Pierzynski has never been much for etiquette.
Toronto’s Ricky Romero held the White Sox hitless for seven full innings yesterday, but leading off the eighth, Pierzynski watched a sinking pitch bounce into the dirt near his foot without hitting him, then proceeded to wince, hop and hobble to first.
The fact that the umpires didn’t challenge the masquerade is far less relevant to this conversation than the Chicago catcher’s level of respect for what was happening on the field.
Pierzynski loves to get into the heads of the opposition, and this play was no different. Sure enough, he managed to distract Romero enough for the pitcher to groove one to the next hitter, Alex Rios, who pounded it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
Was Pierzynski’s act acceptable?
Pro: Romero had already walked two hitters, so Pierzynski’s acting didn’t destroy a perfect game. With the score 4-0, Pierzynski did manage to become only his team’s third baserunner.
Con: He didn’t even bring the tying run to the plate, let alone the winning run. And while in-game scams are a forte for Pierzynski, the notion prevails that hitters are expected to give their best efforts in situations like this. (The argument that his weasel act is Pierzynski’s best effort, while comical, doesn’t fly.)
It doesn’t take a great pitcher to throw a no-hitter (Greg Maddux didn’t; Bud Smith did), but it does take a combination of a perfect night, a bit of luck and just a touch of magic—a rare set of circumstances that presents us with baseball at its best.
For that combination to be ruined by trickery or deceit does injustice to the game, the fans and the pitcher in question.
Perhaps one day Pierzynski will learn. (But don’t count on it.)