Buck Martinez, No-Hitter Etiquette, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum

Talking About a No-Hitter, Broadcasters Edition

How players deal with a no-hitter in progress is unequivocal. Shut up, never mention it and stay the hell away from the pitcher.

Broadcasters, however, own a different set of responsibilities. It’s in their job description, after all, to tell the audience what’s happening on the field. Said ex-big-leaguer-turned-broadcaster Steve Lyons, “If you want people to stay tuned, you should probably mention, ‘Hey, hang in there, don’t go anywhere—guy’s throwing a no-hitter.’ ”

Of course, not every broadcaster feels this way.

Buck Martinez spent 17 years as a major league catcher, and managed the Blue Jays for a season-and-a-half. During that time the lessons he learned apparently became quite ingrained.

Martinez now broadcasts Blue Jays games, and so far this young season has had two opportunities to describe home-team no-hitters into the deep innings. Except that he didn’t.

From Bruce Dowbiggin’s column in the Globe and Mail:

As Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero no-hit their opponents until late in the game, viewers discovered “no-hitter” seemed to be the hardest words to say for Martinez and analyst Pat Tabler (also a former player).

There were euphemisms about players not rounding first base successfully. Or suggestions that opponents lacked for men on base. But the no-no was a no-no between Martinez and Tabler.

“I guess I’m still a baseball player at heart,” Martinez said yesterday. “I was a little reluctant to say the words. It’s not like we’re in the dugout. But I know that players have the TV on in the clubhouse, and I’d hate for a young guy to go in there and hear me say ‘no-hitter.’ I don’t know what it might do to him. I suppose old habits die hard.”

Of course, during David Cone’s perfect game in 1999, he went to the clubhouse after every inning, where he heard Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay “say I had a perfect game from the fifth inning on.”

Things still managed to work out okay.

– Jason

A.J. Pierzynski, No-Hitter Etiquette, Ricky Romero

When Bad Things (Pierzynski) Happen to Good Pitchers (Romero)

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.)

– Jason