Philip Humber, Meet Nolan Ryan

The only reason I’m not shocked by Philip Humber’s perfect game is that he once pitched for the Mets. Anything to toss a little more dirt in the eyes of “The Team That Has  Never Pitched a No-Hitter.”  

Humber’s gem against the Mariners in Seattle yesterday puts him in a select group who pitched no-hitters after leaving the Mets — Nolan Ryan (seven times, if you need to be reminded), Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, Mike Scott, David Cone, and Hideo Nomo (the only man to throw one before and after joining the Mets; neat little trick).   

None of these guys were scrubs, and while Humber has begun to fulfill some of the promise expected of him when he was picked number three overall in the 2004 draft by the Mets, my guess is he will be considered the outlier of the group — at least until it doubles in size. In fact, the history books will probably lump him in with Mike Witt,  Dallas Braden and Len Barker as the most unremarkable pitchers to toss a perfect game (you can include Don Larsen, but with an asterisk: he did, after all, do it in a World Series game.)  All the more reason Humber’s feat makes the Mets futility with no-hitters that much more bizarre — and laughable.

It has now been 50 years and 7,982 games. A few weeks ago, Jon Niese took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Nationals. That got a few people excited, but those who were all the wiser knew not to look up from their beers.  Niese quickly lost his no-hitter and his shutout before heading to the showers.    

Adding insult to injury is that Humber was traded for Johan Santana, never blossomed with the Twins, and bounced around with a few other teams before landing with the Sox last season and pitching surprisingly well. Santana is trying to revive his career after being on the shelf for more than a year. Although his comeback has looked promising thus far (assuming the beating he took from the Braves last week, his shortest stint ever, was not a harbinger of things to come), Santana will not be throwing any perfect games for the balance of his career. Unless, of course, he ends up with the Phillies or Red Sox some day.

Incredibly, Humber was the second White Sox pitcher to toss a perfect game since 2009 — the other being Mark Buerhle.   Two pitchers on the same team recording perfect games in less than three years, and the Mets can’t find someone, even Hall of Famers like Seaver and Ryan,  to pitch one measly no-hitter in a 50 year span? This continues to confound me year after year. Statistically, it makes absolutely no sense, especially for a team that has spent its entire history in pitcher friendly ballparks. The Red Sox, meanwhile, in that little 100-year-old bandbox, tossed four no-hitters at home during the last decade alone. Go figure. 

And one other thing: Humber wears number 41, the same as Seaver. That might go unnoticed by most Mets fans, but not me. I consider it a subtle dagger to the heart.

The Mets have 18 games to go for game number 8000. Maybe the baseball Gods, who have long enjoyed a hearty laugh at the expense of the Mets, just decided from day one in 1962 that they would play this little practical joke on the team and make them wait 50 years to wonder if it was physically possible for anyone in the royal blue and orange to toss a no-hitter.

Or maybe this statistical oddity will continue for another 50 years and 8000 or so games. The likes of Philip Humber have me believing that just might be the case.

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