The Hit Streak v. The Perfect Game: Superstitions

Baseball_jimmy_rollins_2004_1There’s a lot of talk about Jimmy Rollins’ hit streak. Will it continue? I’m a pretty superstitious dude, so I’m not even gonna think about that answer straight up. But, consider this scenario: what if Rollins extends his streak to 56 games, tying Joe’s record. Now, he’s in the 57th game, looking to break the record. It’s March 26th, and the Phillies are playing Colorado at home. Suppose you’re watching the game live. I assume you’ll be at the game, because unless a hole opens up in the universe it won’t be televised. Would you rather see Rollins get a hit, or watch a Colorado pitcher throw a perfect game against the Phillies? There have only been 17 Perfect Games thrown in history; no one has ever hit in 57 consecutive games. But what’s more exciting, straight up? Watching Jimmy Rollins hit a single through the hole, or watching a guy throw a perfect game? If Rollins lost the streak as a result of a perfect game, you’d be upset because he just threw away 56 consecutive games in which he got a hit; there’s about a 1 in 12 billion chance he could do it again. However, say the Colorado pitcher has already retired 18 batters, when Rollins steps up to the plate. If he gets a hit, are you ashamed to see those 18 outs go to waste? I think the answer is pretty apparent – the 56 games are a much bigger deal than the 18 outs. But unless you’re insane, you didn’t see every single one of Rollins’ hits. See, if I wasn’t watching the game live, I would easily pick the streak over the perfect game. But anyone who’s seen a perfect game, or even no-hitter, knows how exciting it can be. And it isn’t the same thing if you’re watching an archived game and you already know what’s gonna happen.

The Perfect Game
Take Barry Zito’s attempt at the perfect game last year against the Rangers. I watched the whole game and I was so caught up in it, it was nuts. I wasn’t allowed to touch my computer while the game was being played. Between innings was ok, as long as I didn’t speak to anybody about the you know what in progress. I learned that lesson the hard way…more on this later. Of course, this is nothing compared to the Steve Finley/Darin Erstad Magic Bag, which will also come into play later. Despite my best efforts, Kevin Mench homered off Zito for the first hit of the game at around the 7th inning. Think about that. In one pitch, Zito lost the perfect game, the no hitter, the shutout, and got yanked later in the inning, losing the complete game as well. That’s nuts. The lesson – don’t mess with a perfect game in progress, because you will affect the outcome – guaranteed.

The Superstitions
Now, the Steve Finley/Darin Erstad Magic Bag. Before games, Finley walks around with a magic powder bag necklace for good luck. Back when they both played for the Angels, Erstad asked what the deal was. "It’s magic powder, man," Finley replied. So now Erstad has one too. Think about that for a second – these guys are clinging to magic bags of powder for good luck. But if you’re a ballplayer, you know how it works. Think that bag really has anything to do with whether they get a hit or not? Heck no. But they think it does, so it does. If Finley walks up to the plate and realizes he forgot his magic powder bag, he’s screwed. He’s thinking about how stupid he is, and how there’s no way he’s gonna be able to get a hit without that bag. He’s so distracted that he strikes out swinging on three pitches out of the zone. Then he tells himself, ‘I forgot the bag one time, and I looked like a 6th grader up there!’ Now it’s etched in stone within his mind – that bag makes him the hitter he is. Empirical evidence proves it! That’s scary.

In any case, I’ve also learned that superstitions extended
beyond my own field of play – for example, I carry three batting
gloves, one left and two right. When I go to the cages, I use the old
righty for the first 18 pitches, then switch gloves, placing the old
righty glove in my front
pocket. The last time I disobeyed this
rule, (because I lost one of the gloves in my car,) I shattered a bat.
Just goes to show. In any case, my perfect game experiences taught me
that I, too, had to be careful when others where in the midst of it,
lest I screw them up. Amazingly, during the first six or so games Kevin and I attended last
year, at least one pitcher had a no-hitter or perfect game heading into
the third inning. Nothing special, and not that uncommon really. The first couple times, I said to Kevin, ‘this guy’s
got a no-no goin,’ etc. Next pitch, dude gives up a hit. No joke. The
next few times, I would say, ‘Kevin, look at the scoreboard,
something’s happening.’ Next pitch, hit. It seems impossible, but it’s
true. Literally the next pitch.

33topPlease note that no one will ever be crazier than Former Tiger Great Mark Fidrych – The Bird – smoothing the mound and talking to the ball. I can’t help bringing this up because, not only is it insane, but Zito almost had a comparable flock on his head for awhile as well. Anyway, everyone thought this guy was nuts. Not true. How do you think a 6-3, 175lb, 22-year-old manages to go 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA in his first season in the bigs? He also threw 24 CG out of the 29 he started. But hey, we all know that 1976 was a different era as far as pitching is concerned. In any case, the world caught on to Mark’s antics and he starting becoming not so great. Either that, or the fact that he threw those 250 innings in ’76. In any case, he was out of baseball in five years.

The Streak
Now, think about this. How many little things do you think Rollins has running around in his head right now? If you ask him, he’ll probably say he just goes to the park every day, does his regular thing, doesn’t even think about the streak. Either Rollins is superhuman, or he’s a liar. There’s no way he hasn’t picked up at least seven different tricks that help him get a hit every day. Maybe the first day of the streak, he had an omelet with three slices of ham instead of the usual two. He was probably at the end of the ‘roll’ and didn’t want that last slice to go to waste. Then he gets a hit. Think he’ll ever have another two-slice ham omelet? Not a chance. It’s things like that. By the end of the streak, Rollins will be so full of these little things, he’ll be a basketcase.

In the end, what’s the point? Colorado isn’t gonna no-hit the Phillies, and certainly not in the blast off point that is Citizen’s Bank Park. But before we all enter into another fantastic baseball season, I want everybody to know that I would prefer to see a perfect game sooner rather than later. Please don’t screw that up for me.

Continue enjoying the season.




    Haha dude I remember you IMing me during the Zito game freaking out. You get supersitious about no hitters too early though, freaking out in the 3rd inning about it….Anywho you did kill a lotta no nos that year.

    Here’s some shameless self promotion…Visit my new blogs everyone…

  2. Jason

    That’s funny you mention superstitions as i talked about jinxes in a post I made earlier today. Did you ever read the book “Jinxed” There’s more to the title but I forget without looking at it. It’s about baseball players and their superstitions. It’s a good read.


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