You Don’t Think a No-Hitter

… You throw a no-hitter…

I recently read Andrew Baggarly’s wonderful piece on former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter 10 years ago—the first for the Giants in more than 30 years. Most of us Giants fans know exactly where we were that evening it happened. (For me, I was walking back from the YMCA as it was going down, following it via updates from my cousin until I could get home.) It was a special moment in SF Giants history, and while three World Series championships take centerstage now, that Sanchez no-hitter will always be special. 

While reading Baggarly’s piece, I started thinking about everything that goes into a no-hitter. Yes, your stuff as a pitcher has to be on point that game. But that’s only one part of the equation. Your teammates on defense must make plays, both the routine and extraordinary. You could make a great pitch, but if the hitter makes good contact, the people behind you have to do their part to get the out. Most no-hitters tend to feature a couple of amazing defensive plays that save the pitcher’s quest for history. Then there are other factors that play into the outcome: umpire calls, fortunate bounces, and all the little things that have to go the pitcher’s way to make a no-hitter reality. If any of those variables come up unfavorably, poof! The no-hitter goes away. And who knows if a pitcher will ever get another chance at one again? 

That’s a whole lot to ponder and mull over. And if you start thinking about every single little detail that goes into a no-hitter, it can get overwhelming. As a pitcher, all you can do is make your pitch. From there, the rest is out of your control—which can be scary. But it’s also reality, whether you like it or not. So you might as well throw your best, and whatever happens, happens. After all, you throw a no-hitter—you don’t think one into existence. 

Now I’m no pitcher, but I do have a tremendous ability to overthink. It can be a blessing and a curse, though in my case, many of my friends likely think it’s the latter. While I believe my tendency to overthink has some benefits (e.g., it helps with my writing), I acknowledge the pitfalls. Paralysis by analysis is a thing, and overthinking can create straw men and blindspots. It can be a flawed shield as well. Life often throws curveballs (again with the baseball analogy) that we don’t anticipate, and if we’re dead-set on one outcome—and another happens—that could set us back. There’s something to be said for going in blind and trusting that we’ll emerge on the other side OK. Though that is easier said than done, of course.

In that spirit, I am reminded of the Book of Deuteronomy (DT 30:10-14), which happened to be the first reading from this past Sunday (and special to me for personal reasons. Specifically, these lines:

"For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.

I emphasized the last three lines purposefully, as they are critical for us overthinkers to consider. For all the theories and ideas we may concoct in our heads, we also possess knowledge within the fuzzier parts of ourselves—like our heart, our feelings. We have to be willing to trust it, though. To have faith. Our minds are wonderful at laying out logical proofs that appeal to our rationality. But rationality and logic aren’t always the answer. When our feelings are speaking to us, we shouldn’t ignore or dismiss their message. We are human, after all, and to think we’re perfectly rational creatures is, well, irrational. 

As Baggarly’s article showed, Sanchez’s no-hitter shouldn’t have happened. He was struggling with his mechanics and emotions—so much to the point that he asked his dad to visit from Puerto Rico just be with him during that tough professional stretch. Sanchez was worried he was going to get sent to the minor leagues. He wasn’t even supposed to pitch that night against the Padres. He only got the start because the originally scheduled pitcher (Randy Johnson) got hurt. The regular cacher, Bengie Molina, was away because of his daughter’s birthday—the backup catcher, Eli Whiteside, caught instead. But Sanchez went out there, threw like he had nothing to lose, was on the verge of a perfect game that he lost because of an error—and still ended up tossing a no-hitter, a life-changing accomplishment. Logically, it shouldn’t have happened. But it did. 

By all means, don’t stop thinking. But don’t be afraid to just throw, either. You might end up with a no-hitter.  

What I Will Remember From the 2019 NBA Finals

The Warriors just lost to the Raptors tonight. It has been reported that Klay Thompson has a torn ACL, a few days after Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles.

I’m writing this now, on this particular day, because I think you learn certain lessons in the heat of the moment. You have to make sure you capture those feelings immediately, though. Time has a way of dulling everything. So let me get my thoughts down now, when the feeling is near its most intense.

As a Warriors fan, I realize most other fanbases aren’t going to feel sorry for us. We just completed one of the most amazing runs in NBA history. Time will tell where we go from there—currently, it’s murky—but objectively speaking, it has been an all-time run since 2015 (and really, since 2012). Three championships, a record-setting regular season, pure dominance, and a lot of great memories.

But we live in a really interesting time in how we understand history. Being in the social media age, where one’s all-time historical value is being assessed in real time, I don’t know if we truly ever appreciated how transcendent the Warriors are. Maybe we won’t know until several years down the road, when we see the NBA’s next great teams take the stage—and they get compared to the Warriors.

My most important point is this: Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, and DeMarcus Cousin (and others, but these were the players who got hurt during the playoffs) sacrificed a lot to try and help the Warriors win a third championship in a row. Consider:

  • They played hurt during contract years—periods in which players are most vulnerable since they haven’t signed their next contract.

  • That theoretical risk became reality for both Durant and Thompson, since they suffered injuries that may cost time a year or more of playing time

Forget, for a second, the monetary component. Yes, some say they will still get paid; others will say nothing is guaranteed. Forget all that and consider: These individuals will have to endure the lonely rehab process just to get themselves right. And it isn’t guaranteed they will get right! Sure, today, in the immediate aftermath of the loss, they will get a lot of attention. Perhaps some pity even (from the generous souls). But where will that understanding and compassion be in September, when fans are starting to get excited for the next season? How will fans react when these players return—and maybe don’t look as good as before. Will they be begrudged? How many talking heads will forget or discard their efforts in the finals and question their abilities a year from now, if things aren’t going well? Perhaps even mock them for looking like a shell of themselves?

You know it will happen. It happens to every professional athlete. You are on top of the world, and then one injury later, fans move on to the next shiny thing—and proceed to build them up, only to tear them down when they fall short in some way.

If you have doubts it will happen that way, I just saw it with my team. What “sin” did any major Warriors player commit over the past several years? The Warriors exemplified the “team” concept American society says it values by putting the team ahead of any one player. And nationally, fans still found a way to dislike and mock it.

It’s cliche but true. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

I am so, so, so proud of this Warriors team . They did everything we ask of those who have amazing talents and abilities. Some gave everything to the point that their bodies broke and could give no more—even though they have so much to lose in the future.

In a perverse way, I feel prouder of this team than some of the championship teams. I realize that I’m speaking in the heat of the moment. But after winning several championships, you start to realize how precious they are. That these players gave everything they could before falling short shows, I think, how truly precious it really is.

I now understand what Linus meant when he told Charlie Brown, “We learn more from losing than we do from winning.” You learn how fleeting success is, so enjoy it when you have it. Because it will leave one day, and you can’t ever be sure it will come back.