Baseball karma: Melky gave us the blues, but King Felix cured them
Felix Hernandez delivered the perfect response to Melky Cabrera's suspension
The Cabrera news casts doubts about his breakout seasons of 2011 and 2012
But Hernandez was just another example of just how uplifting baseball can be
A press release distributed from Major League Baseball's Park Avenue headquarters reached the inboxes of writers across the country at 2:40 p.m. Eastern Time, delivering the day's bombshell: Giants leftfielder Melky Cabrera -- a batting title contender and the All-Star Game's MVP -- had been suspended for 50 games after failing a drug test.
Exactly one hour later and 2,854 miles west, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw the first pitch of a getaway day matinee in a game seemingly meaningful only for the wild card-chasing Rays.
Instead, Hernandez was beginning a 113-pitch, 2-hour-and-22-minute assault on Tampa Bay's lineup that culminated in the season's third perfect game and the restoration of equilibrium throughout baseball.
How many fans swore in disgust at the exposition of another cheater ... only to tune in for the final outs of Hernandez's masterpiece -- serendipitously, mlb.tv's free game of the day -- which was just the 23rd perfect game in baseball history.
Sir Isaac Newton would be proud by the equal and opposite reaction, as baseball swiftly giveth as much as it taketh away.
Such is the sport's charmed existence right now. Think of the noteworthy last three years: 15 no-hitters and perfect games, nine cycles (including two by the same player, Aaron Hill, just 11 days apart), the drama of Rangers-Cardinals in World Series Game 6, the across-the-board mayhem of everyone's Game 162 last September, Derek Jeter's 5-for-5 day to reach 3,000 hits and more.
A second wild card is added, and half the sport's 30 teams are currently within 1½ games of a playoff spot. Attendance is up four percent across the majors, according to The Associated Press.
Recently downtrodden markets like Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Washington have teams in the thick of playoff races -- and all would be even without the expanded postseason.
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has said repeatedly that he won't trade Hernandez. And his ace delivers the first perfect game in franchise history in front of a packed and frenzied King's Court, a section dedicated to the pitcher nicknamed King Felix.
Of course one start, no matter how historic, doesn't reverse the fortunes of a club that is in last place for the third straight year, but it can help soften the sting.
So too did the Hernandez news divert the attention of the entire baseball world away from the stain left by another drug cheat and toward the magic of a perfect game.
Wouldn't we rather discuss Hernandez's sublime breaking ball than the possibility of a suspended player winning a batting title? (We are a hypothetical slump by the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen away from an all too real legitimacy problem.)
Wouldn't we rather revel in Hernandez's joy-to-be-playing-baseball persona -- spoofed in a funny video in which he disguises himself as Larry Bernandez so he can try to pitch every day -- than discuss the implications of World Series homefield advantage having been won by the National League in a game in which its MVP was suspended five weeks later?
Or, for that matter, didn't King Felix distract from another name-changing Hernandez, as Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) made his return to the big leagues the same day?
That's not a bad turnaround after the news about Cabrera, who tested positive for testosterone and admitted as much in a statement by saying he took a "substance I should not have used." Such a revelation will surely cast doubts on the legitimacy of his breakout seasons of 2011 and '12.
But soon thereafter Hernandez was throwing his gem, what could be dubbed a perfect-plus game, with his 12 strikeouts and 26 swings-and-misses indicating an especially high level of dominance.
The juxtaposition of the day's events is, of course, partly a product of the game's relentless churn, with 30 teams playing 162 games in no more than 183 days, leading to roughly 7,290 hours of regular season play. But the proximity of these two -- the exact opposite ends of the fan excitement spectrum -- was too close to ignore.
Performance-enhancing drugs and cheating may harden the inner cynic in us all, but the majesty of a perfect game snapped so many of us out of it. Check out the unadulterated joy of the Mariners' Double A players watching the final out.
Even the division rivals of Hernandez were chiming in, with the Rangers' Mike Napoli tweeting in the late innings, "If your not watching turn on the mariners game!!" The Angels' Mike Trout added later, "Congrats to @RealKingFelix on the perfect game !!! #Perfecto." And the Athletics openly cheered when Hernandez recorded the final out.
These are the compelling moments that keep drawing us back to sports. Today was a condensed, lower-stakes version of baseball's 1994 strike being followed by Cal Ripken Jr.'s pursuit of Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record.
One of my favorite recent moments in baseball came two years ago when the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter in the very first big league game that his father, who lives in Puerto Rico, ever saw his son pitch in person. Well, the Giants traded Sanchez this offseason . . . for Cabrera.
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