Pinstriped Perfection


A few notes on David Cone’s perfect game:

  • It was perhaps the most dominant game ever pitched. Pitching is about control, and Cone’s control Sunday was quite possibly the best in baseball history. David Wells, last year, had two three-ball counts and two 2-0 counts in his perfect game; Cone never went to ball three and only once to 2-0. That’s control. As Joe Girardi commented afterward, “Every pitch he made was in or near the strike zone. But none of them went through it— they all went in and out of it.”

  • Unlike perfect games thrown by Sandy Koufax and Jim Bunning, Cone’s came at a time when run scoring is not only fashionable but at a near all-time high. This season, each Major League team is averaging 5.15 runs per game, the most since 1936, and the fifth-highest average since the turn of the century. Granted, the Expos aren’t the Cleveland Indians, but almost all no-hitters and perfect games victimize second-division clubs.

  • If Ricky Ledee had dropped that pop fly in the ninth inning, Cone’s “perfect” game would have been officially kaput, but this is absurd. What if the righty then retired the next two batters? Wouldn’t that have made Cone’s achievement even greater— having faced 28 batters without allowing a hit, walk, or hit batter? Wouldn’t that be a new, even more amazing category, a perfect-plus game? Major League Baseball needs to clarify this rule immediately to keep someone from suffering the fate that Cone and Ledee nearly met.

  • This one game probably sealed Cone’s Hall of Fame candidacy, but
    why was it in doubt? Granted, he has had only two seasons with at least 20 wins, but so did the Yankees’ last great money pitcher, Whitey Ford. Besides, Cone’s career-winning percentage (.647, on a 178-97 record)
    is higher than that of Greg Maddux (.635) or Randy Johnson (.639), and he has three World Series rings to argue his case.

    Called Out

    The jury’s still out on the bizarre announcement last week that Major League umps will resign en masse on September 2. Was it a clever bargaining move or a suicidal mission by Richie Phillips, chief of the umpires union?

    “It strikes me as a kind of not too intelligent ploy to renegotiate a contract that’s not yet over,” says Marvin Miller, the founding director of the baseball players union. Before he negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in U.S. pro sports, Miller spent years with the steelworkers union. It’s his knowledge of labor law that has him most skeptical. “If the union encourages a stoppage, it can be sued under the Taft-Hartley Act,” Miller tells Jockbeat.

    It doesn’t matter whether a work stoppage is from an official strike or a mass resignation— if a union’s leadership is clearly spearheading it, and there’s a no-strike clause in the contract, it’s breaking the collective-bargaining agreement and thus in violation of federal labor law. Therefore, Miller thinks management is in the driver’s seat. “The owners have a number of options,” Miller says. For instance, MLB can accept the resignations, and then look for replacements. “There’s not even the stain of recruiting scabs,” he says.

    For that reason, Miller isn’t necessarily persuaded by the potential unionization of minor league umps. “Minor league umpires are paid miserably,” Miller says. “They’d be awfully tempted to be offered that kind of scale on a permanent basis.”

    MLB can also choose to accept only the resignations of those umpires it’s been itching to fire. And, says Miller, if all the resignations are accepted, he thinks MLB’s got a pretty strong case to completely disregard the union. “If the whole bargaining unit resigns, and you hire a whole new work force, as an employer you can raise the question as to whether the union still represents them,” he points out.

    In the unlikely event that management caves in, Miller says he
    will revise his opinion. “Then I’ll have to say Phillips is brilliant,” he chuckles, “or the owners are dumb.”

    Booty Call

    The 170 km mark of the Tour de France’s 12th stage turned out to be a nice perch for a glimpse of les coureurs, as well as a fruitful spot for glomming various Tour-related bounty thrown from the endless caravanne publicitaire. Long before stage leader (and eventual winner) David Etxebarria zipped by, Jockbeat had accumulated the following: three cotton Credit Lyonnais backpacks, four Elfi propane key rings, 12 packets of Ambre Solaire suntan lotion, 10 hats (from Champion Supermarkets, Ola cell phones, and Festina watches), two gendarme pens (“Une Force Humaine”), one copy of Le Velo magazine, seven packets of Haribo (Good-n-Plenty­like) candy, one Saucisson Cochonous, one FO (a labor union) yo-yo, two video tapes touting French satellite dishes, two Michelin souvenir Tour maps, two rolls of stringy black licorice, one “Maxi Compil” CD (featuring the Jacksons, Earth, Wind & Fire, and a group called Hysteric Ego), and two rubber balls from the Ministry of the Interior proclaiming, “La Sécurité C’est l’Affaire de Tous.”

    Contributors: Allen Barra, Joanna Cagan, John Stravinsky

    Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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