You don’t have to reach too deeply into the bag of diplomatic sports interview responses before you uncover the above gem. A sacred and universal tradition among interviewees dictates that it should be left close to the top of the bag, owing to the frequent need for its retrieval. In football, the unwritten code instructs one to return the phrase by nestling it between “they played a great game” and “they made it difficult for us early doors.”
The question of whether the statement can be substantiated from metaphysical first principles for a zero-sum game with only two possible outcomes, such as a baseball match, rarely gets the consideration that it merits. In other words, it’s bullshit — unless the game was in the infinitesimally small pool of contest in which the two teams were exactly even in their performance level.
But how about the phrases “neither moundsman deserved to lose” or “neither twirler deserved to lose”? (Both of them, incidentally, are making their debut on the Internet, or at least the portion of it accessible by the Google search engine. Try / it.) If the duellists both put in solid efforts that would on an average day get them a win, then it makes sense to say that neither deserved to be charged with a loss.
All of the above represents a circuitous way for me to say that I’m not being silly in writing the following:
In the opening game at Northbrooks Playing Fields last Sunday, neither pitcher deserved to lose.
Jamie Ratcliff twirled a shutout as the Harlow Nationals bested the Bracknell Blazers. The 18-year-old Brit gave up his first and only hit of the game when he was just two outs away from a no-hitter. It would be extremely difficult to make a case that he deserved the loss. His opponent, Henry Collins, also went the distance but gave up a run. You would feel irked in the Major Leagues if you gave up a solitary tally and still lost, but in British baseball it is almost unthinkable. A past victim of the “almost unthinkable” was Nic Goetz, whose one run given up in a complete game for Herts against Croydon on 30 May 2010 was one run too many.
In the game last Sunday, Collins — the only British born-and-bred winner of the Most Valuable Pitcher award in the past 10 years — gave up a pair of hits, a walk, and a run in the first inning, but over the next four frames the only damage to his pitching line was a bare single. In the sixth, he gave up a lead-off hit but seconds later erased the blemish with a well-executed pick-off play. Deeper into the inning, he gave up his only extra-base hit, to Edwin Alcanatara. It could be argued that he made a mistake with that pitch, but to the batter in question anything that doesn’t bounce (and even some that do) could potentially end up being branded a “mistake”, such is the unorthodox and ever-thrilling interpretation of the strike-zone by the Dominican gentle giant, last year’s triple-crown winner.
Perhaps I have missed the point. I should not have become involved in lamenting the unjustness — the losing pitcher and his squad-mates were capable of looking after that themselves. Instead, I should have been celebrating this rare scoreline. But I felt like throwing a pitch in the dirt myself, and as a fan of this marvellous sport I am sure you had little trouble in blocking it.