Adjective, first definition: Being entirely without fault or defect : flawless.
Source: Merriam Webster (linked here)
The performance that Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle had against Tampa Bay last week, and tried to do again Minnesota on Tuesday, was pretty dang special. They’ll have to reprint the MLB record books because of it.
At one stretch, it was 45 up, 45 down, over two games. Johnny Vandemeer wishes he did that.
But let’s not call Buehrle Mr. Perfect. Aside from the fact there may be some copyright complications that factor into that equation.
Perfection has yet to be reached. So why contaminate the term with marketing-type mumbojumbo hype that serves no purpose except to explain to a non-baseball fan why something that’s far from perfect is called “perfect” in the baseball world.
The fact Buehrle is in the same category as Cy Young, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax and Jim Bunning — all current or future Hall of Famers — as someone who’s thrown a no-hitter and a perfect game in their career is special.
But again, it hardly makes him, or his feats, perrrrrrrrfect.
According to baseball’s rule lords, the current accepted defintion of what a “perfect game” constitutes (linked here) is when a pitcher (or pitchers) a) wins a game that goes a minimum of nine innings, b) throws a no-hitter, c) throws a shutout, d) does not allow a hit, walk, hit batsman or opposing player to reach base for any reason.
Twenty seven up. Twenty seven down.
Perfect? Not even in a perfect world.
It’s a perfect opportunity to discuss the term.
What Buehrle did was … a very, very, very good no-hitter. Add another very if you wish. But that’s all.
What, for example, would we call it if a pitcher did all of the above, and struck out all 27 batters?
A sign from God? A point where baseball should stop existing because it can’t get any better?
Now, isn’t that much closer to perfect than the current definition of “perfect”?
Roger Clemens twice struck out 20 in a game (about 10 years apart). Once, Kerry Wood did it.
They were not just seven Ks short of perfection, but they’d also allowed some base runners.
On April 26, 1986 at Fenway Park, Clemens beat Chicago, 3-1 (linked here) and gave up three hits with no walks.
On Sept. 16, 1996 at Tiger Stadium, Clemens beat Detroit 5-0 (linked here) and gave up five hits, with no walks.
On May 6, 1996 at Wrigley Field, Wood beat Houston 2-0 (linked here) on a one-hitter, with no walks, but one hit batter.
In our imperfect world, perfection can be achieved. It just hasn’t yet. God knows, we’re far from it. Close, but yet so far.
If you need more of a perfect structure to try to get your head around the word perfect, Thesaurus.com (linked here) tries it with substitutes: Absolute, beyond compare, defectless, faultless, pure, spotless, supreme. unblemished, unequaled, unmarred, untained, untarnished and utopian.
But it also offers up: A-OK, excellent, excelling, experienced, ideal, out-of-this-world, paradisiac, skilled, skillful, sound and splendid.
Really? Just A-OK? Maybe that’s our problem. We’ve set the bar too low on what’s really perfect and what’s kinda-perfect.
Mark Buehrle isn’t Mr. Perfect. There is no such thing. If there was, they’d stop making chick flicks.