Have analytics ripped the soul out of baseball?
TOKYO — Fans watch professional sports because they want to see athletes do things that they cannot do. People need heroes and so they go to an athletic event hoping to see the athletes do heroic things. A batter hitting four homers in one game or a pitcher throwing a no-hitter. They perform feats that inspire us and keep us talking about them long after the athletes have left the field.
Watching great sporting feats can be as moving as listening to a fine symphony orchestra perform Beethoven’s 9th on Christmas Eve at NHK Hall or viewing Rembrandt’s fully-restored Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. They lift our spirits and stir something deep inside us.
One such feat I clearly remember came in August 1973 when Yutaka Enatsu, the Hanshin Tigers ace, pitched a 12-inning no-hitter against the Chunichi Dragons and hit a sayonara home run to win the game 1-0.
Among the heroic feats one can possibly witness in sports, one of the least likely is a perfect game. There have only been 23 in all of MLB history and 16 in NPB. Those numbers might have grown to 24 and 17 this month, had it not been for what some people view as overly cautious managers who prematurely removed their pitchers.