My family is made up entirely of White Sox fans. A few years ago we created a season-long game where we all pick "a guy." At the beginning of each April we choose a White Sox player, and for the rest of the season, that player is our guy. When he does something well, we give the family member credit as if they were the one who did something positive. Its like our own uber-simplified form of fantasy baseball. My mom may not know much about the south siders, but she knows that, as she'd say, "Thome's my homey!"
This year the rest of my family chose the following players- Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye, and Carlos Quentin. The common trend is that they're all position players. Except for me and my guy.
Every year we've done this game, I've chosen a guy who will only take the field every fifth game. And its just about a Hall family consensus that I've won our game every year. Why? Because my guy has always been Mark Buehrle.
People are often confused on how to spell his last name. As we know from Thursday, its simple: just seven letters... P-E-R-F-E-C-T.
Like most of you I was texting friends and family from the 7th inning on. I posted more tweets in that final half hour of the game than I normally do in a week. Sitting on my couch I was literally nervous. And I can only imagine what my neighbors would have thought if they heard me scream like a mad man when Dewayne Wise made one of the best catches in regular season baseball history.
Let's pause there for a second. Ozzie put Wise in the game for his defense. (ah, decent call there Skip!) Wise is a lefty. When he got on his horse there in the 9th, it was his right-handed glove that was closest to the wall, giving just enough reach and mobility to make that catch-bobble-catch. And as #31 walked through the sky to make that grab, I couldn't help but remember just a few days ago when the team made a roster change. They had to send an outfielder down to make room for Carlos Quentin. Many were surprised that Kenny Williams sent down right-handed Brian Anderson- a man known for his glove- and kept Wise in Chicago. (ah, decent call there GM!)
Though that catch will go down as one of the most legendary in baseball history... it is given that added importance because of the job done by the man on the bump.
Buehrle didn't just throw a perfect game. He did it without his regular catcher behind the plate. He did it in a hitter's park. He did it against the defending league champs. He did it against a pretty good hitting team (2nd best On Base Percentage in MLB, 3rd most runs scored in MLB, 5th most hits in MLB). He did it while, once again, shattering baseball tradition by openly talking about his perfect game to his teammates.
Now for a handful of years I've claimed that he's one of the two most underrated players in baseball, along with Roy Halladay. I still believe that. I'm not going to get caught up in the emotion of the day and say the lefty's a Hall of Famer, cause he's not (yet). But lets look at his stats.
38th round draft pick.
8 full seasons in the majors... 8 seasons of 200+ innings pitched.
30 years old with 132 wins.
4 all star games.
1 all star game start.
1 World Series title.
1 no hitter.
1 perfect game.
How about the valuable things that don't show up in the stats. Like how on the mound, he does his work faster than the Micro Machine guy. (someone clocked how long Buehrle was on the mound Thursday at 32 minutes total). Or how in '05 he started a World Series game, and then the very next game entered in the 14th inning so he could use his tired arm to give the Sox the save. Or the way he handled his latest contract. Do you remember when he was negotiating his new deal in 2007? His concern wasn't more money... everyone knew he could get more money elsewhere. He took less cash to re-sign with the Sox. He wanted to make sure there was a no-trade clause in there...so he could stay in the only MLB uniform he's ever known.
Probably at least five great years away from being seriously considered as one of baseball's best. But on the south side he can quit right now and he'll sit right up there with Billy Pierce, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ted Lyons and Red Faber as the best hurlers the black and white have ever seen.
Personally, I've only had a chance to meet him one time. I was lucky enough to throw out a first pitch in July of that magical 2005 season. And sure enough, Buehrle was the man at the receiving end of the ceremonial toss. As he jogged back to the mound to give me the ball to keep, he joked, "Now make sure you're nice to me on TV."
Before I end this, Cubs fans probably haven't continued to read this article... they probably quit once they realized there wasn't much here for them. But I'll end it by reminding north side supporters... at least you're not the Mets. The entire Metropolitan organization has zero no hitters... Mark Buehrle has two.
That's my kinda guy.