1. The Padres' and Mets' no-no-hitter streaks
The Padres, born in 1969, and the Mets, dating even further back to 1962, both have no-hitter-less streaks to their name that go beyond statistically improbable. Both have obviously come close as they roll past 7,000 and 8,000 games in their respective histories. The Padres were most dishearteningly done in by a two-out single the ninth inning of this 1972 game against the Phillies. You can read the whole sad history in this MLB.com feature. The Mets, meanwhile, almost got one in 2012 when Johan Santana came within a few inches, only to have Carlos Beltran’s shot down the line land fair for the Cardinals’ only hit. Someday, we assume, both teams will finally break their no-hitter dry spell. –Zachary Levine
2. The Tigers' Hall-of-Famer-less roster streak, 1975-present
This streak will likely end in the next five years when Pudge Rodriguez is up for election. (Jay Jaffe guesstimates that this will happen around 2020.) But when Al Kaline retired in 1974, little did he know that he’d be the last Hall of Famer on a Tigers active roster for 40 years and counting.
Sparky Anderson did manager the team from 1975-1999, and managers do wear uniforms, so the team can at least hang their hat on that. But he never played for the Tigers, although on some of those early 90s teams, he might as well have tried.
The arguments for Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell just didn’t convince the voters (or currently aren’t). Gary Sheffield, who is still on the ballot, probably isn’t getting in either. Miguel Cabrera seems Hall-bound once he hangs up his large jersey, and if Justin Verlander hangs around long enough could limp his way into discussion, but Pudge Rodriguez still ultimately seems like the slumpbuster, in which case the drought will only be 1975-2003, at which we get back to talking about Trammell and Whitaker.
The next longest drought is the Pirates after Willie Stargell retired in 1982, although Barry Bonds ought to shorten that drought someday. And it should be noted the Rockies have never employed a Hall of Fame player or manager, for various reasons. –Matt Sussman
3. Derek Jeter's 0-for-32 skid in 2004
This one had all of the necessary elements to cause hysteria: The sport’s most popular player, the country’s largest media market, and a fluky small sample size nestled into April’s fickle penchant for inciting reactionary analysis. Off to a relatively poor start anyway, Derek Jeter fell into the worst slump of his career beginning on April 21st, when he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a win over Chicago. It would take six games and seven days before he registered another knock, a stretch of time long enough to make the baseball world go crazy: Jeter’s hitless streak attracted SportsCenter’s attention, became , and prompted at least one senior citizen to submit his to end the slump (“pick up your bat and stand in front of the mirror and swing away.”)
Though some of the baseball world wondered whether a bruised hand or the pressure of standing next to Alex Rodriguez had turned Jeter into a scrub, the future Hall of Fame shortstop predictably returned to form. Beginning with his slump-busting homer on April 29th, Jeter went on to hit .313/.368/.514 over the rest of the year; had he maintained those numbers over a full season, 2004 would have been his finest offensive campaign since 1999. –Brendan Gawlowski
4. Another 0-for-32 slump, this one by Stephen Vogt
Long before Stephen Vogt led all catchers in True Average, he was known as a guy who couldn't hit big-league pitching. Vogt started his career 0-for-32, a streak that stretched across two seasons and organizations. Back then, there was little sign Vogt would be in the majors come 2015, let alone enjoying success. He had no problem making contact, but his contact was often weak; factor in a limited defensive profile, and he looked like a future and longtime member of the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Vogt has since proved those assumptions to be wrong, all while serving as a good reminder that not every player who looks overpowered at the onset of his big-league career is doomed. –R.J. Anderson
5. Barry Bonds' two-week RBI-less streak
Barry Bonds was superhuman in 1993. After signing the largest free-agent contract in baseball history as the reigning MVP, Bonds proved to be worth way more than the money he was paid. After 40 Giants games, he was batting .427/.544/.802. After 80, he was at .355/.471/.698. After 120, .341/.464/.714. He was unstoppable. He could not be stopped.
Sadly, that might have been as true off the field as on it. Late in August, Bonds and his then-wife, Sun, had a fight that led to the police being called. She said he grabbed her neck and kicked her. He said he only kicked her in the butt, after she ripped at his shirt in a rage. No charges were filed, though, and a month later, Bonds was officially cleared.
In the meantime, though, something interesting happened. Or rather, one thing interestingly did not happen, and then once it did, another thing (even more interestingly) stopped happening. The incident was not reported publicly for over a week. During that strange stretch of silence, Bonds mashed just the way he always had, helping the Giants cling to a lead over the charging Braves in the Last Great Pennant Race. He played seven games between the fight and the San Jose Mercury-News story about it, and in them, he hit .417/.516/.667. The story came out on September 3rd, but since the Giants were just getting into St. Louis for a three-game series, Bonds wasn’t asked about it until after that day’s game.
From September 4th through September 15th, Bonds batted .250/.341/.333, with three doubles, three unintentional walks, and not one RBI. He had a negative or negligible Win Probability Added in eight of 11 games, and the Giants went 2-9. It was, to that point, the second-longest stretch of his career without a run driven in, after a rather meaningless bender for the non-contending 1987 Pirates. Dusty Baker benched Bonds in the last of those games, bringing him in only to (unsuccessfully) pinch-hit late.
Bonds got it back on track in a huge way after that, so credit his manager with recognizing the need for a day off. The star slugger starrishly slugged his way to a .333/.472/.796 line over his final 17 games. Still, that short slump left the Giants hanging, and the Braves took the division from them by a single game. Bonds’s personal turmoil didn’t seem to damage his play so long as it remained a secret, but for one memorable stretch after the dirty laundry hit the line, he seemed to be hitting naked. It’s a good reminder of three things:
- The advantage an athlete gets when he senses a mental edge over the competition, be it a secret weapon the opponent doesn’t know about, or an exceptional ability to compartmentalize.
- The danger in building up such an edge in one’s mind, which is that if the balloon pops, life gets tough for a while.
- Barry Bonds’s more sinister transgressions. While he was a phenomenal ball player and the media’s reaction to his steroid use were wildly out of line, we ought to remember that Bonds gave perfectly good reasons never to root for him, too.
6. Bartolo Colon's streak of not throwing balls
Here's a fun thought experiment: What if pitchers didn't throw balls? Like, not that the concept of a ball didn't exist, but rather that it had just died out a long time ago, becoming an anachronism like smallpox. Remember when 2-2 counts existed?, old men would tell their grandchildren while sitting them on a knee. I don't, pop-pop, the child would respond, feeling sorrow at the encroach of senility on his grandfather's mind.
Well, we got a glimpse of this utopian future world a little more than three years ago, when Bartolo Colón, then an Oakland Athletic, just decided to stop missing the zone for 38 straight pitches against the Angels. Here's the video:
Now, just for purposes of full disclosure: Colón's fourth pitch, that Maicer Izturis hit to Daric Barton for a groundout, would have been a ball. (Though you never know, with the ominous expansion of the lower portion of the strike zone we're seeing today.) He throws one later, to Kendrys Morales, that's about halfway down his shins and is fouled off. Also probably a ball. But a strike in the flow of the game, which what counts.
The monotony is simply astounding. It's almost all fastballs, either two-seamers with absolutely comical lateral movement or four-seamers in the low 90s that make an appearance when Colón feels like rearing back. He throws a changeup at 83 mph to whiff Morales, but that's it in terms of offspeed stuff. The play-by-play team takes notice at the 27-pitch and 31-pitch marks, but the crowd seems to be unaware, in contrast to the building energy seen in feats like Doug Fister's nine consecutive strikeouts.
When Colón eventually does miss, it's only barely so, on a 92 mph four-seamer that skirts the outside corner. It's the higher one on the chart below.
And so ends our ball-less odyssey. There was hard contact, yes, and two hits, even. That's to be expected, because Colón's stuff wasn't overpowering, and when you're in the zone, you're giving hitters pitches that they can, well, hit. But it was intoxicating nonetheless. Bartolo Colón is at once from the past and the future, from a time when players had guts befitting the beer guys, but also from a time when players' mechanics have become so finely tuned and repeatable that a crucial aspect of the game simply dies out. –Ian Frazer
7. Tony Clark's historic aversion to steal attempts
May 11th, 2001 was a big day for a big man on the basepaths. Everyone’s favorite MLBPA president, Tony Clark, was embarking upon what would be the only All-Star season of his 15-year career. Playing against the Angels in front of 18,000 fans at Comerica Park, Clark was driven home from second in the fourth inning on a Dean Palmer double and came around again from second in the sixth inning on a Damion Easley inside-the-park home run.
However, the 6-foot-8 first baseman’s most notable moment on the basepaths that day came when he attempted to do something that he hadn’t done in nearly two years: swipe a bag.
With Palmer batting in the bottom of the second, Clark took off from first as Ramon Ortiz struck Palmer out…
…and was promptly nailed at second by Jose Molina.
Tony Clark would reach base 744 more times in his career before retiring and never again attempted to steal a base. It was the longest such streak of all-time. —Steven Jacobson
8. Charlie O'Brien's stolen-base-less streak
There have perhaps been worse basestealers than Charlie O'Brien, who stole one base in 2,600 career plate appearances. Gus Triandos, for instance, stole one base in 4,400 plate appearances. Russ Nixon stole zero bases in 2,700 plate appearances. But what makes O'Brien, to me, the worst basestealer ever is that, unlike those guys, he kept on trying. While the four players with more career PA than him and one or no stolen bases combined to get caught stealing nine times, O'Brien was caught 10 times all by himself. Busted hit-and-runs, you'd assume, which makes the end of his stolen base drought so interesting. In 1993, his eighth season, he stole second in the eighth inning of a 4-1 game. It was, so far as I can tell, not a busted hit and run or a trick play or anything of the sort; indeed, there were two outs (so a missed sacrifice bunt is out of the question) and the pitcher, Mike Maddux, was hitting, so a hit-and-run is out of the question. Rather, it appears that Rob Dibble, the pitcher, was so frustrated at having allowed a pair of insurance runs to score on O'Brien's preceding single, and so unconcerned about a runner reaching scoring position with the pitcher up, that he simple allowed O'Brien to take whatever liberties were required to take second base. The stolen base meant almost nothing; the O'Brien's Mets were already up three, so their win expectancy didn't budge from 96 percent (nor did it when Maddux made the third out a moment later). But maybe it meant a little something? I didn't previously have an opinion about Charlie O'Brien, but I don't like Rob Dibble, and I like to imagine that in his moment of frustration Charlie O'Brien found the perfect little way to rub it in and make Rob Dibble ever redder. So I'm going to consider Charlie O'Brien's stolen base to be a Moral Good, part of baseball's contribution to the positive side of the universe's ledger, like that time so-and-so hit a home run for a kid with cancer. —Sam Miller
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