A few nights ago, Texas Rangers fans cheered on as Rich Harden, making his first start since coming off the disabled list, went six and two-thirds without giving up a run. After 111 pitches, Manager Ron Washington rightly pulled him from the game.
As much as we all love to see pitchers go deep into games and complete no-hitters, the managers have an obligation to the team to keep their starting five healthy, especially those who have just come off of yet another DL stint.
The reason that fans want to see pitchers go all the way and pitch no-hitters is because fans live in the moment. Everything a fan does at a game reflects this attitude. During the game on Monday a smattering of “boos” could be heard when Ron Washington decided to pull Rich Harden. But unlike fans, managers have to think long-term in the best interest of the team – and right now Washington’s team needs Harden to be healthy when it comes time for the playoffs.
Edwin Jackson, who was formally with the Arizona Diamondbacks and now plays for the Chicago White Sox, pitched a no-hitter back in his Arizona days. He put up 149 pitches in the game and gave up eight walks on his way to the no-hitter. At the time of his no-hitter, Jackson was playing for a team with little to no hope of going to the playoffs, so they did not have to worry about saving his arm for the postseason. Since being traded to Chicago, he has pitched no more than 112 pitches because the White Sox are right in the thick of a divisional battle with rival Minnesota.
Just because fans want to see Rich Harden pitch the no-hitter doesn’t mean that it could – or should – happen from the team’s standpoint. Just ask any of Harden’s teammates if they would rather have him risk another injury finishing the game, or whether they would have him in the postseason healthy and ready to go. Something tells me they would choose the former.
Besides, Ranger fans will appreciate it in the end if Harden gets to go nine innings in the World Series with 120 pitches.