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How can you not feel conflicted about baseball?

Perfection isn’t always perfect.

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MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

I want to start this off by making a couple things clear. First, I am in no way telling anyone what they should or should not do. We’re all different people with unique sets of emotions and feelings on this big rock in space. This is merely meant to express my own thoughts on the matter and help me cope through how I process last night’s events.

Secondly, I’d like to own up to my own hypocrisy. Even though my wife was fast asleep and my dog is the most perfect girl in the world who would never spill my state secrets, I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t at least admit that a part of me was rooting for it to happen.

Especially once the ninth inning started, I was engaged. I wanted to go to bed, I wanted to stop watching, but I couldn’t. I am, after all, a baseball fan, too. Not only was I interested in the perfect game, but I’ve become fascinated with the concept of Madduxes (complete game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches thrown) over the past few years, and that was also on the line.

Then, he did it. On Domingo Germán’s 99th pitch of the night, he secured just the 24th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

The term itself is mildly amusing because the history of perfect games — like the National Baseball Hall of Fame itself — is filled with many pitchers who are far from “perfect” people. I don’t want to dwell too much on that though, but if nothing else, Germán’s perfect night, adds to that history ... perfectly.

And that is my conflict. As much as I don’t want to, I feel the need to quickly recap where my struggle stems from. Please remember, just because there were no criminal charges or police report filed, that does not mean a person is “innocent.”

According to The Athletic, Germán and his girlfriend (the mother of his children) attended a gala in 2019 where he got drunk and slapped her at the event. Later that night once they got home, Germán became “violent.” She hid in a locked room and called the wife of one of Germán’s teammates for help, hiding there until both the teammate and his wife came to their home. The teammate’s wife stayed with German’s girlfriend, while the teammate tried to “attempted to calm down Germán, who is said to have been angry and belligerent.”

New York Yankees vs Tampa Bay Rays Set Number: X162785 TK1

MLB investigated the incident and found enough reason to suspend Germán for 81 games. If there was a reason that he did not deserve such a “harsh” punishment, the Players Association would have a legal field day with MLB, and as Mike Clevinger recently demonstrated, the league doesn’t always dole out suspensions in these cases.

Ultimately, Germán served his suspension, didn’t pitch in 2020, and the baseball world essentially moved on. But just because someone “paid his dues” doesn’t mean I have to be OK with that person. It certainly doesn’t mean I have to be okay with him being on my favorite team. And it definitely doesn’t mean that I have to celebrate the man even when he accomplished something matched by only 23 pitchers before him in MLB history. I haven’t changed my tune on Germán and still refuse. There will never be a unanimous opinion on this, but to me, the best time to cut Domingo Germán would’ve been when the Yankees first got wind of what happened that September night (at an event hosted by one of their own players, no less). The second-best time to cut him would be right now.

I had resolved to not fully watch this game because Germán was the one on the mound, just as I do in all of his starts. It made it easier to initially check out because had just given up 17 runs over his past two starts. I figured he’d bounce back against a struggling A’s team, one that’s been stripped to the bones by its dreadful owner with a pittance of a payroll that put the ballclub in, well, perfect position for something like this to happen. I also didn’t care to watch it all unfold — particularly when the offense has been as pathetic as ever. There was just no way this game was going to be enjoyable for me. So I did other things as I occasionally checked in on the game.

Throughout the game, I battled with myself. I yelled at Anthony Rizzo for making that play in the fifth inning, because that meant perfection was still on the line, and then I gave him his flowers for an incredible play to keep it alive.

I didn’t know what to do. I started thinking about how I would feel if Germán actually pulled this off. I had no desire to celebrate him or talk about him. Then I kept thinking about Rizzo and that play he made.

That’s when it hit me. It wasn’t just Germán who was perfect last night. The nine other guys who played the field last night were perfect as well. Maybe if it was a 27-strikeout night it would be all about Germán, but 18 of his 27 outs came because everyone was perfect. That’s how I resolved to celebrate perfection if it happened.

Germán twirled a perfect game, but Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Volpe, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Harrison Bader, Giancarlo Stanton, Oswaldo Cabrera, and especially game-calling catcher Kyle Higashioka all played a perfect game and they should all be remembered just as fondly. They’re why I was rooting for perfection in the ninth. I wanted to see history. I wanted them to make history. And they did.

And from my end, I do wish a hearty congratulations to the whole Yankees ballclub on their achievement last night. Ask Kenny Rogers, Mark Buehrle, or Matt Cain if their perfectos would’ve been possible without their exceptional defense behind them. The cliché exists for a reason: It really is a team effort.

One thing I’ve come to terms with in recent years is that there is no right way to be a fan. Everyone has to be a fan in their own way and on their own terms. For some, sports is a pure escape and the only thing that matters is what happens on the playing field. There’s nothing wrong with that. I sometimes envy those of you who can be a fan in that way. For me, yes I do root for the laundry, but I care about who’s putting the clothes in the basket as well. So while I couldn’t find joy in the player on the mound who tossed a perfect game, I found my joy in everyone else who contributed to that night.