From Glory To Goodbye: No-Hitter, Then Traded

Earlier in the week, we showed how no-hit pitchers arrived at their place of immortality. But when Francisco Liriano pitched a no-hitter Tuesday, he did more than just assure himself a permanent spot in baseball's record books. If history is any guide, he gave himself an added measure of job security.

Since 2004, 13 pitchers have thrown 15 total no-hitters (Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay have two apiece). Only three of them have changed teams since: Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza and Randy Johnson. In each case, financial considerations played a huge part in the deals.

But for the rest, large market or small, the no-hitter has helped cement their places with their teams – from Anibal Sanchez with the Marlins to Carlos Zambrano with the Cubs.

And if you think that's stability, note that of the last 13 catchers to catch the last 16 no-hitters, 11 are still with the same team. They aren't all household names, either – a good number of them, like Drew Butera for Francisco Liriano, were backups. Still, from Robby Hammock (Randy Johnson 2004) to Eli Whiteside (Jonathan Sanchez), Landon Powell (Dallas Braden) to Ramon Castro (Mark Buehrle, Part II), catching a no-hitter has been good for job security.

Not universally, of course: Miguel Olivo caught Sanchez's no-hitter in Florida, then was allowed to leave as a free agent. And just months after catching Ubaldo Jimenez's April 2010 no-hitter in Colorado, the Rockies sent him to Toronto, which promptly declined his 2011 option.

That is not to say that Liriano should buy a house in Minnesota without pause. Bud Smith pitched a no-hitter for St. Louis in September, 2001, only to get dealt in July 2002 for Scott Rolen. Indeed, the Cardinals made a habit of dealing no-hitting pitchers, trading Jose Jimenez in November 1999 as part of a seven-player deal to net Darryl Kile, just months after his June 1999 no-no. Kile, for his part, had thrown a no-hitter for Houston in 1993, then stayed an Astro until 1997. And he left of his own accord, signing a free agent contract with Colorado.

Indeed, going back further, the recent deals involving Garza and Jackson just months after their moments of glory stand out that much more. A number of no-hitter authors signed free agent contracts, but generally, no-hit pitchers like Eric Milton (the last to do it for the Twins before Liriano) and Chris Bosio earned the chance to spend years with their teams.

Exceptions like Kevin Brown and Al Leiter with the Marlins were due to financial reasons. And in the case of David Wells, who got dealt to Toronto for Roger Clemens just months after his 1998 perfect game, the Yankees saw the error of their ways and re-acquired him two years later.

Dave Stieb is probably the finest example of no-hit glory enduring. He managed, incredibly, to get 8 2/3 innings of no-hit ball, and two strikes of the way toward a no-no in consecutive starts back in 1988 for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 1989, he had a perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth. But finally, on September 2, 1990, he pitched that elusive no-hitter. It appeared back problems had ended his career in 1993, but five years later, he wanted to come back. Who gave him another chance? That magical no-hit place, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Of course, to truly assure himself a permanent place in Minnesota for as long as he wants, Liriano would be best off throwing multiple no-hitters. Of the five pitchers with three or more, Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax weren't traded once from the moment they threw their first (though Ryan moved around a bit, thanks to lucrative free agent contracts). Cy Young and Larry Corcoran got traded and loaned, respectively, but both notched their no-nos in the dead ball era.

And if Liriano can perform the feat back-to-back, he should be even safer. Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher to perform such a feat, back in 1938. That kept him in Cincinnati until February, 1950.


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