Thanks to Homer Bailey’s second career no-hitter, you may not have heard that Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer reached the end of his hit streak Tuesday against the Dodgers in an 8-0 loss. Cuddyer’s streak of 27 games, the second longest single season streak since David Ortiz earlier this season and Dan Uggla’s 33 game streak in 2011 with Atlanta consisted of six homers, 19 RBI, and 42 hits. It lived for 36 calendar days and extended his club record for consecutive games reaching base mark to 46 games.
Michael Cuddyer’s streak is impressive. Ironically Bailey’s no hitter is the very reason hitting streaks today are so rare. With today’s pitching and the match-ups managers can create, to hit safely in 27 straight games is no small feat. As impressive as Cuddyer’s streak is, it is mind blowing to realize he did not even reach the halfway mark of Joe DiMaggio’s unprecedented 56 game hitting streak. Over 70 years have passed since DiMaggio set the bar at 56. In a game that revels in records and history, we value the greatness of a player by comparison to his predecessors. The records set by those predecessors are the benchmarks used to evaluate one’s spot in baseball history and in Cooperstown. Simply put, the numbers are the beauty of baseball.
Throwing no-hitters, once a rare occasion, now seem to happen every season. Perfect games have occurred more frequently over the past decade; six of the 23 in MLB history occurring within the last five years. The home run record, once held as the ultimate of baseball’s hitting records, has been tarnished by names like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and the presence of an asterisk. Amidst it all, one record continues to live on, continues to stand alone, and the list of those who chase and fail to reach its summit grows. Michael Cuddyer, who never shied away from labeling DiMaggio’s record as “unattainable,” now becomes another name on the list of those who failed to reach the hallowed 56; a list of those who managed to combine a hot bat with a fortunate bounce or two time after time again; then watched as their luck ran out as quickly as it appeared.
The consecutive hit streak is one of baseball’s most beautiful and purest records. Unlike home run records, where you can predict its contenders, the hit streak is for anyone and everyone. As Jayson Stark put it, “hit streaks all start so innocently.” They can start anywhere. Read through the list of those who failed to reach DiMaggio and you’ll see some of the greatest hitters in baseball: Rose, Sisler, Cobb, Hornsby, and Musial. On that same list you’ll find less known names like Castillo, Utley, Guerrero, Davis, and Gonzalez. All have one thing in common; they all fell short of Joe DiMaggio.
The latest contender to “The Streak” has bowed out. Michael Cuddyer was the underdog you couldn’t help but root for. A seasoned veteran rediscovering himself in Denver, Cuddyer is one deserving of such a streak. Beloved by his teammates, the guy who runs out every ground ball, and despite being 34 years old, shows up to play day in and day out. There isn’t much to dislike about Michael Cuddyer. It seemed to be the perfect storyline to add to the remarkable season he’s had thus far.
Cuddyer’s hitting streak contains an element that will escape the eyes of most baseball fans. Only the Colorado Rockies can truly appreciate the impact his streak has had. The streak started taking shape as Troy Tulowitzki’s bat left the Rockies lineup, again. It came as Walt Weiss continues to search for a pitching staff to take pressure off the offense. Ultimately, the timing of Cuddyer’s streak came at a time when Colorado needed someone to shoulder the load and keep the Rockies from tumbling down the NL West standings. He did just that.
With the streak over, the Rockies find themselves in a heated divisional race. The Dodgers, who have won nine of their last ten, join a log jam behind the Diamondbacks for the division lead. Colorado has the potential to be a playoff team. They can ill afford to see Cuddyer cool down if they hope to stay in the race. With both streaks coming to an end, Colorado can cast away superstition and re-focus its eyes on the bigger picture: October.