Way back in the dark days of the 2006 offseason when the Red Sox slid from World Series Champs in 2004 to an AL East first-place tie in 2005 to a third-place finish behind the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in 2006, an idea was hatched deep inside a New England furniture chain: A contest where the customers would get free furniture if the Red Sox won the World Series.
The premise was simple: “customers who buy furniture between March 7 and April 16  that if the Sox take the crown, their purchases are free.” That was the only catch - you had to spend the money in the spring and hope that not only would the Sox have a good season, not only that they would make the playoffs and reach the World Series but win.
Just three short years removed from The Curse, this had more of the feeling of a contestant on Deal or No Deal who doesn’t understand fractions. But if you were in the market for furniture anyway and thought a long-shot refund based on the success of your favorite team would make for a fun time...you know the story. The fans got free furniture!
Warren Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway purchased Jordan’s Furniture in 1999, revealed that the promotion cost his company $60 million dollars. The promotion was a hit and Jordan’s has experimented with this sort of thing again and again over the years.
2021 is no different. Except that the criteria for winning free furniture requires that you 1) “make a purchase between April 14, 2021 and May 16, 2021” and 2) “[the] Red Sox pitch a No-Hitter between August 3rd and October 3rd”.
There’s only one hitch: what’s a no-hitter? Well, it’s complicated.
Until 1991, if a game was shortened by rain (or other weather) or for lack of sunlight (before night games and stadium lights) or maybe even one team having to catch a train (which believe it or not happened more than once) it was considered a full game. But MLB decided to make things clearer and adopted a new rule: “A no-hitter is a game in which a pitcher or pitchers complete a game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit.” Seems straightforward enough.
It does feel a little unfair to strip these no-hitters from the record book years after the games were settled. Who knows, maybe a rain delay would have lasted just a bit longer or a resumption of play when the sun rose or a last-minute change of tickets to the next train out of town might have been option. Would adopting the rule from 1991 onward really have been that bad? Even that wouldn't have saved Devern Hansack’s five-inning perfect game in 2006.
For nearly 30 years the rule worked fine. Until 2020 when the pandemic upended everything. One of the supposed “one-year” rule changes for the short season was seven-inning doubleheaders. Last year, even with a lot of doubleheaders due to COVID scares and postponements, nothing crazy happened. While the universal DH went away after just one year, the seven-inning doubleheader, batter-facing requirements for pitchers, and the runner on second base starting in extra innings continued.
Sure enough, Madison Bumgarner had to go and cause trouble, tossing a seven-inning no-hitter in April.
IT COUNTS IN OUR BOOK.— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 25, 2021
MADISON BUMGARNER HAS THROWN A NO-HIT GAME! pic.twitter.com/nRHNWX0DVV
While the Arizona Diamondbacks are counting it themselves, in the eyes of MLB this was not a no-hitter. And the terms and conditions for the Jordan’s contest reflect MLB rules, not what the pitcher’s team decides.
The full terms posted on the Jordan’s site is honestly a bit of a fun read. “A no-hitter might not even be a win! Also, enjoy the free furniture!” While this makes sense logically (walking in a runner), it’s still odd to think about as most of us picture the dream of being at a no-hitter for our team where that team wins.
When seven-inning games weren’t scheduled as a course of action, you’d only be annoyed that the Sox could get a no-hitter before August 3rd and, well, you’re on the hook for that furniture. But with two innings shaved off the requirement, it’s slightly more likely that the Sox actually pull off a seven-inning, zero hit game. Heck, Nick Pivetta had 5 2⁄3 hitless innings on April 22. In a seven-inning game maybe you aggressively bring in Matt Barnes and lock it up. But that’s not a real no-hitter, just a game without hits.
The rule against short no-hitters makes sense in a world with nine-inning games as a standard. But when games are schedule as seven-inning affairs, even a goofy furniture promotion can become something of a feel-bad. With any luck, the only Sox no-hitters will be nine-inning wins.
If you had the powers of Rob Manfred, would you allow seven-inning doubleheader games with no hits into the record books (even if you can’t use that power to make them nine innings)?