Quite a few of you have asked my take on the Armando Galarraga perfect game. In case you’re not a baseball fan (i.e. most of my readers) – on Wednesday night Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game. That means he retiring in order every batter he faced. No hits, no walks, nothing. 27 up and 27 down. How rare is this feat? There have been only 20 perfect games in the 100+ year history of major league baseball. (Amazingly, we’ve had two in a month). So yeah, pretty damn special.
Galarraga was one out away. The batter hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield. The first baseman tossed the ball to Galarraga who was covering and on a bang-bang play the runner was out. But the umpire, Jim Joyce ruled that he was safe. Instant replay show indisputably that the runner was out. Galarraga was robbed of the greatest moment of his life by a bad call.
After the game the umpire saw the replay and was horrified to learn that indeed he had blown it. To his credit, Joyce was shaken, tearful, and incredibly apologetic.
The next batter grounded out and that was that.
Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, was asked to reverse the call. He has that authority. He chose to let the call the stand, even though he acknowledged it was the wrong call.
This has sparked a huge debate. So I’ve been asked – do I think the commissioner should have reversed the call?
Most of my media compadres disagree with me. They claim that a commissioner stepping in and changing a call would open a Pandora’s Box. If he changes one call, why not another? Would this set a precedent and suddenly every other week he’s being asked to change one bad call or another? At the end of the day the Tigers won the game despite the blown call and that’s all that’s really important.
That is a valid position. Except for two things:
There HAS been a precedent set. In 1983 American League president Lee MacPhail overturned an umpire's call in the 1983 George Brett "pine tar" incident. The world didn't end.
And secondly, baseball fans – the folks that follow the game, go out to the Park, buy the hot dogs – they don’t give a shit about precedents being set. They just want the wrong made right. You’re not “giving” anything to Galarraga. He “earned” the perfect game. To deny him on ceremony is merely compounding the offense.
Jim Joyce (who is a lovely guy and normally an excellent umpire) and his family are being mercilessly harassed. No matter what he does the rest of his life this will follow him. People remember. Ask any baseball fan who Don Denkinger is and see what they say. Reversing the call will take the heat off him… and more importantly, his family.
The jury is out on whether Bud Selig is a good commissioner or a disaster. The game has prospered under his watch. Innovations like wild card teams and interleague play have been big successes. But the steroid era has been during his reign. He canceled the 1994 World Series during a labor dispute (how ‘bout that for setting a precedent?) and decided to let the 2002 All-Star game end in a tie. Rightly or wrongly, fans believe he is tool of the owners and not a guardian of the game’s best interests.
Reversing the call would go a long way towards satisfying the fans he claims to represent.
Baseball is never proactive. It only changes once its shamed into changing. It took senate hearings and the threat of losing their Anti-Trust exemption to get baseball to really attack the steroid problem. A coach has to lose his life before protective helmets became mandatory. It took embarrassing replays of bad calls to get them to employ even limited instant replay. And now, especially if this horrible call stands, good luck preventing more instant replay situations from going into effect.
The call will probably never be overturned, which I think is a shame. But it’s not like there hasn’t been a precedent for that either. Didn’t Al Gore actually win the 2000 presidential race?