Friday, June 04, 2010

In an Imperfect World, Why Not Do the Right Thing?

As you may have heard, on Wednesday night, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga threw what should have been the third perfect game--27 up, 27 down, no hits, walks or errors--of the 2010 season.

As the replay above shows, the 27th batter, Cleveland's Jason Donald, clearly should have been called out on a close play at first, but the umpire Jim Joyce called him safe. Galarraga, without protesting at the time, then retired the next batter. His manager, Jim Leyland, and teammates barraged Joyce after the last out, prompting Joyce to watch a replay immediately after leaving the field.

Upon doing so, Joyce demonstrated great class--and distinction from other umps who maintain a belligerent air of infallibility even when clearly in error--by admitting his mistake. Through tears, he said ""I took a perfect game from that kid."

Galarraga continued his remarkable display of grace, refusing to condemn Joyce and instead offering an ironic summation, "Nobody's perfect." And after learning how devastated the well-respected Joyce was about blowing the call, Leyland went to the umpire's room to console him.

Along with the replay being shown innumerable times, lots of words have been written and spoken about the missed call, and even more so the aftermath, which included Galarraga delivering the Tigers' lineup to Joyce on Thursday, when Joyce was coincidentally the home plate umpire. Detroit News columnist Lynn Henning had a nice summation of what had happened, which was not only unprecedented in many ways, but likely considerably even more newsworthy than what would've been the first perfect game in Tigers history and only the 21st ever in baseball, yet strangely the third within 2 months of the 2010 season.

Also on Thursday, it was reported that Major League Baseball, and particularly Commissioner Bud Selig, was considering giving Galarraga official credit for pitching a perfect game. But although the notoriously spineless Selig released a statement saying that "there is no dispute that last night's game should have ended differently" and that he would review both the umpiring system and the expanded use of instant replay in baseball, Selig refused to overturn the call and award Galarraga a perfect game.

While Selig didn't explain his rationale, several professional commentators and a few baseball-loving friends have supported Selig's decision, seemingly on the grounds that 1) Human error, including umpiring mistakes, has long been part of baseball and MLB has consciously decided not to implement instant replay for calls such as Joyce's. Thus, the logic goes, Selig shouldn't change an on-the-field decision & result based on evidence seen in a replay; and 2) In the annals of history, and even on any given day, there are many botched calls--some with much greater consequence in terms of the outcome of games--and no others have been changed after the fact.

I respect both these reasons, and the possible Pandora's Box a controversial decision by Selig might open, in terms of what he might be asked to review in the future. And perhaps contradictorily, while I do not categorically disapprove of greater use of instant replay, I am somewhat concerned about how seamlessly it can be implemented in baseball and am not yet a proponent.

But while it might seem a somewhat "head in the sand" approach, I say damn the torpedoes, don't worry the inconsistencies and ramifications, and officially award Galarraga perfect game. One that will forever be officially considered as such by the Baseball Hall of Fame,, Wikipedia and all other keepers of such records.

There is no question that Galarraga pitched what should have resulted in a perfect game. This is an unprecedented circumstance, and no one, from the Indians to Jason Donald would be harmed or could seemingly object. And we're talking about baseball, not a war tribunal or a dispute over territorial boundaries.

Especially given the grace shown by Galarraga, the honesty & sorrow displayed by Joyce and the forgiveness offered by Leyland, Selig shouldn't just "do the popular thing," but nonetheless heed the opinion of over 75% voters in multiple polls on the matter and issue a simple statement saying:

"Armando Galarraga deserves to be credited for pitching a perfect game on June 2, 2010 and I am using the power of my office to see that he is."

Over. Done. Turn off the pundit debates on ESPN. Ignore all questions. Do the right thing and move forward. The world will keep spinning. Life will continue. Justice will be done. And a class act like Armando Galarraga will take his rightful place in the annals of baseball records that celebrate scum like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

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