On Wednesday, June 2nd, Armando Gallarraga pitched a perfect game. That means 27 batters up, 27 batters down. History will not record this perfect game feat, however. With 2 outs in the 9th inning, first-base umpire Jim Joyce blew the call. Indians shortstop Jason Donald hit a ground ball, and was one step late at the bag. Joyce made the safe call, ending Galarraga’s chance for a perfect game. But that call was wrong. A crowd of nearly 18,000 Detroit fans knew it was a wrong. Galarraga was stunned, and didn’t even argue the call. The next batter grounded out giving the Tigers a 3-0 victory, but no perfect game that night.
Joyce, 22 year veteran umpire, offered a tearful apology which Galarraga graciously accepted. Joyce could tell by watching the replay that his call was wrong. Millions of baseball fans around the country can easily tell the call was wrong. There is no disagreement by anyone that the call was wrong. So why does it stand? That, my friend, is the right question.
MLB makes very limited use of the instant replay. Once not used in baseball at all, it is rarely used these days for close home run calls if contested. Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig could have reversed Joyce’s call, but did not. I have a real problem here. The call was wrong; Galarraga knows it, Joyce knows it, Selig knows it. But in the fine and glorious history of Major League Baseball, the decision of the officials is always right – even when it’s not. Many close plays are called every game, and the official position taken by this commissioner is to always give their guys the god-like benefit of the doubt. (This is the same commissioner that will never let Pete Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame, even after his death. But that’s cool; someday Selig will die and Rose will get in. I don’t think it matters who the next commissioner is, Rose is Hall of Fame material and every other human being on earth knows it.)
My team is the Atlanta Braves. I will always be a fan, no matter how many killer leads they blow in the final inning. The other night they were up 4-2. The Braves pitcher then walked the bases loaded. The pitcher they brought in walked in a run. With 2 outs on the board, the 3rd pitcher to see action in the 9th inning came to the mound. His last pitch was a foot off the plate, but the game ended – mercifully for the Braves – when the homeplate ump called a strike. It literally missed the plate by a foot. The batter followed the ump all the way off the field arguing with him. The man was wrong. But no matter. The call was made and chiseled into stone for all time and eternity. Which leads me once again to ask: What the bleepity bleepity bleep is wrong with Major League Baseball?