Armando Galarraga’s Almost Perfect Game is the most controversial baseball story to me, more so than steroids or HGH scandals. As it stands now, a couple of days after Armando Galarraga was screwed out of pitching a perfect game based on the blown call by umpire Jim Joyce, public reaction- or shall I say- MEDIA reaction has changed considerably. When it first happened, over 90% of the reporters, TV talking heads, broadcasters, color commentators, journalists, and Internet message board were solidly in favor of Baseball Interim (ha!) Commissioner Bud Selig reversing the decision via instant replay and invoking the “best interests of baseball clause”…just this once.
There was a 10% crowd that did not believe this should happen due to the “slippery slope” of having the Commission interfere with an on-field decision and rewrite the rules. Now 20% of fans are buying into the notion that Bud Selig is right not to reverse the decision, because prominent members of the MEDIA have changed their stances and have decided to follow the company line. Everyone is drinking the poison Kool-Aid and squawking like PARROTS.
I will go on the record now- as I did on Twitter and to my wife- Bud Selig had no intention of reversing the call, because “it is what it is”. Under the current system, there was a 0.0005% of a reversal happening, even less that when Selig “reviews” protested games. I used the pro wrestling analogy because WWF figurehead president Jack Tunney never reversed decisions. His explanation was “the referee’s decision must stand”- even if Ted DiBiase hired a TWIN referee and paid him off, AND Hulk Hogan’s should was UP! MLB is set-up the same way: an umpire can even admit he was paid off by gamblers, and a game result or play could not be changed. Therefore, I had no expectations for Major League Baseball to correct this injustice. That was and is my level of Acceptance ™.
Where I differed from the 10% (and now 20%) of geeks that felt they the decision SHOULD have stood is that I don’t BELIEVE it should have stood. There is a difference between me predicting that it would not be reversed with the fact that I feel it should have been reversed. This is a blatant miscarriage of justice.
Here are the reasons why Bud Selig should have reversed umpire Jim Joyce’s call:
- It’s what 80% to 90%+ of fans wanted to see; a perfect game is the ultimate achievement for a pitcher. No one wants to see an umpire get involved or ruin a perfect game on such an OBVIOUS missed call. If you include casual sports fans and people that really don’t follow baseball but heard of the news story, it really balloons up to 95%. The only people who support Bud Selig’s (lack of making a) decision are skewed traditionalists or souless stat-heads who rationalize, apologize, and support the current unfair system. Without the status quo, they would have to think for themselves and place value on the emotions of players and fans. Without authority figures, there would anarchy to them. They need the Establishment to validate their existence. They believe the myth that the baseball rulebook and “the way things have always been” is something magical and timeless. Similar to the straight laced Tigers announcer that said “He’s OUT! No, wait, he’s SAFE! He’s SAFE! He must have lost control of the ball because Jim Joyce is calling him SAFE!” these people place faith in authority figures to call the shots and to create their reality. The other two Tigers announcers said “No, he’s not!”
- People like to become armchair lawyers and say there’s no precedent for this, and if Selig did reverse the decision than Selig would be forced to rewrite other games from the past (like the 1985 World Series or 1996 Yankees-Orioles Jeffrey Maier game) AND be called upon to reverse umpire decisions from now on. That includes some future game in which your favorite player is thrown out stealing but he was really safe. But that’s not what fans wanted. Fans just wanted a ONE-TIME exception to the rule, and perhaps a revised future instant replay rule to avoid Selig getting involved.
- A baseball rulebook I have contains recommendations for umpires. One of those recommendations for the official scorer and umpires is to give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt when it comes to scoring a play to award a hit if there’s a close play during a no-hitter deep into the game. Although replays showed that the play wasn’t even CLOSE, umpire Jim Joyce should have used his instincts to give Galarraga the benefit of the doubt, based on this “rule of thumb”. When Miguel Cabrera and Jim Leyland came out to complain, Joyce should have at listed LISTENED to them, and called a quick conference with the other umpires and ask them if they had a view (for example the 2B umpire probably saw the play as well). All Joyce had to do was huddle for 30 seconds, and then signal OUT. Everyone would have celebrated, and Armando Galarraga would have thrown the 3rd perfect game in 2010. The on-field reversal would have added to the great baseball drama for 30 seconds, and would not have been unprecedented. Although rare, umpires do reverse decisions if another umpire is asked for his opinion, like on check swings. Instead, Joyce was stubborn and would not ask another umpire for a second opinion. If this happened, there would no controversy. Joyce made the choice to be on the wrong side of history. If it was a “bang-bang” quick play, according to standard umpire practices, he should have not given the runner the benefit of the doubt during the last out of a perfect game, and the other umpires should have bailed him out.
I have heard or read dozens of rationalizations for upholding this horrible decision. I can not and will not get behind these philosophical rambling defenses and the Bud Selig apologizing. As it stands now, the MEDIA has embraced the decision for a number of factors. One of them is that Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce, and the Detroit Tigers have acted in an honest, humble, and enlightened way: all has been forgiven, nothing has been protested, the olive branch has been accepted, and Galarraga comes off as a hero- the “uncrowned champion”. The City of Detroit have Galarraga a car (I think) and he is a local hero. I am happy for this because it is a human interest story, and it didn’t get uglier. Jim Joyce has become a martyr, which I don’t support that much, however. Bud Selig is viewed to have upheld the “integrity of the game” through a lame press release that didn’t even have a ruling on the matter (all news outlets misreported it). Everyone has moved on. There were tears of joy and forgiveness.
A few stat-heads said that Galarraga being called Almost Mr. Perfect makes his career much more memorable and famous than if he threw the perfect game. I say that MLB could have done the right thing and reversed the decision yesterday, and he still would have retained the popularity- it would have been the ultimate reward for him.
I won’t touch the other arguments because it’s a waste of time. I just wanted to go on the record. Going over all the counter-arguments like a lawyer is exhausting for me because the arguments are skewed, and they don’t overrule the three reasons I listed for why the decision should have been reversed. All I can say is that if these people were screwed like Galarraga was screwed, they would not defend the umpire or Bud Selig; they would SUE and complain and cry. I’m not going to get into the REAL reasons why Bud Selig didn’t reverse the decision…all I can say that it was politically motivated, and involved lawyers and unions- nothing about the myth of “the integrity of the game”.
It’s easy to say that Selig should not have reversed the decision due to “slippery slope”, “the rule book”, “umpire unions”, “the player’s association”, “retroactive continuity”, “rewriting history books”, “using instant replay” or to say “everyone makes mistakes” or “there can’t be an exception to any rule” or “that’s the charm of the game” or “that’s life”, but that misses the big point:
No one pays to follow baseball to see an umpire be the center of attention and ruin a perfect game. This particular game itself was 100% unique to everything we have ever experienced in baseball- a once in a lifetime situation where an umpire blew an easy call for the last of out a perfect game, and it required a unique one-time ruling from Bud Selig to not only right a wrong and reward Armando Galarraga with his perfect game, but to also appease the fans of the game. Without the fans, baseball would not exist, and no fan goes to the park or pays for MLB.TV or MLB Radio to listen to an umpire steal a perfect game. I commend the Detroit fans for not rushing the field; if Andy Pettitte got screwed in the Bronx, well- ahem- I think their would not be that feel-good ending because the police would have had to have protected Joyce from getting stampeded.
Although Galarraga did lose his perfect game, he did create a positive from it. Although the faceless God named Bud Selig would not come down from Mount Sinai to make things right, the MEDIA and fans saw how great Galarraga handled himself and the fallout. I will leave on that note, since anything else I have to say would be in response to legalistic debates and hollow philosophy- and I’m tired of it. If you want to exist in a world where you think the “high road” and “the right thing to do” is upholding the sacred traditions of not reversing decisions, so be it. I actually pity your close-mindedness.
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