“A lot of pitchers would have lost it there, and they would have been right to.”
I was originally going to write an article for today about creating the ultimate football team from non-football athletes. However, after witnessing the conclusion of the Detroit Tigers game, I changed my decision. That article will be moved to tomorrow.
Armando Galarraga took a near perfect game into the ninth inning. In his third season in the MLB, Galarraga was on the verge of reaching the greatest accomplishment of his entire life. There have been 20 perfect games thrown in the history of baseball. Remarkably, Galarraga was attempting to pitch the third of the season, all of which coming over a one month span.
With two outs in the ninth, Jason Donald hit a ground ball in between the first and second baseman. Miguel Cabrera, the first baseman, moved to field the ball and Galarraga went to cover first. Cabrera delivered the ball back to Galarraga, who stepped on the bag about a step before Cabrera. Galarraga put his hands up in celebration; I jumped off my seat and cheered with a few friends. Now here’s the kicker, first base umpire, Jim Joyce, called the runner safe. This is a serious problem.
The call made by Joyce was, and this is not a Gruden-like superlative, the single worst call, given the situation, that I can remember ever seeing. Ever. Earlier in the year I thought the no-call on Thierry Henry’s handball to win the game against Ireland was the worst call I had ever seen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxw1-Id91lQ&feature=related). This travesty by Joyce has topped it.
A few moments after the conclusion of the game, Joe Morgan appeared on ESPN and said the following, “If you are doing something magical, like Galarraga was doing, you should get the benefit of the doubt… I mean, that is a once in a life time experience.” Absolutely correct, Joe. What is Joyce trying to prove? What could possibly go through his mind to make that call? Even if Donald was safe, wouldn’t you still want to call him out? If Galarraga has been, literally, perfect for the entire game, doesn’t it seem like you would want to reward that and give him the benefit of the doubt? Even if it were a tie, which goes to the runner, Joyce should call him out! Doesn’t he want to give Galarraga the accomplishment of a lifetime? Galarraga could have reached baseball immortality. He could have had a story to tell his children and grandchildren. But the call was not even close to being close to being close. He was out by at least a step and the ump was right there. How did he get it wrong?
This decision is unforgiveable. I don’t care about anything Joyce has accomplished in his career. Certain actions get someone fired. This is one of them. If I were Bud Selig, I would call Joyce, personally, tomorrow and tell him, “Listen, we just cannot have you in the majors anymore. You have been great, you truly have, but what you did last night was intolerable. I know this is hard for you, and I’m sure you believe my decision is very reactionary, but frankly, that doesn’t matter. When Bill Buckner allowed that ball to roll between his legs, he was released from the team that off-season. I’m afraid I must do the same for you. Thank you for your contributions to the game but your services are no longer needed.” And that’s that. End of story. No rebuttal or big deal with the press. Make it something personal, simple, and fair. The best officials in sports go unnoticed. They do not bring the attention on themselves. Joyce brought the attention to himself by making a call he must have known would result in personal spotlight. Said Joyce shortly after, "It was the biggest call of my career."
So by now most people are probably assuming that I am going to present a solution to the problem. “Use instant replay, fools! Don’t you want to get the game right?” That is probably the response most people are giving across the sports world at the moment. I am not one of those people. That’s right (Steve), I am not in favor of the expansion of instant replay use in Major League Baseball. Why? Well for one, most people feel that baseball is already too slow moving. Yeah, I’m sure when instant replay is further introduced, which will undoubtedly happen, (and quite possibly within the next week, which would actually be a rash move by the commissioner when firing Joyce is not) it will start out with restrictions. For example, each manager can use a “challenge” only once per game. But then what? What happens when there are two atrocious calls in one game? After all, the use of replay was originally introduced for only homerun use. And what’s the next evolution in replay use? Hey, if we can tell if a pitch is a ball or a strike, why not use replay for that too. Here’s my proposition. Either we keep the replay use as it is, and just find some better umpires, or we cut the use of umpires almost altogether. If we have the technology to determine whether every pitch is a ball or a strike, and if every runner is safe or out, why not just have one umpire in the middle of the field and leave everything else up to the computers and the guys upstairs looking at the cameras? Unconventional, yes. But effective, also, yes.
Galarraga missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. He will never go down as one of the pitchers to have thrown a perfect game, but I will always remember that he should have. I hope everyone else does too.