First, let me start by saying congratulations to Armando Galarraga on the first 28 out perfect game in history. Also, I want to say that I feel terrible for Jim Joyce. I recognized his name when it was said, so you know that means he’s been around for awhile. Nobody knows umpire’s names (excluding Joe West), and if you do know their name, it means they’ve been around for awhile. Or they really pissed you off, but usually the first choice. Being around for awhile can only mean one thing – he’s done a damn good job. You can’t ask for more from him – he clearly blew the call, as you can see in the picture, but he didn’t run and hide, he didn’t try and defend himself. He knows what he did, and admitted as much, saying “I just cost that kid a perfect game.” The man cried, multiple times. He apologized profusely. Watching interviews with him, he truly seems genuine, and I can’t help but feel bad for him. Seeing him wipe tears away at home plate today sealed it – he’s a good dude. Plus, how can you not forgive a guy with that fantastic of a moustache, holding a puppy?
That being said, I think baseball got it right in not reversing the call. The human element is part of what makes baseball so great, and so frustrating. Think about this situation: tie game, full count, two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. Pitch comes in, and is clearly outside for ball four, walking home the winning run. However, the umpire calls it strike three and the game goes into extra innings, where the home team wins anyway. Should baseball go back and give them the win in the ninth inning? No, and it shouldn’t change the ruling in last night’s game either. Ball four is a judgement call by the umpire, just as this was. The call did not affect the outcome of the game, just like Joyce’s call did not affect the outcome of the game. Does it suck? Absolutely. But that’s the game.
It also opens up the conversation for instant replay in baseball. I think it’s now inevitable, and could work. For example, I think it can work on balls in play, yet would have to leave the strike zone alone. Each umpire has their own interpretation of the strike zone, and no computer or replay can say definitively that a pitch is a strike or a ball. However, there is enough time between batters to review each bang-bang play, and have someone in the booth (another umpire, so they’re on the same page as the guys on the field) signal down saying “Hey, we need to change this.” That way there would be a better chance of getting all the calls right.
Another way to look at it – Armando Galarraga will now live on in baseball lore. Twenty years from now, will you remember that Dallas Braden threw a perfect game? Probably not. Will you remember the “Imperfect Game” and the controversy that followed? Will you remember what may end up being the start of full instant replay in baseball? I think the chances of that are a lot higher than had he gotten the perfect game. Well done, Armando Galarraga. You are now a part of baseball history.
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