I was originally planning on writing about the start of the NBA Finals and the rekindling one of the greatest rivalries in sports: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Two of the most storied franchises in all of basketball, the previous two NBA champs, are meeting yet again, in a rematch of the 2008 Finals. Oh, it’s on, and it starts tonight.
My plans changed because something happened last night: Armando Galarraga, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, lost out on a perfect game on the 27th out.
Let’s back track here. For those of you who don’t know much about baseball, a perfect game is thrown when the pitcher retires every single batter he faces, not allowing any opposing batters to reach base. Like they say, “27 up, 27 down”. There have only been twenty perfect games in the Major Leagues, dating back to 1880. Twenty- and this includes the two perfect games pitched this past May. Over the years though there have been many games this close to being perfect, absolute heartbreakers.
But not like this one.
The video explains what happened better than I ever could. (EDIT: MLB removed the original video from YouTube because of copyright issues, but the AP link is a pretty good explanation.) That call by umpire Jim Joyce, which was so painfully, glaringly wrong (especially in the replay), is already notorious. It has sparked two major debates in the baseball world: should instant replay be used? Can MLB reverse the call?
It wasn’t until 2008 that baseball began using instant replay to review calls, and it is only sanctioned in three specific instances. Last night’s play at first base is not one of those examples. I remember being surprised when instant replay was finally allowed. Baseball, more than the other professional sports, relies heavily on human judgement. Human interpretation, however, can lead to human error. Not to mention, the league has the utmost regard for its history. For the players and coaches, baseball history is sacred.
Which brings me to debate #2: overturning the call. Commissioner Bud Selig announced that while he will look into the use of instant replay, he will not reverse Joyce’s call. I’m not surprised. While I’m certainly not a fan of Selig, his decision may be better for the sport in the long run. Overturning this one call, even less than 24 hours after game time but without precedent, could’ve opened Pandora’s Box in regards to all the blown calls over the years. Still, it’s a shame that Galarraga’s gem won’t go into the record books as Perfect Game #21, even with an asterisk. The kid doesn’t even have the satisfaction of a no-hitter.
It must be noted that Galarraga, Joyce, and the Tigers team have all been dealing with this situation with such class. Joyce apologized to Galarraga after seeing the replay. Galarraga humbly accepted, saying that he knows “nobody’s perfect”. Throughout the league, Joyce is being heralded as a great umpire- he just made a mistake. It’s so true. When Joyce made the call, he was convinced he made the right call. A lesser umpire would’ve gone against his conviction and called the final out. When Roy Halladay threw his perfect game last week, the strike zone got bigger and bigger as the night went on. The close calls went in Halladay’s favor. That’s just the way it is.
It’s unfortunate that this blown call came at such a pivotal moment- a perfect game. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be such a big story. The fact of the matter is no one is perfect, but some of the mistakes we make can’t be taken back. What’s done is done, and that’s how it will stay for history.
Did you watch the game? Did Selig make the right decision?