You begin by describing last week’s botched perfect game, pitched by Detroit’s Armando Galarraga, as a testament to the excellent sportsmanship shown by the pitcher, the Detroit Tigers, and umpire Jim Joyce. In the end, if a game had to be spoiled by a bad call, this was the best possible way it could have turned out.
The Tigers and Galarraga still won. Umpire Jim Joyce immediately acknowledged the bad call. The Detroit fans, sometimes known to overturn police cars, were not overturning police cars. Kudos Detroit. It was a bad call, which is part of baseball, and even though it ruined a rare occasion in the sport, it went as well as it could have in the aftermath, with respect to the game.
To pitch a perfect game is extremely difficult. All of the criticisms about baseball, that it drags and that it is slow, this is exactly why pitching a game like this is so difficult. Even a no-hitter is rare to witness – just ask Met fans, since not a single no-hit game has ever been pitched by a Met, even with a robust history of pitchers like Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, Johan Santana, and let us not forget Craig Swan. So perfect games are rare, and screwing one up on the last out is even rarer.
Do you introduce instant replay to baseball in order to remedy something like this happening again? It’s interesting how the responses from people can be broken down. Younger fans, obsessed with replays, Sportscenter, video games, YouTube, and everything visual, are all in favor of baseball introducing instant replay. Purists, however, are often a little older and prefer the human element of the game.
In the case of Galarraga’s masterpiece performance, it was a botched call by umpire Jim Joyce. After watching the play over and over again it seemed obvious, but at the time the call was not really argued too heavily by either Galarraga or Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Now that we know it’s a bad call, why not reverse it? Because you do not reverse calls in baseball.
If it was the last out of the game, and it would not have mattered anyway, why not reverse it and give the guy his perfect game? Because then you would have to go back into baseball history and start reversing other calls, such as the 1985 World Series botched call that cost the St. Louis Cardinals the championship against the Kansas City Royals.
If you change the game to accommodate the perfect game, you then open a Pandora’s Box to other calls. You might say that this is a perfect game, and so it is different. I bet the St. Louis fans would say differently, since theirs was a World Series game.
Some baseball writers say there is no harm in giving him the perfect game and reversing the call. Well, if you go back and watch every near-perfect game that somehow got spoiled in the ninth inning, you can probably examine ball-strike calls and make the case for any number of games to be reversed.
A perfect game means that a pitcher faces 27 batters, not 28 batters. It was a bad call, and Jim Joyce admits to this, but to change the game over it is an overreaction. Remember that it was only months ago that writers were complaining about how long baseball games take; adding replay will only drag the game out further.
In this case, Joyce could have made a delayed call with the input of the other three umpires, the way they did with the George Brett pine tar home run call in 1983. But he did not. The Tigers could have appealed the call to other umpires that may have had a better angle. They did not. It was a great game, and the game itself will be recorded in the Hall of Fame, as should Galarraga’s excellent display of sportsmanship. But as the other James Joyce, the poet, once said “A man's errors are his portals of discovery.” We discovered some great things that still exist in baseball through this unfortunate incident.