Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nobody's Perfect

The biggest tragedy of Armando Galarraga's 28-out Perfecto last night is that English clearly isn't Galarraga's first language. No, don't worry, I'm not about to throw every book in the state of Arizona at him, after all, the game was in Detroit, but my mention of the language barrier is that Galarraga may not have the same understanding of dry wit and nuance that can inspire brilliant commentary and quotation. And because of that he might not understand why he's so worthy of Bartlett's these days.

After speaking to the media last night, Galarraga was questioned about his emotions or anger towards first base umpire Jim Joyce, and Galarraga, who apparently is the classiest most zen act in all of baseball history, simply smiled and said, "Nobody's perfect." The staggering genius of that phrasing in that situation ought to be lost on no one.

Of course, in the grand scheme, his quote won't be the memory most people have of this historic moment gone awry, but instead the forfeiture of the single most hallowed of individual accomplishments in baseball history will in and of itself be the story. Indeed the remarkable case of a third perfect game inside the span of one month -- until this year two had never happened in the same season in the modern era -- has overwhelmed what was an outrageously busy June night in sports. Ken Griffey Jr., iconic kid of the 1990s who was originally to be the subject of today's post, announced the end of his Hall of Fame career yesterday afternoon, while the Philadelphia Flyers made it a series with their 4-3 overtime win over Chicago last night in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

But all of that goes to the backburner now, and as a man who has loved watching Ken Griffey Jr. and spends a considerable amount of time paying attention to hockey, I'm fine with that. Because this is a once in a lifetime kind of moment that we may never see again. And it has the power to transcend and forever change its sport.

There has been a great deal of talk about Bud Selig coming in and potentially changing the call so that Galarraga gets his properly awarded perfect game, and evidently Major League Baseball is legitimately discussing the possibility of doing just that. Now, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm might argue that she has already taken care of that, but what makes this interesting is that a powerful precedent could be set this week with a wide-ranging impact on just how much power Selig or any other commissioner has to influence the "human aspect" of the game.

The "Human aspect" has long been the argument Major League Baseball has given us for refusing to institute expanded replay beyond the current system, which just allows for home runs to be reviewed as fair or foul. That is, in my mind, a silly romanticized argument, but I can at least see where these people are coming from. We watch the game because we love it and its "purity" after all, don't we? I would argue, however, that the "human aspect" of the game is maintained by the umpire's responsibility for calling balls and strikes behind the plate. Pitching to a strike zone that has been established by the umpire during the course of a game is a unique and important aspect that can't be duplicated through the use of a video camera.

Does the ump like them high? Does he like strikes across the knees? Is he giving the outside corner today?

These are all questions that lend an intellectual and "human" aspect to the game. However, calls like the one missed by Joyce last night are not subject to this human element. Because Jason Donald was out at first, every camera angle showed it, and the remarkably contrite Joyce, whom you can hear below, knew it.

This is where the "human element" argument loses all water for me, and why I see the already rolling tide of calls for expanded instant replay after last night's foul up finally bearing fruit. No one is harmed if the umpires take 30 seconds to fix this potential catastrophe, and baseball is spared an egregious black eye. Joyce, a great umpire for more than two decades of Major League play meanwhile, would be spared unwarranted criticism from the undefended reaches of the internet to boot. Don Denkinger, the legend of incorrect calls also thinks it's high time to open up the cameras with technology in place.

And I, for one, see no plausible argument for not expanding replay to judgment calls that are clear cut such as this, such as whether a ball is fair or foul or whether or not a ball was caught before it hit the ground. Strikes and balls should be left alone, but these are easy to define, clearly distinguishable calls that can only ensure the game is going correctly. Now, I understand the other major argument of detractors: "The game is already so long". And to them I say this.

Fuck off.

They have to get the call right. They have to get the call right. They have to get the call right. They have to get the call right. They have to get the call right.


That's it. End of story. The call has to be right. I see no argument against this or possible logic that could convince me otherwise. Clean and simple. If one fan from last night's game can be found that says, "It would have been nice to see a real perfect game but I'm glad I got home five minutes earlier," I may change my mind. And so given that -- and the remarkable class shown by all parties involved from Galarraga to Joyce to Tigers manager Jim Leyland -- whether or not this call gets overturned by Selig, and I'm not so sure it should, I don't think instant replay will be far behind.

Galarraga for his part was presented with a brand new Corvette and given a standing ovation as he presented the lineup card for this afternoon's Tigers-Indians finale. The home plate umpire he presented it to, ironically, was Jim Joyce. And while the implementation of instant replay should be the lasting impact of this event, the grace with which Galarraga has handled the whole event is what should be remembered. Galarraga has told his kids that he'll always tell them he threw a perfect game, but as it stands, carrying a perfect game ostensibly through 28 batters could arguably rank as the second-greatest pitching performance behind Harvey Haddix's remarkable 12 perfect innings.

And aside from the oversaturated media world we now live in ensuring Galarraga's achievement will never be forgotten, Galarraga would always get from his start something Haddix never did -- a win. Of course, the good will will make Galarraga the winner in more ways than one, but if expanded replay is the eventual result, we may all be reaping the benefits.

No comments:

Post a Comment