Perfect Game, Imperfect Call

Yesterday was an intereseting day in baseball. In the last month, we’ve seen two perfect games pitched: the first by Dallas Braden, and the second by Roy Halladay. For those of you who aren’t big baseball fans, those were only the 19th and 20th perfect games recorded in Major League Baseball history. The last time two had occurred in the same year was in 1880.

Which brings us to yesterday. June 2, 2010, in a matchup between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. The pitcher for the Tigers was Armando Galarraga, who had recently been called up from the Detroit Triple-A affiliate and placed in the starting rotation. His ERA going into the game was an unremarkable 4.50.

He pitched eight and two thirds innings, with no hits, and no walks. Another perfect game in the making? The batter was Jason Donald, who hit a grounder to right field which was fielded by Miguel Cabrera, who tossed to Galarraga, who was covering first base. A perfect game!

But wait… the umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe!

Wow. If there is one thing that is even rarer than perfect games, it’s perfect games that are spoiled by the 27th batter. There were nine prior to last night. I actually was lucky enough to see one (on TV, not live) when Mike Mussina of the Yankees gave up a hit to Carl Everett of the Red Sox in September, 2001 (the last time it happened).

But here’s the tragic thing: the umpire completely blew the call. Donald was out by a step. A long step. Joyce just flat out blew the call. Upon seeing the replay, he admits he blew the call. But baseball doesn’t have instant replay, so the ruling stands, and Galarraga misses out on being the 21st perfect game hitter.

Okay, that;’s the background: here’s my take.

Give the kid the perfect game. Donald was clearly out. As far as I can tell, everyone involved, from teams on both sides to the umpire agree that he should have been called out. It would have been the end of the game, so there is no needless speculation of how it would have changed the game: the game would have been over, except that Donald has one less hit in his batting average, and Galarraga would be properly recorded as the 21st pitcher to throw a perfect game. Any other outcome is a travesty of rules over substance. The rules should enable us to get the call right, not require that a wrong call be made official.

And cut Jim Joyce some slack. He blew a call. Yes, it was a bad call, but he freely admits and would absolutely reverse his call if it were in his power to do so. You don’t make mistakes at your job? Get over it.

6 thoughts on “Perfect Game, Imperfect Call”

  1. The Tigers, Armando Galarraga, their fans, and baseball in general all know the rule: The Umpire Is God. Having said that, The Tigers don’t need charity in the form of bending the rules, either. The call was bad. I know. Bad calls are part of officiating.

    In the area of charity, however…if we can just get the A’s to have a few more muscle spasms or bad hair days in Detroit.

  2. Frankly, I think it’s rather odd that bad calls are allowed to stand when remedies exist, and that it represents no charity to reverse them in those cases. In the grand scheme of things though, Armando Galarraga will probably be the subject of more Trivial Pursuit questions over the next hundred years than either Roy Halliday or Dallas Braden. In that sense, Galarraga has already won.

  3. If Armando got 1 cent for each time that question will be posed his estate would pass the Gates Foundation in net worth by about 2215 AD. 🙂

  4. Almost forgot to say this as well: if the rule gets bent for Armando a new question will arise about going back and retroactively “fixing” other bad calls. Look for 2011 to see some traction on the changing of this policy.

    The A’s should start having worse luck though. I have made a potion of eye of Newt and boiled black cat bones to aid in my MLB spell casting.

  5. People keep saying “well, then you have to go back and re-examine all this historical cases.” No, you don’t. This was a very odd case. Had the ref made the right call, the game would have been over. Done. No ambiguity would exist. Nothing would have to be replaid. It would mean that Donald got one less hit, and Galaraga would have a perfect game, as he should have were the call made.

    And, of course, re: the A’s. They don’t need your potion to suck lately.

  6. Maybe saying you “have” to fix other calls is too definite. However, my money is on a lot of people campaigning for such to be done in more than a few cases. MLB has been around for at least 120 yrs, so there are lots more than that one blown call. That much is certain. Another certainty is that a lot of people exist today with the purpose of finding a cause for their rebellion to plug into.

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