Brian Dickerson at The Detroit Free Press:
Armando Galarraga is an artist. But my fondest hope for my children is that they grow up to be like Jim Joyce.
Every Detroiter with a TV knows Joyce as the first base umpire whose blown call in the final inning of Wednesday’s contest between the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians cost Galarraga a perfect game, at least in the official annals of Major League Baseball. Unless he figures out how to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, Joyce has likely written the first paragraph of his obituary.
But what I can’t stop thinking about is what happened next, and how Joyce conducted himself in the aftermath of the gaffe seen ‘round the world. Because from the split-second after his errant call, Joyce’s conduct was as faultless, and as inspiring a demonstration of grace under pressure, as Galarraga’s pitching performance.
The festival of indignation began with a collective gasp, continued with a torrent of close-range abuse from Galarraga’s manager and teammates, and crescendoed into the most sustained bombardment of boos young Comerica Park has ever witnessed.
Joyce didn’t turn his back, or look at his shoes; he looked his critics in the face, then resolutely returned to his unfinished work. His annoyance flickered when first baseman Miguel Cabrera refused to abridge his uncomplimentary remarks, but mostly he absorbed the waves of invective in stoical silence, holding his ground and his peace even when Leyland returned to deliver a post-game tongue-lashing.
Then, still withholding his own verdict on his performance, Joyce went inside to check out the evidence.
The unblinking camera confirmed, with clinical dispassion, what Leyland & Co. had been screaming from the get-go: Joyce had blown the call of his life.
“I don’t know what to do,” says first base umpire Jim Joyce about the worst safe/out call since the 1985 World Series. “I cost that kid a perfect game…Biggest call of my career and I kicked the **** out of it.”What you do, Jim, is to put baseball etiquette and umpire pride on the shelf for a moment. Even if you’re sure, you consult with your colleagues. Even if you have no doubt, you listen to Jim Leyland. Hell, ask the runner Jason Donald.In fact, you do what Frank Pulli did, 11 years ago this past Monday. He was in Florida and Cliff Floyd banged one off the visual obstacle course that was the scoreboard in left. Above the line it’s a homer, otherwise it’s a double. There were more lines on the scoreboard than on a volleyball court or a parcheesi board. Frank says to himself, I want to get this right, so he went over to a tv camera and asked to look at the replay. Mind you, this is nearly a decade before they passed replay, but Frank didn’t care. The call counted, not the rule. The integrity of the game was not supported by adhering to the protocol, it was undermined by it.Frank Pulli invented, ad hoc, tv replay. And he got grief for it, from commentators, from his bosses. But he got the call (double, not homer) correct.That’s what Jim Joyce should’ve done. He should have said to himself, I’m going to get grief for this call anyway, I might as well get the grief for going above and beyond to get it right. He should’ve, ad hoc, expanded the replay rule.More over, that’s exactly what baseball should do right now. The Commissioner should appoint an emergency committee to examine the expansion of replay on a formalized basis with set rules. And in the interim, in fairness to Armando Galarraga, in fairness to Jason Donald, in fairness to the fans, and especially in fairness to Jim Joyce, he ought to do a little ad hoc of his own: overrule Joyce’s safe call and give Galarraga what he in fact accomplished, and only the arrogance of authority is denying him – the perfect game he pitched tonight in Detroit, the majors’ third this season, second in five days, and fourth in the 135 days of play dating back to Mark Buehrle’s job last season.This is not the time to stick to the rules. The rules failed the sport tonight.
Extraordinary cases make bad law. In a sense, Armando Galarraga’s non-perfect perfect game, spoiled by an umpire’s call on what should have been the 27th out, offers the strongest possible exhibit for expanding instant replay’s role in baseball. Who wouldn’t want to have seen Galaragga take his rightful place in the history books, making this remarkable baseball season — whose first two months have already featured two perfect games and a no-hitter — more remarkable still? And after watching the post-game agony of Jim Joyce, a distinguished umpire whose career will be forever marred by this one unforgivable call, who would deny the next disastrously-erring ump the chance to watch a replay on a video monitor and make the whole thing right?
But extraordinary cases make bad law. There’s a reason that sportswriters immediately reached for Don Denkinger’s botched “safe” call in the 1985 World Series, which sent the Cardinals tailspinning to defeat, as the closest analogy to what happened last night — because blown calls this high-stakes and this egregious are exceptional, once-in-a-decade events. (The particular circumstances of last night’s call will probably never recur in a lifetime.) Whereas the solution to the problem — some kind of football-style system, in which managers get one or two replay “challenges” per game — would affect almost every baseball contest, week in and week out, across the entire 162-game season. To avoid the extraordinary bad calls, you have to start overturning the quotidian bad calls, the gaffes and brain cramps that have always been part of the warp and woof of the game and that have never detracted a whit from anyone’s enjoyment of it. And I’m pretty sure that would be a mistake.
Not a disastrous mistake, mind you: Baseball with instant replay would still be baseball, and I’m sure there would be many moments, across games and seasons to come, where I would be grateful for the technology’s existence. But baseball is also a game where history matters, and where continuity — those mystic chords of memory, connecting the Tiger fans who watched Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline and Mickey Lolich to the Tiger fans watching Armando Galarraga last night — matters even more. True, often it’s just the illusion of continuity (part of the fury over the steroid scandal reflects the rage of a fan base having part of that illusion stripped away), and starry-eyed sportswriters can go overboard heaping metaphysical significance on what is, in the end, an athletic contest and a multi-billion dollar business, and not necessarily in that order. But still, baseball’s past is real, those mystic chords are real, and a hundred years and counting of bad calls are part of the sport’s history, part of the legacy of glories and grievances that one generation hands down to the next.
So Cardinals fans have Denkinger. Orioles fans have Jeffrey Maier and Rich Garcia. Red Sox fans have Ed Armbrister and Larry Barnett. Braves fans have Eric Gregg and Livan Hernandez. Now Tigers fans have Armando Galarraga and poor despairing Jim Joyce.
I’m seeing arguments today that blowing the call was, in a way, actually better than getting it right since it created a more memorable moment than the perfect game would have been. To which I say: Tell it to Cardinals fans who are still smarting over Don Denkinger’s blown call in the 1985 World Series. The rule says that if the ball beats the batter to first base, he’s out; that’s what happened last night, yet the rule wasn’t enforced — although it could have been, in about five seconds, if the umps were simply allowed to look at the Jumbotron. If, in the name of baseball romance and magic and whimsy, you want terrible calls to be “part of the game,” then Selig should pull the umps aside and tell them to boot one every now and then just to keep things interesting. If, on the other hand, you don’t want players deprived of hard-earned achievements due to human error that can easily be corrected via technology we’ve had for decades, then replay it is. Count me in the latter camp.
Jay Mariotti at FanHouse
Ed Price at Fanhouse:
Bud Selig, fortunately, did not become Pandora.
OK, if Selig had overturned Jim Joyce‘s mistake from Wednesday night, he wouldn’t exactly have opened a box that unleashed all the evils onto the world. But it’s a good thing that, as a Major League Baseball source indicated to FanHouse, such interference in the result was never seriously considered.
Had Selig declared that a runner called safe — by an umpire, in a game that continued on and wasn’t protested — was actually out, he would have set a terrible precedent.
If the All-Star Game slogan is, “This time, it counts,” then the regular season slogan would have been, “This time, it might not count.”
But it’s passed. You can’t undo history.
Todd Spangler at The Detroit Free Press:
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that President Barack Obama’s administration was working on an executive order regarding the perfect game Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga’s would have been awarded but for a blown call by an umpire on Wednesday night.
He was joking.
Just as he was concluding the daily press briefing in Washington, Gibbs was asked whether baseball should consider instant replay. He responded: “I hope that baseball awards a perfect game to that pitcher.”
He was then told it appeared that Major League Baseball had decided against that. Gibbs said offhandedly, “We’re going to work on an executive order.” The White House later confirmed it was meant as a joke – which is understandable with everything on the president’s plate and the fact that, as far as we know, he is not a Tigers fan.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm—or GovGranholm as she’s known on Twitter—just tweeted to her 15,066 followers that she’s overruling an apparently blind Major League Baseball umpire, Jim Joyce, and issuing an official state proclamation declaring that Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga did, in fact, throw a perfect game last night against the Cleveland Indians.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since last night, you know that Galarraga lost his bid for a perfect game on the 27th batter when Joyce called Indian base runner Jason Donald safe at first when he was clearly out.
Granholm, who is certainly politically savvy enough to know that there is no other topic more important in the state of Michigan today, tweeted soon after the game last night that she was going to make amends, writing, “As governor, I’m issuing a proclamation declaring Galarraga pitched a perfect game!”
Micheline Maynard at The New York Times:
Less than 18 hours after Mr. Galarraga’s effort was spoiled by an admittedly wrong call by umpire Jim Joyce, Mr. Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, received a red Chevrolet Corvette convertible with a beige rag top in a ceremony before Thursday afternoon’s game. The car, whose sticker price starts at $53,580, was driven onto the field at Comerica Park by Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors’ North American operations, who jumped out from behind the wheel to shake Mr. Galarraga’s hand.
Chevrolet is a sponsor of the Tigers, whose outfield features the ivy covered Chevrolet Fountain. The park stands within view of G.M. headquarters on the Detroit River.
Mr. Galarraga did not speak, but he grinned and patted the top of the car as he posed with it for photographers. A teammate, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, looked even more excited than Galarraga, peering inside the driver’s side window as other Tigers grouped around the car.
Mr. Reuss said the pitcher deserved the car for the way he handled himself after Mr. Joyce’s call at first base, which took away Mr. Galarraga’s perfect game. Mr. Joyce said after the game that he made the wrong decision and apologized to Mr. Galarraga, who hugged him.
Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.
And when my young daughters ask, “Why didn’t he get mad and scream about how he was robbed,” I think I will tell them this: I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Armando Galarraga understands something that is very hard to understand, something we all struggle with, something I hope you learn as you grow older: In the end, nobody’s perfect. We just do the best we can.