Let’s start with this: Umpires and referees make mistakes all the time that affect the outcomes of games, even championships.
We saw it when Don Denkinger blew a call at first base in the 1985 World Series. We saw it when Colorado scored a touchdown on its “fifth down” of a game against Missouri in 1990, leading to a split the national championship that season with Georgia Tech. We saw it when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup finals over Buffalo on a triple overtime goal by Brett Hull (who was standing in the goal crease at the time, a goal that similarly was disallowed all during that season).
Unfortunately, it’s just not feasible to reverse bad calls that impact who wins and who loses.
But what happened Wednesday night is different. An umpire, Jim Joyce, blew a call at first base that prevented Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga from throwing a perfect game against Cleveland. That is not in dispute. This is one case where commissioner Bud Selig could have done the right thing and reversed a mistake. He could have done this without affecting the outcome of the game because the Tigers were going to win anyway.
We’re talking about one out. Selig can’t change one out?
Or was it that important for the Indians’ Jason Donald — who has spent most of his five seasons in the minor leagues — to go 1-for-3 instead of 0-3? Because, Bud, dude, did you see the look on Donald’s face after the play? He was embarrassed himself about being called safe by Joyce.
Selig just blew the call. He blew the call worse than Joyce blew the call. Joyce made a spur-of-the-moment decision that he later admitted was wrong. Selig had a day to think about this. He could have changed the final out call and nobody — NOBODY — would have had a dispute.
Fact is, it probably would have given Jim Joyce, who was still in tears Thursday, some peace of mind.
Selig’s statement was accurate: “While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed. Given last night’s call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features.”
But what he left out was a rational explanation as to why that single play could not have been overturned. The reason is obvious: There is none.