Bud Selig just announced he will not overturn the blown call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Bud gets a lot of things wrong. This one he got right.
As bad as Jim Joyce’s on-field decision was, the consequences of reversing a call a day after it was made would be far worse. Because why stop at one game in Detroit? Why not go back to October 1985 and strip the Kansas City Royals of the World Series they won after Don Denkinger ruled Jorge Orta safe at first base in the ninth inning of Game 6? (If that happened, John Schuerholz, then the general manager of the Royals, would file a protest of his own.)
Different dynamics, I realize. The St. Louis still had a chance to escape that ninth inning, and they had shot to render Denkinger’s call moot in Game 7. Galarraga will never have another chance to work a perfecto. Sure, it’s a shame. But it’s also part of the game.
“The human element has always been an integral part of baseball,” Selig said today, and humans are inherently flawed. Joyce did nothing wrong on the play — he had the proper angle; he gave it a good look — except for making the wrong judgment. Harsh as this may sound, it happens.
And I submit that Armando Galarraga will reap more out of being unjustly undone than he would have if Joyce had thrown up his thumb. Instead of being the 21st pitcher to get all 27 — and the third this season, and the second in a week — he becomes the most sympathetic figure since Roberto De Vincenzo.
Armando Galarraga also becomes an object lesson in how to handle crushing disappointment. He smiled after the call. (Rasheed Wallace has never once smiled after being whistled for a foul.) Indeed, both the pitcher and the ump handled a sorry set of circumstances with surpassing grace: Joyce said he blew it, and Galarraga said he understood. They behaved, in sum, like adults.
As for Selig’s statement regarding a need for greater accountability … that’s just playing to an audience steamed over the perceived injustice. There’s no way to get every call right. If you insist that umps never miss one, you’ll wind up with no umps. If you employ replay on every close call, you’ll have 4 1/2-hour games.
All baseball can do is to train its men the best it can and then hope like heck they get most of the big calls right. This, sad to say, was a big one that one of the best muffed. But professional baseball has been around since 1869, and it took until 2010 to see a call this egregious. I wouldn’t call that cause for a systemic change.