So by now you’ve heard about the umpire who blew the final call of the Tigers-Indians meeting on June 2 that cost a pitcher a perfect game. Even if you’re not a sports fan (although if you’re not, what are you doing here?), you’ve seen front page coverage in The New York Times, USA Today, and other publications.
Just to recap:
Twenty-six up, 26 down for Armando Galarraga. Jason Donald, the 27th batter, swings and hits a ball towards second. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera ambles far to his right as the pitcher covers the bag. The throw beats the runner to the bag, but the ump calls him safe (why Cabrera was so far out of his normal position and felt he had to field the ball still makes me scratch my head).
Here’s a nice home video from a spectator at the game. The view is obscured, but trust me, there’s no question about whether or not the runner was safe. You can hear the crowd exult and deflate as first base umpire Jim Joyce makes his fateful call (warning: blue language towards the end of the clip).
(Here’s a more extensive and professional assessment from ESPN.com.)
The umpire immediately knew he made a mistake. I wonder what he said to Jim Leyland when the Tigers manager ran out to question the call. To Joyce’s credit, he did a mea culpa after the game:
I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought [the runner] beta the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career. I don’t blame them a bit or anything that was said. I would have said it myself had I been Galarraga. I would have been the first person in my face and he never said a word to me.
Joyce feels terrible. Galaraga feels terrible (perhaps Cabrera does, too). We all feel terrible. But rules are rules, at least according to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who ruled that he would not reverse the call. This was before yesterday’s Pardon the Interruption in which both Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon said they hoped Selig would put things to rights.
The whole incident left many fans screaming about the need for video replay to be the final word in such matters. Call me old fashioned, but I’m agin it in general. Currently, replay is used only on disputed home run calls. It’s not my intention to argue the relative merits here; I’ll leave that to the likes of Peter Gammons or Tim Kurkjian.
Having said that, I’d like to see Selig reverse his own decision and allow the perfect game. I might feel differently if the hit/bad call had come anywhere else but on the last play. (In today’s Wall Street Journal, Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey was asked about his own lost perfecto ealier this year while with the AAA Buffalo Bisons. The difference was that he allowed his hit to the first batter and retired the next 27. In my book that’s way different than Galarraga’s situation.)
An aside: ESPN.com — where I get my info for the JML updates — has a “conversation” feature for every game. Just picking a couple games at random, there were 167 comments on the Brewers-Marlins game, 913 for the Phillies-Braves, 563 for the Dodgers-Diamondbacks…and 4,304 for the Tigers-Indians.
A nice coda:
Galarraga was given the honor of bringing out the lineup card the following day. Guess who was the home plate umpire?