It’s the perfect time to expand replay
Here it is, Bud Selig. Here is your chance to make sure what happened in Detroit on Wednesday night never, ever happens again.
Armando Galarraga(notes) was robbed. Stone-cold fleeced. The Detroit Tigers right-hander retired the first 26 Cleveland Indians he faced, and the 27th, Jason Donald(notes), sliced a ground ball wide of first base. Miguel Cabrera(notes) fielded it and threw it to a Galarraga, whose foot hit the bag before Donald’s did. It was the 21st perfect game in major league history.
Until Jim Joyce opened his mouth.
“Safe,” said the umpire, a 21-year veteran, flailing his arms sideways for emphasis. Of all the umpiring malfeasance in the last year, this was the worst.
History denied by a blown call.
Here is your straw, commish. The camel’s back is broken.
Institute widespread instant replay.
It should’ve been in place the moment Major League Baseball agreed that technology was sufficient to double-check home run calls. That came in August 2008. In the middle of the season. Selig is not against changing rules on the fly. The slope is already greased.
And this is how he should do it: announce on Thursday morning that he’s putting together a committee of executives, players, MLB officials and union officials to discuss the proper parameters of replay. Weigh, over the next five weeks, the benefits and detriments of different options, like the NFL’s red-flag system that limits teams to two replays per game or a broader option that allows operators in MLB’s central replay office to stop the game to review a call.
Then, at the All-Star Game, announce the new rules and implement them starting in the second half.
It is long overdue. The blown calls in the 2009 playoffs were bad enough. From Phil Cuzzi’s 20/10,000 vision that missed Joe Mauer’s(notes) shot inside the line during the Division Series to a number of blown calls in Game 2 of the World Series, umpires dished out disappointment with far too much regularity for the most important time of the year.
Still, a postseason replete with embarrassment didn’t compel Selig to change. He defended the game’s human element as if it was some mystical life force that keeps baseball right and fair and just.
Tell that to Armando Galarraga.
He is a 28-year-old from Venezuela. He spent the season’s first five weeks pitching for Detroit’s Triple-A team in Toledo, Ohio. If he isn’t the unlikeliest candidate to achieve baseball immortality, he’s in the picture. Never had he thrown a complete game in any of his previous 56 starts, let alone one approaching perfection.
And yet there he was. Austin Jackson(notes) made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch in center field for the first out of the ninth. A groundout to shortstop left him one away, with a rookie at the plate, the perfect formula to flare Galarraga’s senses. He could smell perfection in the air, hear it from the Comerica Park crowd, feel it coursing through his veins, taste its sweetness, see it right in front of him, 60 feet, 6 inches away. It was his.
It is his.
In the eyes of everyone who saw the replay – television’s, not baseball’s – Galarraga pitched a perfect game. It was a 28-out perfect game, to be specific, as he retired Trevor Crowe(notes) for the final out amid the cacophony at the stadium. Fans were mad. They had every right to be.
Joyce stole history.
“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”
He feels awful, of course. He should. He screwed up. Even though it wasn’t malicious, intent doesn’t matter. His job is to get the call right. He didn’t do his job.
Replay would’ve. Joyce would’ve been able to laugh it off afterward – saved by something with better eyes than him. He and Galarraga would’ve laughed about it. The perfect game would’ve been legitimate, not something to which baseball fans assign a personal asterisk.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland stood in Joyce’s face after the 28th out and berated him, mimicking the emotions of everyone in the stadium, everyone around the country, everyone who wondered: How dare you? A better question is how dare the commissioner and how dare the umpires’ union and how dare the other Luddites who try to sell the red herring that a few extra minutes here and there aren’t worth it to get the call right every time?
“I don’t know what to say,” Galarraga said.
No one did.
Baseball is stuck with another humiliation. On the day Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) retired, all the sport could talk about was Galarraga and Joyce and the perfect game with the imperfect call. On the same night referees in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals used replay to reverse a missed call and gave the Philadelphia Flyers a goal, baseball let its technology rot on something as infrequent as boundary calls on home runs.
The onus returns to the commissioner. If ever there were a time to invoke the best-interests-of-baseball clause, this is it. Selig must swallow whatever romanticism remains regarding the subject of replay and do right by the game.
He can’t reverse Jim Joyce’s call.
He can’t give Armando Galarraga a perfect game.
He can ensure something like this never, ever happens again.