Somehow, baseball has to get this right. For years, Bud Selig has fended off bids to have a more extensive replay system and has rebuffed every argument.
Now proponents of more inclusive replays have a two-word argument to which there is no rebuttal: Armando Galarraga.
The Tigers pitcher should have become the 21st man in baseball history — and the third within a month — to pitch a perfect game Wednesday in Detroit against Cleveland. He was deprived of that honour because the umpire, a man of impeccable credentials and universally respected as one of the best at his craft, made a rare mistake.
The only good that can come of the aftermath of umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call on what should have been the 27th and final out of Galarraga’s perfect game, is for Major League Baseball to come up with a reasonable option for the use of replay in special circumstances.
Do you think Jim Joyce would mind? After the mental anguish he has already endured, not to mention all that is to come for he and his family? He, and most every other umpire, would pray for the opportunity to use that mulligan.
To all of the millions who have seen the replay of Galarraga touching the first-base bag, the ball safely in his mitt, with the runner still a couple of feet away, it seems baffling that Joyce could have gotten it wrong. But, stand on the field in real time in the heat of the moment and even the most well-positioned ump can be deceived by his own eyes and ears.
“I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay,” Joyce said.
These are famous last words that, apart from Joyce, only fellow ump Don Denkinger can truly appreciate.
During the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, Denkinger was just as certain he saw Kansas City Royals hitter Jorge Orta touch the first-base bag ahead of St. Louis pitcher Todd Worrell’s tag. Of course, replays showed Orta was out and that ill-gained infield hit touched off a rally that ended with a two-run single by Dane Iorg to give Kansas City the 2-1 win. They won the Series in Game 7. Denkinger, not to mention the Cardinals and their fans, is forced to live with that memory to this day.
There was word from the commissioner’s office early Thursday that Selig was considering a review of Wednesday’s play which, of course, would lead to a reversal of the call and Galarraga would get his perfect game. The reasoning was that since the game’s outcome was not affected, Galarraga’s personal accomplishment could still be honoured while not interfering with the game’s integrity.
Later on, Selig said that would not happen.
Nor should it happen. Selig cannot be allowed to wriggle out of the replay debate with such a hypocritical backdoor move.
Here is an alternate scenario. Baseball does its due diligence and decides to give replay a chance, beyond the current use which is restricted to getting home run calls right. If MLB concocts a way of instituting a replay plan without turning nine innings into nine hours and allows for its use once or twice a game with challenges to be used at a manager’s request, then we have a different outlook.
Once a thorough replay plan is in place, they can call a news conference, trot out Jim Joyce, and have him review the Galarraga play under the new replay rule and announce the very first reversal in baseball history.
Galarraga gets his perfect game, Joyce gets some of his respect back and baseball, at long last, gets it right.