Tigers’ RHP Armando Galarraga missed out on a perfect game against the Indians on June 2, 2010 due to a blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce with two outs in the ninth inning. Galarraga was perfect through 8 2/3 inning and coaxed a grounder to first base out of nine-spot hitter Jason Donald. The throw from Miguel Cabrera was on time, but Joyce just missed the call and ruled Donald safe. The perfecto appeared meant to be, as Austin Jackson had made potentially the play of the year for the first out in the ninth by reeling in an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. Galarraga didn’t even make his 2010 Tigers debut until May 16, but he was dominant in his fourth start of the season. He struck out only three, but needed just 88 pitches to complete the game. Jim Joyce immediately apologized, realizing he had blown the call.
Commissioner Bug Selig plans to examine major league baseball’s umpiring system and possible use of expanded instant replay, but will not correct Jim Joyce’s blown call at first base which prevented Tigers’ RHP Armando Galarraga from completing a perfect game. His statement read, in part:
“As Jim Joyce said in his postgame comments, there is no dispute that last night’s game should have ended differently. 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. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which consists of field managers, general managers, club owners and presidents.”
There was no doubt that Donald was out at first – easily by at least half-a-step – but the fact remains that you cannot go back in time and undo what was done. While Joyce feels regret for blowing the call, it wouldn’t be right for the MLB to go back and change the call. The call was made as a judgment call and cannot be reversed – this is baseball, and human error is a part of the game, and a part of what makes sports so great. Just as umpires make mistakes on balls/strikes, outs, etc., so do managers and players. The same goes for every sport.
There’s no doubt that Galarraga deserves the perfect game. It would’ve been the first of his career, and the third of the MLB season – in fact, the third in one month, as A’s RHP Dallas Braden and Phillies’ RHP Roy Halladay had done it just prior.
I’m glad that the MLB has chosen not to reverse the call – if it’s done now, where does it end? Would all blown calls from the past be under review? It was a terrible call, plain and simple – it isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. While this circumstance is not commonplace – it is, after all, the 21st perfect game in MLB history – you cannot make an exception to the rule for one case and not for everyone else. Everybody will be crying to have plays reviewed, and before you know it, challenge flags will be issued just like the NFL, and everything will go to instant replay booths like the NHL. Some will argue, “we can’t go back and re-do all blown calls in history, but it has to start now.” While true, the question arises, “where does it end?” How far back can you go? How can you totally rectify all blown calls in order to right the wrongs?
Many sports have undergone changes over time to improve the game. Tennis has introduced HawkEye, the NFL and NHL have started instant replay, soccer is working on a sensor in the ball to determine if it crosses the goal line. I’m a sports traditionalist and a baseball purist, so I don’t believe that this call should be reversed, or that instant replay should ever be introduced. I understand that sometimes, subjective calls cost games to teams and players, but baseball remains one of the truest sports being played, and I want to keep it that way.
All of that said, Galarraga deserves the perfect game, not just for himself, but for baseball history. Lord knows if he’ll ever come close to throwing another one again. Jim Joyce regrets the decision, he’s aware that he made a bad call. If there was going to ever be a change in a past game, this would be the one here. Had I been Jim Joyce at that time, I probably would’ve called the runner out even if it was remotely close, just to be apart of MLB history. In addition, a game like this can be totally rectified – since it was the 27th out of the game, all that would need to be done was to call the runner out, give Galarraga the perfecto, and have the last batter of the game (#28) have his official at-bat removed. This way, all the bases are covered, so to speak.
I realize that I’ve contradicted myself on this, but the truth is is that there is no clear cut right or wrong answer. I believe in human error in every sport, but I believe that this specific circumstance needs to be reviewed. In umpiring school, umpires are told to treat every call like that first one of the game. So let’s say that instead, the blown call was on batter #1 – this entire ordeal would not have escalated to the level it has now.
If the MLB decides to implement instant replay, it needs to be done with surgical precision. They can’t monitor every baseball game on every day of the schedule, and calls cannot be challenged left and right. There needs to be a perfect balance, and MLB will need to introduce a complex rule that has no loopholes in order for this to work. Otherwise, leave it be as umpire’s human error. It’s gotten us this far. In all likelihood, we will see MLB introduce some form instant replay over the next 5 years, much to my dismay.