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Everyone knows that OJ was guilty, everyone knows that Barry Bonds was on steroids, and everyone knows that Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game.
Through 8.2 innings, the Detroit righty had retired each and every batter he faced. With one out to go, a missed call by the now infamous umpire Jim Joyce cost Galarraga what would have been the third perfect game in only a month and the 21st in history.
Talk shows and newspapers were immediately flush with commentary on instant replay and even the possibility of Bud Selig ruling a reversal of the call. The commissioner did in fact meet to discuss both matters the following day. After the meeting, Selig announced that expanded instant replay will be discussed more in depth in the future, and the missed call was to remain a hit leaving Galarraga with only a great story and perhaps the best perfect game in the history of baseball – if you consider that he used 28 outs, rather than 27.
It’s conceivable that no one wanted the call to be reversed more than Jim Joyce himself, but regardless, changing this one call would be effectively “opening Pandora’s box.” As the league’s rules stand now, there is no instant replay for controversial calls aside from home runs. When there is no instant replay, it wouldn’t make sense for the league to use deferred replay after a game is finalized in this one instance. Reversing this call would in essence be the immediate institution of replay. Assuming Selig is not psychic, there is no way of knowing what could happen as soon as next week. If he reversed this call, would a similar issue arise before expanded instant replay is adopted in the MLB? (Who would have guessed there would be – or almost be – three perfect games in only one month?) What would be next? Changing an error to a hit after a game just to extend a hitting streak – assuming of course the error was called, well, in error?
It goes without saying that Selig had a huge decision to make. If he opted to reverse the call, Joyce and Galarraga could sigh in relief and move on, but as much as I hate to admit it, the integrity of the game would have been compromised. That being said, if there had already been some form of instant replay on close plays instituted in the league and the umpires still got the call wrong, Selig would have an obligation to reverse the call. That form of correction is not an option, however, and while it may be in the future and should be, it would not have been right for Selig to make an exception the rules just so one player can have a title and a place in history – regardless of the accomplishment’s rarity and prestige.
I don’t mean to sound like a conservative old school baseball purist; I am a firm believer in using the available technology to get the calls right. In this particular instance, however, Selig made the correct decision. My gut reaction was for him to reverse the call, but after reflecting on the consequences, it’s rather clear that he was right.
Let’s not forget, there’s a reason there have been so few perfect games. While there are many games that could have been perfect if one great defensive play were made or if one bad call was correct, this one will stand out because of when that flaw occurred. If the bad call were to take place in the third inning, would this be as big an issue?
It’s important to remember not only the missed call, though, but also the class with which both Joyce and Galarraga handled the situation. The box score may have not been flawless, but neither are human beings. The lesson to be learned is far deeper than instant replay and perfection.