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Galarraga’s Game to Remain Imperfect

Galarraga Hands Joyce Lineup (Photo by Paul Sancya/AP)

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.

Should Bud Selig have awarded Armando Galarraga a perfect game?

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6 comments for “Galarraga’s Game to Remain Imperfect”

  1. I’ve got to agree with you Justin. Gut thought was that this play had to be overturned, but baseball has always been flawed to human error. I know its a far cry, but how many other 1 hitters may have been broken up in the earlier part of a game by a bad call? Should we go back and change all those?

    The only question I do have regarding this all is why the game was not played under Protest. If you recall, the Yankees/Royals game way back was replayed because of the error on a home run call in the George Brett game.

    Posted by Grant Brown | June 8, 2010, 3:26 am
  2. Yeah, after thinking it over, they really can’t award him a perfect game. As soon as another batter stepped to the plate and recorded an official plate appearance, it’s impossible to call Galarraga’s game perfect. Because it took 28 hitters (even though he technically retired them all).

    Posted by KC Downey | June 8, 2010, 12:17 pm
  3. Great point, Grant. The George Brett homerun actually changed the outcome of the game, however. If it counted, the Royals won. If not, the Yankees won. In this instance, regardless of a perfect game or not, the outcome would be the same. If we’re talking the difference between a win or a loss, there’s a whole different issue at hand. Since he retired the next batter and the score remained the same, a protest wouldn’t make a ton of sense. When it comes down to it, the win/loss record is all that truly matters.

    Posted by Justin Gagnon | June 8, 2010, 12:26 pm
  4. I don’t see why the game shouldn’t be overturned; it definitely can be. All Selig has to do is say, “It’s a perfect game,” and presto.

    It’s not the replay issue that’s harming the integrity of the game, as everyone seems to think. It’s the blatant screwed up calls like this that’s harming the integrity of the game. Even the umpire admitted the call was wrong.

    If the higher ups approve of wrong doings like they do, the game will get less and less popular, and more and more meaningless.

    Posted by John | June 9, 2010, 10:45 am
  5. Maybe I’m a baseball purist…but as soon as another batter (the 28th hitter) stepped up to the plate, it automatically can’t be a perfect game. That’s what makes perfectos so special. What do they do, pretend he didn’t come to the plate with a runner on in the ninth? Once you erase that situation, you’re messing too much with the record books.

    If the umps huddled, and then paused the game to call Selig, and he decided it was a perfect game, then that’s OK. Because technically it was 27 up, 27 down.

    Galarraga recorded the final out with a runner on base. That’s what it says in the books…so that by definition is not perfect.

    Posted by KC Downey | June 9, 2010, 11:57 am
  6. Even without getting the official title of perfect game, because of the controversy people will probably remember Galarraga’s night long after they forget about Dallas Braden or even Roy Halladay.

    If Joyce had immediately changed his mind meeting with the umpires it could have been somewhat salvaged officially but they didn’t go down that road.

    Posted by Mike Carlucci | June 9, 2010, 4:53 pm

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