The Imperfect Game Will Not Be Changed

The Con

Armando Galarraga was perfect up until batter #27 on June 3, 2010. 26 men up, 26 men out. When Cleveland Indian Jason Donald hit his dribbler to Detroit Tiger first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who threw to Galarraga and beat him by two feet. 27 men up, 27 men out. Baseballs 21st perfect game, the third inside of a month, and the first perfect game in thrown by a Detroit Tiger in their over 100 year history.

Unfortunately, Umpire Jim Joyce saw something no one else in free world did: he called batter number 27 Jason Donald safe. The replay has been shown millions of times. The Tigers screamed. Joyce watched the replay, saw his error and apologized, profusely to anyone who would listen. Galarraga laughed and graciously accepted the apology.

The media lauds the Detroit Tigers and Umpire Jim Joyce for showing the utmost graciousness, professionalism and class in an obviously impossible circumstance. The question at the forefront of everyone’s mind is since Jim Joyce admitted his call was in error, the video technology shows the call was wrong and the outcome of the game wouldn’t be altered in any way (the next batter bounced out to Detroit Tiger third baseman Brandon Inge), can/would Commissioner Bud Selig change the outcome of the game and award Armando Galarraga his perfect game?

There is no precedent for Selig to change Jim Joyce’s call, although the the media pulse is for the Commissioner to step in and do the right thing. Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford, Fox Jon Paul Morisi, and the Detroit News’ Tony Paul, among others, urged Selig to make the change. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm made her decision early on June 3, 2010:

“Whereas, pitching a perfect game is considered one of the crowning achievements of sport, attained only 20 times in the history of Major League Baseball; and,

“Whereas, a perfect game is defined as when a pitcher or pitchers retire each batter during the course of a game lasting at least nine innings; and,

“Whereas, Armando Galarraga retired all 27 players in order, a feat no Tigers pitcher has ever accomplished; and,

“Whereas, an umpire’s missed call resulted in Armando Galarraga being charged a hit that clearly should have been an out; and,

“Whereas, the umpire graciously admitted his mistake after the game ended; and,

“Whereas, video replays unmistakably show Galarraga to have retired all batters;

“Now, Therefore, be it Resolved that I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby declare Armando Galarraga to have pitched a perfect game, and I join Tigers fans all across the globe in saluting his unassailable accomplishment – the first perfect game in Tigers history.”

A nice touch that brought tears and cheers to all Detroit Tiger fans across the globe including your occasionally intrepid blogger. However, the only person with the power to make the change from a faux one hitter to the perfect game hadn’t weighed in, yet.

Around 3pm EDT, we got our answer from Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball.

First, on behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Armando Galarraga on a remarkable pitching performance. All of us who love the game appreciate the historic nature of his effort last night.

The dignity and class of the entire Detroit Tigers organization under such circumstances were truly admirable and embodied good sportsmanship of the highest order. Armando and Detroit manager Jim Leyland are to be commended for their handling of a very difficult situation. I also applaud the courage of umpire Jim Joyce to address this unfortunate situation honestly and directly. Jim’s candor illustrates why he has earned the respect of on-field personnel throughout his accomplished career in the Major Leagues since 1989.

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 have been screams, rants and I’m sure threats, from those who do not agree with Selig. Those who do agree, including pundits, Tom Verducci and Tim Kurkjian, are pleased and will go off and find new stories to cover.

I wasn’t shocked at Selig’s decision to leave Joyce’s call in place. Not because he’s a baseball purist or this was ‘the right thing to do for the integrity of the game.’ No, because I remember a chatting with Bud Selig in the spring of 2001 when I was the head bartender at the Park Avenue Country Club when he told me “no one cares about baseball in Detroit.”

Although Pat Courtney in MLB’s PR office was kind enough to tell me otherwise during a short interview I posted in my May 10,2009 blog, I never believed him. It’s hard not to believe a man who looks you in the eye and tells you no one, including him, the Commissioner of Baseball cares about the game he lords over in your hometown.

This was the chance for Selig to do the right thing and bring baseball into the 21st Century. He should have awarded Galarraga the perfect game citing Jim Joyce’s statements, the video of the play, when it occurred in the game etc. Then Selig should have announced he wants replay brought into every MLB game. Although replay may come to Major League Baseball, Armando Galarraga was never going to get the proper satisfaction. His sin? He pitches for the Detroit Tiger and the Commissioner of Baseball doesn’t care about baseball in Detroit.

Makes you proud to be an American, huh?

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