Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Armando Galarraga made history today

Armando Galarraga became more famous in not achieving a perfect game than he would have if he did.

With two outs in the top 9th, Indians shortstop Jason Donald grounded to the right side and Miguel Cabrera snared it, fired to Galarraga covering 1st to beat Donald by about 4-5 feet, and 1B umpire Jim Joyce called him safe. The Tigers were not amused... well, except for Galarraga himself.

It's almost as if Galarraga, in realizing he HAD earned a perfect game whether Jim Joyce agreed or not, also realized that he had just taken a front row seat in the moment of what will likely become one of the most famous blown calls in MLB history.

Joyce, to his credit, knows he blew the call and feels terrible. But the moment underscores a looming problem in MLB, the human error of umpires and their impact on the game. MLB, stubbornly resisting any steps to formally second guess their umpires, grudgingly adopted instant replay on home run calls, a very limited basis, this past year. That didn't stop the drumbeat to expand replay and corrective procedures to everything from base calls to balls and strikes, a drumbeat that grows with every blown umpire call, calls that unfortunately happen on a regular basis in almost every game played.

MLB is trying to do everything to avoid what they should do. The scorer is allegedly looking into scoring the Donald play as an error to credit Galarraga with a bastardized no hitter, even though there clearly was no error on the play. Such a 'correction' would be a bigger disgrace than the blown call itself.

There is only one way MLB can fix this in the short term. Commissioner Bud Selig has the power of Special Action, basically a hand of god. He used it to call off the All Star Game in Milwaukee, the infamous 11 inning tie game, and used it to extend a World Series game that honestly should have been called off early.

Since the Donald hit had no bearing on the outcome of the game (Galarraga got the next batter out to end it), Selig should take a Special Action to have Donald declared rightfully out on the play to end the game, and award Galarraga with the perfect game that he clearly earned.

A perfect way to mitigate the lack of opportunity for a team and home crowd celebration would be to fly into Detroit tomorrow, have Selig go out to the field before the game and announce this decision. It would give the team and fans a chance to celebrate the accomplishment before the game, with a bonus handshake from the Commissioner. Then they can play the day's game as scheduled.

Of course, it's highly unlikely Bud Selig makes such an overriding and undermining decision if he can help it, which is a shame given this is one of the few times the umpire in question has openly admitted to blowing a key call. This is a special case that deserves such an exception, and Selig can argue that there would not be a need for it again anytime soon.

But in any case, even if nothing is done to mitigate today's injustice, Armando Galarraga has been immortalized even moreso for throwing a perfect game that was taken away at the very end by a blown call. No other pitcher could ever claim such a feat. Like Harvey Haddix's 12 perfect innings, and Ernie Shore relieving Babe Ruth after a leadoff ejection and retiring the next 27 batters, Galarraga may not get his name on the list of perfect game hurlers, but he has now earned a special and more unique place in history... especially if this incident leads to changes in MLB's instant replay and umpiring policy.

No one is going to forget what happened with Armando Galarraga today.

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