RE: The perfect game that wasn’t

As the resident baseball blogger here at EJSIC, I feel it is my duty to give my thoughts about Armando Galarraga and the perfect game that was robbed from him by first base umpire Jim Joyce.

Within 30 minutes of the blown call, I read 3 different articles on various sports websites shouting for instant replay. That was the easy way out. It was easy to climb to the top of Comerica Park and scream, “Instant replay!” until your lungs burned. It would have made everything better.

Armando Galarraga

Honestly, I feel for Galarraga. It sucks to lose what would have been the 21st perfect game in Major League history. And it sucks even worse to lose it with 1 out to go by the blown call of an umpire; an umpire, who by all accounts, is one of better ones. Within those 30 minutes immediately following the call, I watched two former players on MLB Network (most notably Harold Reynolds) and Detroit manager Jim Leyland talk about Jim Joyce’s credentials.

But here we are, 15 hours later, talking about the biggest folly in his career. He blew a perfect game, and he admitted it afterward. He even apologized to Galarraga, face to face after the game. It sucks for all parties involved. Galarraga was robbed of a career-defining event, one of the rarest feats in all of baseball. And now Joyce will be haunted for the rest of his life. He will be ridiculed in articles and on message boards. Hell, a firejimjoyce.com website was up in no time.

But all of that aside, the bigger issue, if there is one, is whether or not MLB should increase the use of instant replay in the game. I admit, I’m very torn on the issue. Baseball is a game I grew up playing and loving with every ounce of my body. I still love it, and I long to play it again.

I’m not a complete traditionalist. I do advocate some change within the game. I was fine with the addition of instant replay for home runs. But in deciding what I want Bud Selig to do, I can only come up with what I don’t want him to do.

I don’t want umpires going under the hood a la the NFL. It would be too time-consuming. It would too over-the-top. The human element, as Leyland pointed out in his post-game press conference, has always been a part of baseball. To lose that would be devastating.

I also don’t want balls and strikes reviewed. That’s too much and it completely removes the role of the umpire. It also removes the pitcher vs. hitter battle that makes baseball unique. In essence, it would ruin baseball.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com wrote one of those under-30-minute articles last night screaming for instant replay. His solution to the problem is similar to the NFL in that each manager would get one and only one challenge for game.

It’s a good solution, but it is more flawed than Mr. Stark will admit. His reasoning is that no manager would be willing to waste it on some rather meaningless play early in the game when a bigger play could occur later. And this is where I find fault with his solution.

Base-stealing attempts in the second inning can be just as important as a blown call by a base umpire in the seventh inning. They are all in important. Baseball is a closely-played game.

If Jim Leyland had a challenge such as Jayson Stark would like, how do we know he wouldn’t have used it earlier in the game? Stark admits as much, but then he says, “I doubt it.” How can we doubt it?

Leyland had no idea Galarraga would be going for history later. What if there was a close call in the fifth inning? In the fifth inning last night, Detroit was only up 1-0, hardly a score to make a manager feel comfortable.

What if a bang-bang played occurred in that inning that may have kept a runner from scoring position? Leyland, sensing a need for runs, might have thrown the challenge. There’s no guarantee he keeps it for the 9th inning.

And if he had used the challenge earlier under Stark’s scenario, what would he be writing about after the 9th inning now? Managers need two challenges?

There’s no perfect fix for this situation. Baseball has this uniqueness that needs to be preserved. But it also has an obligation to keep up with the new technology that may or may not enhance the game. It’s a catch-22, a slippery slope, etc. Baseball can stand back and remain idle at the price of, perhaps, looking dumb. Or it can jump forward and try to fix any future occurrences now.

Whatever Bud Selig decides, it won’t be the absolute right answer. It won’t even come close. Baseball is a sport that thrives off of the could-have-been. It lives through the intricacies of the play and the stat. Despite the sudden outburst for instant replay, it will live on. It will weather the storm.