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The Imperfect Perfect Game

June 5, 2010 - Al Stephenson

We have seen the play a hundred times.  We all have opinions about it.  My emotions have run the gamut and believe it or not have changed several times in the days following "the call."

Armando Gallaraga is pitching for the Detroit Tigers against the Cleveland Indians.  He has retired the first 26 hitters in the game and has a 3-0 lead with one out to go.  He is bidding for the third perfect game of the season - which in itself is unbelievable.

Jason Donald hits a ground ball wide of first base and the Tigers Miguel Cabrera ranges to his right and fields the ball.  Gallaraga is covering and the throw is made.  The ball, Gallaraga and Donald arrive at the base at about the same time.  It is a bang bang play - at least live anyway.  Umpire Jim Joyce signals safe and a whole stadium (not to mention millions of TV viewers) erupts with shouts of "OH NO!"

I'll admit it even I said it when it was shown live.  I'm a Indians fan and a baseball fan and I wanted to see history made.  Then came the replay.  Horrified baseball fans everywhere felt cheated, including me.  Next it was time to analyze the situation.  Baseball fans everywhere had an opinion.  Since this is my blog - you get to hear mine.

First - I am so impressed with Jim Joyce.  I say that fully aware that he blew the call.  So why am I impressed?  Quite simply because he had the guts to make the call that he thought was correct.  How many umpires would call the runner out if he was a couple of feet past the bag?  The easy call is out (and as it turned out that would have been the correct call).  The gutsy call is to call it the way you see it, and that's what Joyce did.  That impresses me.

How many times have you seen NFL officials ignore pass interference in the end zone on the last play of the game?  They swallow their whistles with the theory that they want the players to decide the game not the officials themselves.  Well I have news for those zebras - if you ignore a blatant penalty - YOU have potentially decided the outcome of the game, not the players.

So give Jim Joyce credit for being gutsy and calling the play the way he saw it. 

Second - I am even more impressed with Armando Gallaraga.  How does that guy keep his cool on the field.  How does he not fire a salvo at Joyce after the game, particularly after seeing replays.  99.9% of us would have done just that.  Instead he says, "missed calls happen, no one is perfect."  How great and ironic is that comment?

Here are some other thoughts.  Don't give Jim Joyce too much credit for saying he blew it after seeing the replay.  What else could he say?  You should give him credit for the way he owned up though.  He was distraught, as he should have been, though some umpires would have whined about how tough the job is.

That reminds me.  The job of calling those bang bang plays is tough.  Try it some time.  Umpires get the call right more often than not.  People who are calling for instant replay as a result of the call are asking for trouble.  Baseball games are pretty long lasting affairs now.  Instant replay would just add to that problem. 

Last but not least, is the school of thought that Commissioner Bud Selig should overturn the call and give the young pitcher the perfect game he deserved.  I would have no problem with that.  The argument that he would be "opening a can of worms" by doing so doesn't hold much water with me.  This is an isolated incident that does not change the outcome of the game and does not set a precedent - at least not in my mind.  Do I want the commissioner to do that?  Not really, but I could live with it.

The view from my seat suggests that we let it go.  Gallaraga will be remembered longer for not getting the perfecto than many will for accomplishing the feat.  Call it the imperfect perfect game or the 28 out perfect game.  Call it what you will, but consider this.

More people are talking baseball now in the month of June than have ever done so before.  That can't be a bad thing for the sport!  


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