Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Perfect Game That Wasn't

Last night, for a split second, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had pitched the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. 27 batters up, 27 batters down. Then, with one outstretched arm motion, umpire Jim Joyce wiped it from the record books. Today, there are a lot of angry people, but strangely enough, this might end up being a very good thing for baseball.

No, I'm not here to skewer Joyce. Sure, his blown call was an egregiously bad one, but he's human. He'll make mistakes. He just happened to make a very bad one at one of the worst possible times. As badly as I feel for Galarraga, I feel just as bad for Joyce. This isn't a blown call that people will forget about -- most likely, this will define his career. Although to his credit, Joyce accepted full blame for his mistake, and to his credit, Galarraga, who had every right to be upset, took the high road and graciously accepted Joyce's apology.

While having a conversation with a friend after the game, the question was posed: "What if Major League Baseball went back and awarded Galarraga the perfect game?" It would defintely be an easy thing to do. If Joyce had simply (and correctly) made a fist when Galarraga had stepped on the bag, it would have happened -- there are really no hypothetical what-ifs surrounding the game. It would have been over.

But let's look at it another way: suppose Galarraga had been beaten to the bag and the umpire had called the 27th batter out. Would MLB have gone back and taken away his perfect game? Absolutely not. Part of pitching a perfect game is having everything fall exactly your way. Your defense has to make plays behind you, and as we saw last night, you need to get the calls. Basically, you need a whole lot of luck.

I've never really thought too much before about the implementability of widespread instant replay in baseball. It seemed too far-fetched of an idea, due to all of the so-called purists and their argument against it. But when you break it down, what's so bad about having a system in place that's basically an auto-correct for wrong calls? I hate to break it to the purists, but implementing a system where we make sure that umpires' calls are right isn't going to ruin the integrity of the game.

Some think that implementing replay would slow games down. Consider this, though: when a questionable call is made, the manager will often come out and argue, sometimes for minutes. What good does this do? None at all -- an umpire will never reverse an out/safe ruling or any other opinion call because a manager came out to argue.

But let's say there's replay. A manager challenges a play, the umpires take a minute to look at it, and decide to either reverse it or let it stand. Instead of pointless arguing, the whole thing could be over and decided correctly in a minute. Limit the number of times per game that managers can challenge, and limit it to out/safe and fair/foul calls, which are usually pretty clear-cut on replays. Like in other sports, if the replay is inconclusive, the call on the field stands. I really don't think you'd see a big difference in game times.

Of course, you'll also hear the "that's the way baseball's always been" argument. But as you all realize, there's a good reason for this -- baseball didn't have replay when it was invented because there was no such thing as a television. With the technology that we have at our disposal now, there's no reason why baseball shouldn't evolve. For baseball not to be using replay when it's available borders on ignorant.

So yes, I'm taking a stand here and hopping on the technology bandwagon. Baseball needs to expand instant replay. Because when it comes down to it, which is more important for the game: being traditional, or being right? I think I know how Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce would answer.

1 comment:

  1. indeed. and actually, baseball doesn't even need replay. it could and should go ahead and make sure a call will never be wrong by implementing cameras with freaking laser eyes covering all the bases, strike zone, and foul and home run boundaries.