Two outs. Ninth inning. Armando Galarraga pitching. Eight and two-thirds innings, no hits, no walks, no errors, no HBP. Jason Donald at the plate.
Grounder to first. Flip to Galarraga covering. Donald beat to base. Out. Perfect game. History.
Well, no. It actually went: Donald beat to base. Safe. Blown call. Epic fail costs Galarraga perfection.
First base umpire Jim Joyce saw the game end right before his eyes, Donald out by a country mile, and made the worst call of his career. Galarraga handled the situation in the most professional and mature way. He said nothing to Joyce. He just smiled and got the next out.
After the game, he said: “I got a perfect game. Maybe it’s not in the book, but I’m going to show my son the CD.”
While he dealt with everything in a manner as perfect as last night should have been, the world is left to discuss what happened. And it inevitably leads to one conclusion. I know Bud Selig doesn’t want to hear this. But it’s true.
We need instant replay.
He doesn’t want it. He wants to keep the "human element" in the game and do things the way they always have been . But how is the sport in any way bettered by what happened in Comerica Park last night? It was an embarrassment. A debacle. A screw-up for the ages.
Above all, it was a clear-cut sign that we need instant replay. Not want it. Not long for it. Need it. Now, I understand Selig’s reluctance to introduce it. Already people complain about the length of games. And that’s not just fans. Umpire Joe West—he of the ridiculous Mark Buehrle balk-a-thon—called the Red Sox and Yankees "a disgrace to baseball" for taking so long to play their games against one another.
But I’m not talking about prolonging the games by much. We can’t have replay for balls and strikes. We’d be at the game till 6 am. We also can’t have every play be reviewable. How about the football method though? Keep the home run review the way it is—every call can be challenged. Then give the managers one challenge a game. Just one.
They won’t burn it on a questionable fair/foul call in the first, they’ll keep it for the Big Moment at the end, if and when it comes.
Even if every manager used it in every game, only about 10 minutes would be added. Is that not a worthwhile sacrifice to make sure no one is in the position Jim Joyce was? To get the Big Call in the Big Moment right?
On a side note, can anyone else remember a spate of bad performances by umpires as prolonged and incessant as this? The Red Sox were screwed by the world’s most inconsistent strike zone. Joe West made the very impartial Yanks-Sox comments. West again, with the balks.
Bill Hohn ejected Roy Oswalt against Washington last week for being angry with himself. Tampa Bay were robbed of a run last night when it was ruled that Sean Rodriguez had missed third base on his way home. When he hadn’t.
The way umpires have been channelling their inner NBA ref is another discussion for another day. But it does highlight the fact that instant replay is essential for the sport.
Most sports that need it, have it. That’s because the technology is there already. Everyone at home, everyone working on every TV network and most of the fans at the game can see on TVs, computers and phones that the runner was out. Jim Joyce had no access to any of these things. He was the least qualified person, then, to make that call.
It was he who had to make it, however. And somehow he got it wrong. This was not a bang-bang play at first. Galarraga beat Donald by a step and a half. He knew it. Everyone in the stadium knew it.
Even Donald knew it, and his reaction—a despairing hands-on-the-head—when he was called safe, told you just how clear it was. The game was over and Galarraga had booked his place in history.
In a way, this game will be remembered in baseball history. Some have lost perfect games in the ninth. Mike Mussina did that twice. A few have had perfect games through nine innings, but the score was 0-0 and they had to go to extras.
What happened to Galarraga will be remembered as one of the greatest officiating blunders ever in the regular season. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll be the game that finally brings instant replay to the sport that needs it most.