From Armando Galarraga To Jim Joyce, There's Enough Blame To Go Around

Ben SteigerwaltCorrespondent IJune 3, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 21:  Armando Galarraga #58 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on April 21, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It was Armando Galarraga's own fault that he didn't get a perfect game.

Not because he didn't pitch well, his pitching was great.  It would have to be, for him to be perfect for 96 percent of the game.

The issue for the Detroit Tigers right-hander was his fielding.

Galarraga didn't make it clear to the umpire that he had the ball, and his foot on the base. And I have a proposal for how he could've indicated that clearly.

Galarraga should've taken the extra time he had before the batter stepped on first base (and there was some time) to tag him out. He needed to do so forcefully enough, that the runner never reached first.

It is the player's responsibility to leave nothing to to the umpire's judgment. When you do, things like Wednesday night's debacle happen.

Now that I have your hackles raised, relax. I'm being facetious.

My real point here is that these circumstances were wholly out of Galarraga's control. Frankly, they were out of the MLB's control. 

Therein lies the problem.

I'm sure we'll hear a lot about how the MLB needs replay in the next few days. In the scheme of things, that's probably true. But the problem last night, in that game, had nothing to do with MLB rules as I understand them.

The issue, then, is pride. Specifically, veteran umpire Jim Joyce's.

To be clear, Joyce showed quite a bit of humility by publicly acknowledging his error in judgment, and by personally apologizing to Galarraga. But if Joyce really thought he made the wrong call, couldn't he just have reversed it?

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland came out to argue the call. Joyce had an opportunity there. Unfortunately, Leyland's argument probably had the opposite effect.

I also don't recall Joyce meeting with the other umpires to review the play. That was another opportunity.

The MLB should be embarrassed here, not because it doesn't have a replay system in effect. We knew about that before the game. Rules can't be so dynamic that they literally change during games.

They should ashamed to govern a game in which an umpire is either too proud or too powerless to reverse a blown call. They should be equally ashamed that they have not provided a contingency plan that keeps their umpire from being publicly flayed.

This is, incidentally, a consequence of training umpires to make firm, unwavering decisions, then stick to them with angry managers and players spitting in their faces. In most cases, this is necessary. But when you take some of the judgment out of making judgment calls, disasters like this are bound to happen.

This firestorm has and will take on a life of its own. Sports fans on the whole are reasonable people.  But we all know that, as with any other group in society, there are extremists. So Joyce's family will be the targets of jeers and threats. Joyce will be a pariah in the public and the sports media.

The worse part of this is that Joyce was utterly classy in his apology and handling of the situation after the fact. He was so classy in this regard, in fact, that I am more inclined to believe that he couldn't overturn the call, rather than his making a choice out of pride.

On the other hand, MLB commissioner Bud Selig does have that power. Regardless of precedent or the slippery slope it creates, Selig has a responsibility to Galarraga, Joyce and baseball fans in general to do the right thing and correct an obvious blown call.

If players from the eras of segregation, spit-balling and steroids can get into baseball's Hall of Fame without asterisks attached to their names/plaques, then I see no reason to think that an asterisk-free perfect game can't be awarded to Galarraga.

It does the MLB and Joyce no justice for the MLB to uphold a call that has clear (and publicly available, at least for now) video footage proving it was wrong.  It is not graceful, humble or reasonable to uphold the call or ignore the situation altogether.

I read that today, Galarraga was sent out to present Joyce, today's home plate umpire, the Tigers' lineup card for today. This was a nice gesture by Leyland and a sure sign that, in a situation that almost demands otherwise, no ill will is being maintained.

It is also a tribute to Joyce's character and courage that he showed up to work today in the same ballpark, with the same fans.

I, for one, can only hope that Bud Selig can take example from the displays from after the game and today (grace, understanding), rather than the one during the game (intractability). Knowing Selig, and the game of baseball in general, I'm inclined to think stubbornness and pride will win the day.

But hey, nobody's perfect.