Photo credit: TBO.com
In Major League Baseball's search of their third perfect game in 23 days, Detroit's Armando Galarraga almost had the solution.
Running a perfect game (as in, no baserunners allowed) through eight full innings and the first two outs of the ninth, Galarraga almost created a remarkable Cinderella story for himself and a remarkable record for MLB.
The accomplishment would've been the talk of the day, perhaps even overriding the headlines of Ken Griffey Jr.'s retirement. Baseball would be officially on an "up" year thanks to several major happenings in the news, several upstart teams and players (take Andre Ethier, for example), and just an overall good aura for baseball.
It's too bad the league itself had to ruin such an achievement. No, umpire Jim Joyce is certainly not at fault—he made one bad call in a career that has seen him establish a solid consistency day-in and day-out.
No, it is MLB's refusal to adjust a few minor things, at least from the full perspective, that has cost the lost-in-time sport to fall behind the rest of modern 21st-century athletics.
Sports have become more than a game, more than finding a winner and a loser. With the incredible audience that HDTV, ever-expanding radio networks, and site after site of online coverage have brought to the "Big Four" leagues over the past years, sports leagues have now had to realize that sports are also now about entertainment for the fans and profit—not just winning—for the teams.
Baseball may still be America's Pastime, but it may also be becoming America's Past Times. The lack of instant replay, a technological advancement that not only changed the way sports function but also changed it quite a long time ago, is the first issue.
"Baseball is a human's game," they say, but that very statement may be losing handfuls of humans themselves, driven away from the sport by this lack of certainty.
While this one missed call may not deserve to be the one to bring up the arguments of every minor problem with baseball, instant replay is most definitely not the only new advancement that MLB ignores.
A salary cap, for example: Unless MLB executives want everyone to eventually give in to the Yankees' or Red Sox' bandwagon, this has to be implemented. Ridiculous contracts may be finding their way to the top of the sports headlines almost daily throughout much of the year, but I bet not too many of those come from teams like the Pirates, Padres, Marlins, or Nationals, do they?
Additionally, the league office needs to start promoting all 30 teams, not just five of them. No wonder the average Yankee is earning over six times what the average Pirate is: ESPN and FOX simply ignore three-fourths of the league.
While these broadcasters may not be directly affiliated with the MLB, they are partners, and "Bud" Selig and his "gang" need to get franchises like the Toronto Blue Jays their fair share of television coverage. The argument will be made that teams like them don't draw nearly as big of an audience. But, frankly, if I lived in Toronto, I might be a little more excited to come out if the rest of baseball's fan base really cared just as much about my team as they did about everyone else's.
Truly, the issues go on and on. While none of them are quite like a knockout punch to baseball on their own and the problems lost in decades past continue to build, baseball's casual fans may be slowly pulling away from the game itself.
I, truthfully, could call myself one of them. I can't pledge any allegiances to a single team, nor say I come close to watching the game every chance I get. Actually, this is the first baseball article I've posted since last August 29th.
However, I do manage to keep up with the headlines...in a casual way. My fantasy team is leading my league, but no one spends more than 10 minutes a day managing their lineup. I may watch (from time to time, at least) MLB Network, but that's only because it's free in our television package.
Balancing baseball with the ever-growing list of new televised types of athletics has always been a crowded schedule, and most recently, pretty much like a lot of laid-back followers, the Old Ball Game is being pushed to the bottom of the TV guide more and more.
There will still be baseball die-hards 50 years from now, and there will still be baseball then. But, hopefully, by 2060, MLB might have finally caught up with the times, unless servant robots and time-traveling are the "in" things in those days.
Because, for now, baseball's traditional name is becoming progressively accurate in its description of the game.
It really is the Old Ball Game...and, last night, Armando Galarraga just took another step in proving what's already known to the majority of American sports fans.
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes as well as an avid follower of many other sports. In his 20 months so far with the site, he has written over 195 articles and received over 140,000 total reads.
Visit his profile to read more.