Bauman: Stuck with historic mistake
Joyce's call sure to spark replay debate, but to err is human
The 21st perfect game in the history of baseball was pitched on Wednesday night. Astoundingly, it was the third perfect game of the 2010 season. Even more astoundingly, it wasn't a perfect game.
Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers pitched this gem against the Cleveland Indians. In a better world, he would take his place next to Dallas Braden of Oakland and Roy Halladay of Philadelphia, as authors of perfectos in what is becoming the Year of the Perfect Game.
Instead, the official record will show that on June 2, 2010, Galarraga pitched a one-hitter against Cleveland. What was the difference? The difference was that the first base umpire, Jim Joyce, blew the call on the 27th out. There is already one extremely unfortunate outcome in this episode, but there could be two.
Replays were crystal clear on the last play. With two outs, with Armando Galarraga on the verge of pitching immortality, Indians shortstop Jason Donald hit a grounder wide of first. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball, and tossed to Galarraga covering first. Galarraga beat Donald to the bag. Cabrera's throw beat Donald to the bag. Donald was out. The perfect game had been completed.
And then Joyce signaled that Donald was safe. It was an emphatic call, a decisive call. Unfortunately, it did not have the virtue of being a correct call.
So, Armando Galarraga had his perfect game taken away from him. That was the first, most obvious and most unfair result of Joyce's misguided ruling. But that won't be the only unfortunate outgrowth of this perfectly imperfect game.
Every time an umpire blows a call in a prominent situation -- and you don't get much more prominent than this situation during the regular season -- there are increased calls in many quarters for a comprehensive replay rule. You will hear it again. Prominent people, prominent baseball people, respected baseball people, will be calling for a comprehensive replay rule that covers every aspect of the games but balls and strikes.
There were similar calls in the past. But there is a difference now. Replay has a foot in the door, with the "boundary calls." The technology is essentially in place. It is not a question of introducing it. It is simply a question of expanding it.
If you think there are "pace of game" issues now, wait until the comprehensive replay rule is enacted. The Red Sox and the Yankees will require four days to play a three-game series. The ballpark vendors will do well under this system, and there will be time for even more commercials on baseball broadcasts. But the game will come to a screeching halt.
After further review, comprehensive replay is a very bad idea. But the umps, with each blown call, are asking for it. There wouldn't have been boundary-call replays, without a series of extremely prominent missed postseason calls.
This is the part of the even-handed, objective column in which it must be said that Jim Joyce is a veteran, respected umpire, a man in his 22nd season of umpiring Major League Baseball. This is a man, who, according to the official Umpire Media Guide, may be related to the Irish literary giant, James Joyce. The literary Joyce once wrote that a man's errors are the portals of discovery. We can only hope.
In sum, congratulations must be extended to Armando Galarraga, and condolences, too. He pitched a terrific game, an 88-pitch masterpiece. It was supposed to be a perfect game. In fact, it was perfection-plus. He got 28 outs in a row. He just won't get the official credit he so deeply deserves.
And Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson would have become a major part of the legend of this perfect game. The catch that he made off a Mark Grudzielanek drive to deep center for the first out in the ninth was amazing, Mays-like, the kind of thing that would be immortalized as a great defensive play that saved a perfect game. Austin Jackson, too, gets short-changed.
And high on the condolence list will be Jim Joyce. The circumstances of this call will not allow it to be forgotten. For those of us who have spent many traditionalist seasons arguing against replay because the umpires represent baseball's human element, we always struggle with this kind of situation.
We favor the umps over the intrusion of the machines, the incessant, time-consuming, time-wasting replay reviews. In the case of Armando Galarraga's perfect game, if it had to be taken away, we could all live with a clean single. But the wrong call is galling. Well, the umpires are human. To err is human. To forgive is divine. We're working on it.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.