What’s more unbelievable than two perfect games in a month?
Three, of course.Â
What’s more unbelievable than three perfect games in a month?Â
Well, four would be the obvious answer, but two plus a third that should have been but wasn’t surely trumps it.
Armando Galarragaâ€™s pursuit of perfection last night, ended with one out to go by a bad call by umpire Jim Joyce, was the latest in an ever-growing line of astonishing stories to wake up to this season, leaving UK-based baseball fans choking on their cornflakes.
According to ESPN, â€œMajor League Baseball is still deciding whether to review the blown callâ€.Â Should MLB Commissioner Bud Selig ‘right the wrong’ and turn it into a perfect game and if so in what way?
Ruling that the play should have been an out, thus ending the game is a possibility. The fact that it came on what would have been the final play makes the idea more credible.Â
Had the play happened in an earlier inning (i.e. one player reached on such a play in the seventh inning and then every other batter was retired in order the rest of the way), you would still have the same story of the umpire ‘costing’ the pitcher a perfect game.Â However, in that situation reversing the call would be a very debatable decision because of the potential impact it would have had on the course of the game.Â You cannot assume that the outcomes of the following at-bats would have been the same had an out been made at that point.Â In this case, the next batter, Trevor Crowe, was put-out so you could say the game should have ended on the 3-1 putout and then disregard the final plate appearance.Â
The other way of dealing with it is to let the game record stand, but for Selig to decree that it should be recorded as a perfect game anyway, perhaps listed as the 21st with an asterisk next to it.Â
Both ideas have â€˜fairnessâ€™ at their heart, but neither seems right to me.Â Changing a call retrospectively or recording an historic feat that technically didn’t happen will never truly turn it into a perfect game now.Â Weâ€™ve been incredibly fortunate to experience the wonder of a perfect game twice in a short space of time.Â Itâ€™s not simply a statistical achievement; the box score doesnâ€™t tell the whole story.Â A perfect game is about living the moment, getting ever more nervous and excited as each out is made and then reaching the final play when, right there in front of your eyes or in your ears, history is made.Â
And last night, it didnâ€™t happen. Galarraga didn’t retire 27 in a row, because the umpire ruled Jason Donald safe.Â The fact that he shouldn’t have done so doesn’t change that.Â Â Â Â
Itâ€™s a terrible shame that this has happened.Â You canâ€™t help but feel sorry for all involved, particularly as Jim Joyce will have to live with it for the rest of his career (and beyond).Â Â Fudging it by making an artificial ruling hours after the game might make people feel better, and if it does happen then I certainly will not begrudge Galarraga from getting the credit he deserves or Jim Joyce being spared a lifetime of grief, but the moment has gone.Â
Upon further review â€¦
While that moment has gone, the flawed instant replay system still remains.
Few fans (no fans?) want to see ‘review appeals’ in every ballgame, where managers could challenge a set number of any close plays.Â The current MLB review system as implementedÂ avoids that unwanted situationÂ because going to a review is down to the umpiring crew’s discretion and can only be implemented on a ‘boundary call’ decision as to whether a ball went for a home run or not.
However, bringing instant replay into baseball for limited purposes was always a dangerous move because using it at all sets a precedent.Â Saying that only boundary calls are deserving of review is an arbitrary and, as shown by last nightâ€™s events, completely unjustifiable decision.
On any sporting, fairness or plain common-sense grounds, it is utter madness that an instant review booth and procedure was in place at Comerica Park, but that the umpires could not review the final play: one of far greater significance than a mid-game home run/double off the wall.Â I’m sure Jim Joyce wishes he could have looked at the replay there and then, rather than after the game when the call had been made and his epitaph written.Â
Whether it’s right to use replay in baseball is a divisive topic and one where you will probably never get a consensus, but the current system now has no credibility and it needs to change.Â Either scrap it all together or make it more flexible so that umpires can use it to get the important calls right if they need the help.