Saturday, June 5, 2010

Nobody's Perfect

Wednesday night Armando Galarraga came very close to pitching a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. For those of you that don't follow baseball, a perfect game is when a pitcher pitches an entire game and no runner ever reaches first base. That means no hits, walks, batters hit by a pitch, batters to reach on a throwing or fielding error, and no third strike that the catcher doesn't catch allowing the runner to run to first before being tagged or thrown out. 27 up, 27 down.

A perfect game is not an easy task despite the fact that Galarraga would have been the third pitcher to throw one this season. Roy Halladay's perfect game, the second of this season, was only the 20th in baseball history.  You need to be good and you need to be lucky. Your fielders have to bring their A-game as well. Well hit balls need to be catchable and almost every perfect game seems to have one defensive gem, such as Austin Jackson’s catch to start off the ninth inning. And, finally you have to have an umpiring crew that is going to give you good calls behind the plate and at first base.
Enter Jim Joyce.

Joyce was the first base ump on Wednesday and has been a major league ump since 1987.  He is considered one of the better umps in baseball and is respected around the league.  But with 26 batters in a row retired the 27th, and what should have been the final batter, hit a ground ball to the first base side. The first baseman fielded the ball, threw it to Galarraga who was covering the bag and the runner was........


"Why is he safe, why is he safe" repeated the Tigers TV announcer sounding like he was holding back tears. After reviewing the replay it was clear that Joyce got the call wrong.

I was mad and upset for Galarraga. He should be the 21st pitcher to have thrown a perfect game. But I feel, and I think I am in the minority here, that Joyce made the right call. Not to say he got the call right. Clearly the call was wrong, and he admitted it after the game which definitely makes him an honorable man, but he made the call that he felt, at the time, was the correct call*.  Despite 50,000 people cheering and millions watching on TV, on a call that Joyce knew would get a lot of attention even if it was right, he made the call as he saw it. Analysts after the game were asking "don't you give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt?"  But why would you do that. The game should be called by the rules regardless of the circumstances. He made the call that he thought was correct and that is how he should do his job. I give him all the credit in the world. He made an untimely mistake. It happens. We are all human.

To quote Galarraga himself, "nobody's perfect".

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