It is remarkable how the Armando Galarraga-Jim Joyce saga has continued to dominate the news in the past 48 hours. Remarkable, actually, in a good way because both men have behaved admirably in the wake of Joyce’s blown call on Wednesday. The story has become one of those that transcends sports. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post had stories on the front page of the newspaper this morning and The Post’s editorial page, which generally is completely unaware that sports exists outside the DC beltway, ran an editorial on the story—although it somehow found a way to tie it all back to how it affects Washington.
In the news business we call that the, “Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once flew over Trenton….was elected President last night,” approach to journalism.
Anyway, back to Galarraga and Joyce—and Bud Selig who has now become a major part of the ongoing saga.
The feel good part of this story is the way all of those directly involved have handled it. Joyce not only admitted he had gotten the call wrong once he saw it on replay, he sought out Galarraga to tell him how sorry he was about it. Galarraga accepted the apology and went out of his way to talk about how classy it was of Joyce to come and find him.
On Thursday, the Tigers and Indians wrapped up their series in Detroit with a 1 o’clock game. With Joyce scheduled to work the plate, there was all sorts of potential for disaster and trouble. When Don Denkinger worked the plate in game 7 of the 1985 World Series after his game 6 gaffe at first base, he ended up tossing both Whitey Herzog and Juaquin Andujar. That game was played in Kansas City, not St. Louis. God only knows what would have happened if the Cardinals had been the home team that night.
As has often been the case throughout his career, Tigers manager Jim Leyland did the exact right thing: He sent Galarraga to the plate with the Tigers lineup card. As soon as Galarraga walked up to Joyce and shook his hand, the fans who had been booing the umpires when they walked onto the field stopped. Many stood to applaud Galarraga. Joyce gave him a pat on the back as the meeting broke up and then turned into the Tigers dugout and pointed at Leyland to say, ‘thank-you.’
It was one of those cool sports moments where everyone gets it right. The Tigers won a 12-6 slugfest and there wasn’t any sign of trouble in Comerica Park throughout the afternoon. Kudos to all—including the Detroit fans.
Meanwhile, Selig was doing his best/worst imitation of Hamlet. He had an almost unique opportunity to right a wrong and send everyone home happy and he flat out blew it. All he had to do was say this: “After looking at the replay over and over; after hearing what Jim Joyce and Jason Donald (the Indians baserunner on the blown call) had to say and given the unique circumstances: the game was over if the call was made correctly AND by overruling it I am not changing the result in any way at all—it was 3-0 Tigers when the call was made and the final score was 3-0 Tigers with no further baserunners—I’m invoking my ‘best interests of the game,’ powers to reverse the call. Jason Donald was out. Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game.”
There is NO reasonable argument against this. To those who say Selig is setting a dangerous precedent I say this: fine. Let him declare that at any time in the future if a pitcher gets the first 26 outs of a game and then fails to get the 27th on a clearly blown call by an umpire who instantly says he blew the call, he will do the same thing. There’s your precedent. Now let’s sit back and wait for it to happen again.
Last night, Ken Burns, the noted baseball historian was on Keith Olbermann’s show. He started going on about ‘unraveling the sweater,’ by reversing this call. He brought up Bucky Dent’s home run, asking if it should be taken away because Dent may have used a corked bat. He mentioned the Giants stealing signs prior to the Bobby Thomson home run and Mark McGwire’s steroid induced home runs.
Oh please. Those are ridiculous analogies. For one thing, they involve cheating, not an out-and-out honest mistake that has been confessed to by the person who made the mistake. Second, a million different things could have happened—we’ll never know—if there was no corked bat (maybe Dent doubles; maybe the game is played differently if the Yankees aren’t ahead after Dent’s at bat, WE DON’T KNOW); same thing with Bobby Thomson or any other example like that baseball people might want to bring up.
Here, we know. There are no ‘what-ifs,’ involved. If Joyce makes the right call, the game is over. Even in the case of Denkinger, the Cardinals still had chances to win the game—all Denkinger did was give the Royals a baserunner leading off the ninth. It was a horrible mistake but there is no way you could go back and correct it once the game was over.
This can be corrected. Put simply, it is the right thing to do. Selig already changed the rules on postseason rainouts in the middle of a World Series, so why not do this? It would be the right thing for Galarraga certainly; it would save Joyce, a good umpire and a good man, a lifetime of carrying the label of blowing this call and it would be—wait for it—RIGHT FOR BASEBALL. If Ken Burns or some of the so-called ‘purists,’ want to get into a dither over it, let them. Most people who love the game would be happy that justice was done and there’s no harm done to anyone in the process. As I said, the next time something EXACTLY like this happens, let the commissioner do the same thing. My guess is Bob Costas’s great grandson will be commissioner by the time this exact circumstance comes up again.
Selig was absolutely babbling yesterday when he went on about how great everyone in the game was; how proud he was of Galarraga and Joyce and everyone else who has ever set foot on a baseball field. Remember, I’m not a Bud-basher. I like the guy and I think he’s done a lot of things right as commissioner. This time though the Selig-gyrations need to just stop and he needs to just do the right thing if only to get the governor of Michigan to stop issuing proclamations.
Here’s the scorecard right now: Galarraga—perfect. Leyland—perfect. Joyce—trying desperately to do anything possible to make up for his mistake. Tiger fans—fabulous. The leader of the sport?—hiding under a rock. Come on Bud, crawl out from under there and get this one right. Everyone else involved has brought honor to the game since Wednesday. Now it's your turn.
John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases
To listen to 'The Bob and Tom Show' interview about 'Moment of Glory', please click the play button below: