Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pitcher perfect (yes, a bad play on words, did you expect anything less?)

Today's blog is loaded with sports. If it's not your bag, baby, I understand if you head over to something that's more interesting to you. I'm hurt and will drink heavily to forget the pain, but I understand.

On Wednesday night, Detroit's Armando Galarraga should have had the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. As you likely know by now, first base umpire Jim Joyce missed a call on what should have been the last out of the game, resulting in a hit for Cleveland. Now, to be sure, perfect games are as much a product of luck as they are of skill. There are plenty of immensely talented and successful pitchers in the annals of MLB history who don't have a perfect game to their credit, and some of the pitchers that do have a perfect game to their names are not among the greats of the game. Oakland's Dallas Braden, for example, falls into the latter of the two categories, while Roy Halladay falls into the former (though calling him a 'great of the game' may be a stretch, but needless to say, he's very, very good.) ESPN showed the final two innings and when Joyce blew the call, I was yelling at the screen in disbelief.

As you might have expected, I spent a lot of time reading and listening various opinions on the fallout of the call today. I assume my kid found food, drink and changed his diaper as I couldn't be bothered with such trivialities on a day like today. Rather than write a large pamphlet on the matter, (everyone says write a small novel, no one goes the other way) I figured I'd give you some of the thoughts and observations that caught my eye.

1. It was not an easy call. Sure it was a very close play, but if it happened in the third inning of an otherwise pedestrian game, no one would have given it much thought. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it happened in the 9th inning of a perfect game. By all accounts, Joyce (who could easily pass for a contestant in the World's Worst Mustache contest) is a fantastic umpire who makes that call correctly 999 out of 1,000 according to one ESPN analyst. It just so happened he wet the bed the one night company was staying over.

2. Instant replay is not the easy solution. After events like Wednesday night, calls for instituting instant replay are always made. But that's not as easy as it sounds. While plays like Wednesday's are straight forward, there are numerous plays that aren't quite easy. Allowing replay would result in simply substituting an umpires decision in one instance for another.

3. MLB Changing the Call is a Bad Idea. Yes, the umpire blew the call. Yes, it cost Galarraga a shot at history, but it didn't change the outcome of the game, which is the most important thing. ESPN's Keith Law said it well earlier when he said "More important calls are blown every October, yet there's more hue and cry over this than there was over Eric Gregg's NLCS-altering strike zone." Yes it was a bad call, but it didn't impact the winner of the contest.

4. Sports Talk Radio lives for this. I'm fairly certain every sports radio host woke up this morning and said to themselves 'All I have to do is say 'Jim Joyce' and take calls for three hours. Easiest work day of the year.' The downside to this is that no one really had any good insight that wasn't already discussed last night. The plus side, I didn't mind turning it off.

5. I feel bad for the guy. But not THAT bad. He pitched a great game, got a Corvette from GM, had the governor of Michigan issue a proclamation that he did, in fact, pitch a perfect game, and got more media coverage than both Halladay and Braden did for their pitching gems. He got the win, and showed more grace and class than any athlete I've seen in a long time. He didn't appear to harbor any ill will towards Joyce and said after the game that no one's perfect and everyone makes mistakes. I'm not sure I could do that moments after missing out on my chance to join baseball immortality.

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