That’s Just Me, I Like to Get the Question Right
Armando Galarraga should have pitched a perfect game.Â He should have retired twenty-seven batters in a row.Â He should have joined the twenty other pitchers in Major League history to have accomplished this feat.
He didnâ€™t.Â Instead he got screwed.Â This was a once-in-a-lifetime, overwhelmingly improbable, shockingly emotional screw-job comparable to when Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels conspired to steal Bret the Hitman Hartâ€™s World Championship in 1997.
One instant, Galarraga was beyond the velvet ropes of Toots Shorâ€™s, rubbing elbows with Frankie and Dino.Â The next, he found himself in the drive through of the local Taco Bell.
Galarraga, offending umpire Jim Joyce, and the entire Tigers organization should be commended for the grace with which they have handled this turn of events.Â Tigersâ€™ manager, Jim Leyland commented after the game on the unprecedented turn of events that robbed his young right-hander of immortality.
Iâ€™m sure somebody is going to say, â€œIf they had replay on that play, the kid would have had a perfect game.â€Â Somebody will say something about that, but not meâ€¦Thatâ€™s just the human element.Â Itâ€™s a good element.Â The umpires do a great job.Â Thereâ€™s no question about that.Â They are right a whole lot.
Leylandâ€™s not wrong.Â Baseball umpires have to deal with a game that progresses in moments of explosive action that take place in fractions of a second.Â Most of the time, shockingly, they nail the call.Â Itâ€™s a thankless job in that we expect them to be like children raised in the Puritan societies of the 1700sâ€”seen, but not heard.Â The fact that I had never heard of Jim Joyce prior to last nightâ€™s debacle, as opposed to the bastions of hubris and incompetence that are Joe West and Angel Hernandez, speaks volumes for his resume.Â However, heâ€™s now going to be forever known as that guy that blew that kidâ€™s perfect game.
Itâ€™s unfair.Â Itâ€™s unfair to Galarraga.Â Itâ€™s unfair to Joyce.Â Itâ€™s unfair to baseball fans everywhere who could not even conceive the possibility of witnessing three perfectos in one season.
Blame the human element and the baseball brass and traditionalists who cling to those two words like an aged jogger who refuses to trade in his walkman for an iPod.Â What really boils my potatoes about this whole situation is the hypocrisy of the people who run professional baseball.
These snake-oil salesmen have, from one side of their mouths, espoused the traditions and integrity of the game in their opposition to instant replay, and from the other side, mortgaged that integrity as chemically induced superstars made a mockery of the very statistics and numbers that comprise that very integrity.Â In 1985, when Don Denkinger cost the Royals the World Series, technology had not reached the point where we could instantaneously recognize and rectify his mistake.Â We had to chalk the Cardinalsâ€™ victory up to the machinations of the baseball gods and the human fallibility involved in officiating a game of inches.
For as long as I can remember, baseball people have referred to the human element of baseball as if it were some irremovable, all-powerful mea culpa.Â I never understood this.Â When Michael Brown, director of FEMA, responded to the tragedy that was Katrina with all the urgency of a 60-year-old strolling down the driveway to pick up his morning paper, did we attribute it to the human element of running a federally funded national aid agency?Â When I total the grades of my students at the end of the school year, do I use long addition and an abacus?Â No, I use a calculator and a spreadsheet, limiting the human element of grade calculation.
Technology has reached a point where, provided with seven minutes, a tripod, a flip cam, and a few willing parents with smart phones, I can MacGyver up a surprisingly effective and accurate instant replay system for the team of sixth graders I coach.Â Youâ€™re telling me the billion-dollar industry that is Major League Baseball canâ€™t do something similar?Â Add a fifth umpire to the traditional four-man crew, put him in the press box, let him be the official scorer and the replay official that makes the final ruling on any close play.Â That way we keep the official scoring system objective and provide a quick and efficient means of oversight for a particularly harrowing job.
For some reason, baseball always sacrifices progress for some obscure notion of purity and tradition.Â In my opinion, accurate officiating is as pure as one can get.Â Iâ€™ll always remember the Calculus teacher I had in my senior year of high school, who, after taking us through a particularly challenging series of formulas and mathematical steps, would say, â€œThatâ€™s just me, I like to get the question right.â€Â Shouldnâ€™t that be our goal here?
Ultimately, when people argue that the human element of baseball should be preserved, I wonder if they know what theyâ€™re trying to save.Â An older gentleman often umpires the games of my sixth-grade team.Â Letâ€™s call him â€œT.â€Â While my expectations of an 80-plus-year-old man umping middle school baseball games are already pretty low, T still manages to surprise me.Â He stands behind the pitcher, calls strikes with a raise of his right hand, calls balls with a raise of his left, and once called a pitch by raising both his right and his left hands simultaneously.Â Heâ€™s in his eighties, so itâ€™s unrealistic to expect him to get in the correct position on a play in the field.Â He coaches the pitchers, incorrectly tinkering with their mechanics, and will not stop B.S.ing with the people he knows between innings despite the fact that our league will not allow us to start an inning after 5 PM.
T is the epitome of the human element of baseball.
Iâ€™m for anything that limits Tâ€™s role in deciding a baseball game.
But thatâ€™s just me, I like to get the question right.