Overturning the Call Wouldn’t Change Much
Would it change anything, besides some pages in a baseball’s official record book, if Bud Selig decided to overturn umpire Jim Joyce’s missed call that costs Detroit’s Armando Galarraga a perfect game? Is it worth it if it doesn’t change anything besides some pages in the official record book?
Galarraga is more famous now than he would have been had he pitched the perfect game. Think about how much attention Dallas Braden got for his perfect game or Mark Buehrle last season. Ken Griffey Jr., the greatest all-around centerfielder since Willie Mays retired on the same day as Galarraga’s would-be perfect game and Galarraga and Joyce are getting more attention.
Baseball fans remember things like this as much as they remember perfect games. How many of the 20 pitchers who pitched a perfect game can you name? How many can you name from before you started watching baseball? But most baseball fans can tell you what Harvey Haddix is famous for. Many know that Dave Stieb had two no-hitters broken up with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning and another perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth before finally pitching a no-hitter in 1990.
If baseball fans, the only people in the world who would care about such things anyway, are going to remember Galarraga for the perfect game that wasn’t even without overturning a call, why do it? So baseball can set the president that if fans, media personalities and politicians cause enough of an uproar, a bad call can be changed if the correct call would have resulted in the final out of the game?
If the call is changed, is Jim Joyce really off the hook or do people still remember him as an umpire that almost costs a pitcher a perfect game until the commissioner stepped in? It seems baseball fans are going to remember the uproar and the bad call and Jim Joyce no matter what Selig does. So what’s the point?
What about the official record? Is it worth it for Selig to change the ruling in order to add Galarraga’s name to the official record of pitchers who’ve thrown perfect games? By that reasoning, why not review every game in which the umpire or something else costs a player or a team the would-be last out? Why not change every statistic in the official record affected by those circumstances?
The stories combined with statistics are much more interesting and important than black and white statistics in a record book. Everyone knows, for instance, Barry Bonds homerun records aren’t the same as Henry Aaron or Babe Ruth’s homeruns. Bud Selig doesn’t need to make some kind of ruling for people to realize that. Ford Frick didn’t need to put an asterisk next to Roger Maris’ 1961 homerun total. Every baseball fan knows he played more games than Ruth and every baseball fan can look up the homerun rates of each player.
In fact, if Selig changes the call it would take away something from the story. Right now it’s a perfect game that wasn’t because of a bad call. If Selig changes the call it’s just another perfect game (to the degree there can be just another perfect game). If Selig changes the call, it’s possible that the whole situation gets brushed under the rug until another bad call comes up.
For practical purposes, this call could also lead to better things for baseball. Baseball needs a system in which umpires are better evaluated and held accountable for their actions. A missed call should count against umpires and whether an umpire stays in the majors should depend on his successes and failures, just like players. I don’t know that there is a mechanism in place allowing any of the powers-that-be to send an umpire to the minors or release an umpire from his duties. Isn’t it odd to demand a certain level of performance from players and not demand it from umpires, at least not to an appropriate degree?
Another discussion this brings up is replay. Why not use replay more? Why not on replays that can be done rather quickly? Have an umpire in a replay booth somewhere that can immediately tell an umpire on the field if he is wrong so that the call can be corrected in a timely manner. There is usually a fairly significant break in the action from a time a play is dead until the next pitch. With today’s technology especially, it shouldn’t be that difficult to instill replay on select plays.
Baseball needs significant changes regarding umpires and possibly replay. Hopefully this one play can lead to these necessary changes. But Bud Selig changing the call after the fact does nothing. It doesn’t take Jim Joyce off the hook, as he still made a bad call. It doesn’t change the perception of the way Galarraga pitched, as he’s more famous now than he would have been without the bad call. And it’s not worth changing the call for the sake of the official record, as this story will live in baseball fans’ memories more so than what’s written in a record book.