Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce, and the Imperfect Perfect Game

Did you see that?

I’m sick to my stomach.

What was he thinking?!

These were the phrases spoken and texted last night after Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga threw the perfect game that wasn’t. Galarraga retired all 27 Cleveland Indians batters in order, but first base umpire Jim Joyce felt that Jason Donald had beaten out his grounder, even though it was clear that first baseman Miguel Cabrera’s throw to Galarraga was in time to get the out.

In fact, it was clear to pretty much everyone watching. Typically on a close play at first, the first base coach will make the safe call with his arms in a fruitless attempt to influence the ump. Cleveland coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. did no such thing on Donald’s grounder. Even Donald, who busted down the line, seemed to be in disbelief of the call, clapping his hands together half-heartedly as if to say, “I wish you had called me out.” Replays showed several raised eyebrows on the Indians bench, too, after Joyce made the safe call.

Like so many other perfect games and no-hitters, this game featured a spectacular defensive play. Center fielder Austin Jackson made an over-the-shoulder catch, Willy Mays style, to rob Mark Grudzielanek of a hit to lead off the ninth. It was reminiscent of Mark Buerhle’s perfect game last season, when the center fielder made a fantastic catch to get the 25th out.

Unfortunately, due to the blown call, Jackson’s catch isn’t all that meaningful. After all, what’s the difference between a one-hitter and a two-hitter? But the catch, and the fact that Galarraga retired the batter after Donald, could become important if MLB commissioner Bud Selig makes an unprecedented decision and reverses Joyce’s call, awarding Galarraga the perfect game he deserved.

And make no mistake about it, the 28-year-old Venezuelan deserved a perfect game. But I’m not sure that awarding him one now, after the fact, is the right thing to do. It’s a decision I’m glad I don’t have to make. Everyone knows Galarraga threw a perfect game, even if it won’t go down in the record books as such. Part of me feels that is enough, even if it is unfair.

What I’m much more sure about is instant replay. Many will argue that it’s time for replay to expand beyond just home run calls. I was against it being used even for that, but with the wacky layouts of some of these ballparks, it has proven to be very helpful.

My worry was once it crept into the game, supporters would try to broaden its application. These voices will get louder after what happened in Detroit last night.

I truly believe replay rules have made college football referees worse at getting the call right initially. I fear the same will happen in baseball if replay is implemented. Joyce’s call was so surprising not just because of the situation but because umpires hardly ever miss that call. While it was devastating for Galarraga, the Tigers, and anyone with a soul who was watching the game, Joyce’s error is no reason to start using replay for these sorts of things.

Galarraga was a class act after the game, sympathizing with Joyce, saying, “Nobody’s perfect.” Except last night, Galarraga was. Sort of.

Do you think Bud Selig should overturn the call and grant Galarraga a perfect game? What are your thoughts on replay in baseball? Voice your opinions in the comments section or by e-mailing me at andrew@thesportsjournalists.com.

One thought on “Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce, and the Imperfect Perfect Game”

  1. I don't think Bud should overturn the call because that will open a pandora's box of future disputable situations. Further, he likes the human element of no replay so he knew this type of thing would happen; similar to the Yankee third base play last postseason.I am for replay in baseball because an additional angle can make a big difference, everyone already sees a replay of every play, and it adds drama. I had to watch this replay several times before noticing the error; which was easier to see from the dugout angle than the right field angle.

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