Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers had pitched a perfect game...at least, until the bottom of the ninth. It was the ninth innining with two outs down when Jason Donald was declared safe by umpire, James Joyce. Like his literary namesake, Joyce will now suffer as much existential angst and deep regret as the Irish writer himself. Jim joyce, a long-time ump with decades of experience under his belt, made a bad call.
Normally, making a bad call isn't tragic--everyone makes a bad call once in awhile, even guys like Joyce. The last time this happened was about 25 years ago. Don Denkinger. 1985 World Series. St. Louis vs Kansas City. Tragic. Denkinger claimed to have receive hate-mail for more than two years after that fateful day in 1985. The FBI had to get involved when one particularly menacing letter threatened to "blow away" Denkinger with a .357 magnum. The upside is, Denkinger persevered. Some of the best moments in his umpire-career happened AFTER the 1985 World Series. He is one of only four umpires to be named Crew Cheif three times in the history of the American League Championship Series. Denkinger retired in 1998 but still appears in sports memorbilia shows and is even invited as a key-note speaker for sports-related events. One bad call in an almost 30-year career did not kill Denkinger. And it won't kill Joyce either. Life will go on. And so will baseball.
Unfortunately, sports fans aren't a particularly forgiving set. Joyce has already experienced a negative backlash from fans, but the worst of it is, so has his family.
Armando Galarraga was a complete professional through all of this. He was the one who was on the cusp of history. He was the one who threw the best game of his life. But he wasn't part of the throng that encircled Joyce arguing the call at the end of yesterday's game. He never complained, Not even once.
Joyce, clearly horrified by what happened, apologized to Galarraga after the game. And truly, when you hear Joyce talk about the incident, he is extraordinarily sorry. He realizes the gravity for not just MLB history, not just the Detroit Tigers, but for Galarraga. Perfect games are rare, though we 2010 baseball fans have witnessed three in the last month alone, there has only been 20 since 1880. Part of the tragic nature of the situation is that when you look at the 130 years between the first perfect game and the most recent perfect games, NONE show that any one pitcher has ever had more than ONE PERFECT GAME in his career. Galarraga's moment was taken from him. But not by Joyce. No, Galarraga finds himself robbed by the new prince of thieves, MLB Commissioner, Bud Selig. The same man who instituted stricter drug testing policies in 2005 and the use of the instant replay for disputed homeruns in 2008 is the man who refuses to call yesterday's Detroit-Cleveland game "perfect."
Selig's been Commissioner since 1992, first as Acting Commissioner before it became official in 1998. Selig, who makes about $14-million dollars a year, is under contract through 2012, at which point, he plans to retire. I say, why wait???
Has the field of sports, of baseball, become so narrow that one bad call in the ninth inning with two outs down of a perfect game can't be reversed??? If you were watching that game, you know you witnessed history. You know you witnessed the 21st perfect game pitched since 1880. It seems Selig wishes to penalize not only the Tigers, not only Galarraga, not only Joyce, but ALL baseball fans (the people who PAY for Selig's rather generous salary).
But such is life...at least under Selig. As for Galarraga, I believe that this will not be his last perfect game. He may not be on the Tigers when it happens, but it will happen (remember, you heard it here first). Joyce, a good man and an even better umpire, will continue his career in Major League Baseball. Some fans may not get over it very easily, but they should take a page out of Galarraga's book. No one is perfect. Especially if your name is Bud Selig....