I’m not sure how many of you are baseball fans, so a quick rundown of a perfect game is that it’s a game in which a pitcher (or pitchers, though to date it’s only been one) does not allow a single base hit, walk, or error. Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down (3 outs per inning, 9 innings). Only 20 have ever been thrown in the history of baseball. It’s a big deal.

In Detroit, Armand Galarraga threw a perfect game but for a blown call on the 27th batter. That this call was blown is not contested by anybody, including the umpire that blew the call. It’s infuriating and tragic.

Some, though not the Detroit Tigers, are calling for a reversal. More are asking for expanded use of instant replay. As unfortunate as this situation is, I hope that Major League Baseball does not go this route. Blown calls are part of the game. In this case, the stakes were high, but most of the time they aren’t. The result is a game with more significant delays than baseball already has. And while it would have avoided this fiasco and perhaps other injustices, the end result is not satisfaction that the calls was fair. Most disputed calls are closer than this. Most can be reviewed for hours without a clear answer. And as with football, sometimes calls that seem clear are not reversed because they are not indisputably clear.

Right now MLB has instant replay for home run calls. I don’t know that this is a really good idea, but at least in this case it’s something that you know matters a good portion of the time. It’s a question of whether there are runs (“points”, the the baseball disinclined) or not. As far as the game itself goes, this was a single or an out. Obviously, there was a lot on the line this time, but as far as wins and losses go, a single doesn’t usually count for much. I don’t know that you can count some singles as being more important than other singles, from a rule standpoint.

Whether they expand instant replay or not, I also very much support MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the Detroit Tigers in not asking for a reversal of the call. The rules really don’t provide for it (unless maybe there’s cheating involved) and you don’t change rules midstream.

Category: Theater

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7 Responses to An Imperfect Call

  1. Peter says:

    Disputed home run calls are well-suited for review via instant replay because it’s very easy to account for the effects of reversed calls. If the review shows that a called foul ball was actually a home run, the batter and any base runners score; should the opposite occur, base runners return to base and the batter returns to bat, charged with a strike if necessary. “Do-overs” are not required. This situation would be just as easy to resolve, call the batter out and give Galarraga his perfect game.

    Denying Galarraga the perfect game also almost certainly denies him what will likely be his only chance at fame. He’s been around long enough that it’s pretty clear he will never be Hall of Fame material. Let him have his one shot at glory.

    As for the idea that the rules of baseball don’t permit overruling an umpire’s judgment call, well, it’s not as if MLB is Congress and the Constitution limits its powers. It’s not even a publicly traded corporation that is accountable to its shareholders. It’s run by the team owners, and they basically can do anything they want. Selig could have convened a meeting of all the team owners, something that probably could be done via conference call, and had them pass a one-time-only exception to the rules and allow the umpire’s call to be overruled.

  2. trumwill says:

    Calling the batter out and giving the pitcher a perfect game may be simple in this case, but what happens if the next three hitters get a hit and there’s a home run? Theoretically, the pitcher is just as deserving of the perfect game, but there you have to reverse the outcome of the game.

    I really don’t like “one-time-only” exceptions. They may not be acts of congress, but the rules are the rules. Overturning a call after the game creates a problematic precedent. If you’re going to have reversed calls after an instant replay (which I disagree with, but supposing MLB goes that route), it needs to happen immediately.

  3. Abel says:

    Once again the Detroit Tigers find themselves on the wrong side of history.

    — A lifelong Tigers fan.

  4. Peter says:

    Calling the batter out and giving the pitcher a perfect game may be simple in this case, but what happens if the next three hitters get a hit and there’s a home run? Theoretically, the pitcher is just as deserving of the perfect game, but there you have to reverse the outcome of the game.

    That would be a major complication, but what matters is that it did not happen in the present situation and therefore a one-time-only rule change would not affect the outcome of the game. I agree that if there’s going to be a permanent rule change allowing instant replay challenges, it should require immediate challenges, just like the NFL’s rule.

  5. web says:

    I personally would support a LIMITED instant-replay (say, each team gets one per game) option for the most egregious calls. And this one certainly qualifies as “the most egregious.”

    On the other hand, every other sport with instant replay also has a penalty for teams that call for it and see the original call upheld; for instance, in football they get charged a timeout. Since there’s nothing to match the “timeout” in baseball, it’s harder to deal with.

    And actually yes, baseball commissioners have overruled games after the fact. True, the last case was 1983 (“pine tar”), but the power in the office is there, even if Bud Selig is too much of a weenie to ever exercise it.

  6. trumwill says:

    Abel, Detroit can’t seem to get on the right side of anything…

    Web, fair point about the George Brett incident, though I disagree with that reversal as well. On the other hand, it’s hard to take Billy Martin’s side on anything.

  7. Maria says:

    Is he related to the Galarraga who played for the Blue Jays years ago?

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