Thursday, June 3, 2010

The 28-Out Perfect Game

Photo: AP

I should begin this post by prefacing that I was at work during this game, and I believe this is the first time ever that a Tigers night game has ended while I was still at work. This part doesn’t bother me so much (after all, I was also at work during Justin Verlander’s no-hitter, and I would’ve been a nervous wreck during this game). I have championed Armando Galarraga so much since he was first called up in 2008, and I believed in him all through his struggles last year. This start was the culmination of all that, as he showed the world exactly what he is capable of. Unfortunately, unless something miraculous happens, I cannot bring myself to watch this game because I know it will all end on one very bad call (at that point, I was hiding in the back listening to the radio, and Dan and Jim were shocked, pissed, and distraught all at once). And thus Galarraga becomes the first pitcher to throw a 28-out perfect game, but it will go into the books as a one-hit shutout. The most heartbreaking shot there was the one of Miguel Cabrera, hands over his head, tears in his eyes (and he kept jawing with Jim Joyce through the entire Trevor Crowe at-bat). On a night where the Tigers should have celebrated a 3-0 win and baseball history, it felt like they lost. And it’s a damn shame. It shouldn’t have to be that way. As a Tigers fan, I’ve sat through one or two blown calls that have cost the game (we all remember the most famous example of that), but overturning the call in this case does not affect the outcome in terms of the score (one unfortunate monkey wrench is that the Twins lost last night on an identical blown call). The Tigers still would win 3-0. As far as setting a dangerous precedent, well, this is a very unique circumstance, one that (as far as I can tell) has not happened before and probably won’t happen again. Kind of like a tied All-Star Game or a World Series game being suspended by rain. Someone on Twitter this morning mentioned the George Brett pine tar incident, which I had completely forgotten about. That call was overturned, and that DID alter that game because it ended up being a Royals win. I’m not sure if the same course of action could be taken, though, because that was a different commissioner and the Royals played the rest of that game under protest (whereas the Tigers did not). Still, that is probably the only faint glimmer of hope that we have. There was some thought that the official scorer might change Donald’s hit to an error and thus give Galarraga a no-hitter, but that won’t be happening and it shouldn’t because it clearly was not an error. There are those who feel that a retroactive perfect game is too anticlimactic. Yes, it would be anticlimactic, but what’s at issue here is that Galarraga should not be penalized for another’s mistake (and there IS precedence for that in baseball, at least fundamentally; it’s the reason we have such things as unearned runs). This is the time for me to say that I’m not hating on Jim Joyce. He’s normally a good umpire whom I have had no issues with before. He knows he blew the call. He admits as much, feels terrible about it, and has apologized for it (if he could plead with Bud Selig to overturn his call, I would be most appreciative). I just want Galarraga to get his rightful place in history, and I know it will not happen.

One thing this has done is make Armando Galarraga a household name. He’s the lead story on ESPN and even some general news (Ken Griffey Jr. picked the wrong day to retire). Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think he would be a trending topic on Twitter. There’s a ton of Facebook groups dedicated to him (granted, people still can’t figure out how to spell his name). He’s got all sorts of people backing him, from Jennifer Granholm to Keith Olbermann. Bless You Boys has been visited by fans of almost every other team (no Indians fans as yet) expressing their sympathy. This has also fired up the talk about expanding instant replay. I’m still not sure how I feel about that (though I suppose I wouldn’t mind a system where the managers get one or two challenges a game, similar to how they do it in the NFL), but expanding instant replay still gives no justice to Galarraga, and at this point, he is my primary concern. Another thing this has done is endear Galarraga to a whole lot of people, and not just Tigers fans. He has handled this thing with class from the moment the call was blown (in contrast, I would have blown a gasket and either collapsed into a sobbing heap or inflicted bodily harm on someone, and I consider myself a very level-headed person). I have seen so many comments all over the Internet applauding him for his smiling and gracious attitude. I am glad that this gave an opportunity for everyone to see Galarraga’s personality. If Jim Joyce’s call represents what is wrong with baseball these days, Galarraga’s attitude represents what is right.

I know Tigers fans have been through a lot of frustration this week, and I’m not sure how much more we can take. However, there is still a game today, and the Tigers still need to take this series (and in one of the biggest cases of awkwardness ever, Jim Joyce is scheduled to be the home plate umpire today). Rick Porcello took a tough-luck loss his last time out, even though his pitching was a little screwy (he’s a groundball pitcher and got an extreme number of flyball outs). He faced the Indians in the home opener and beat them, and his career numbers against Cleveland are pretty good as well. Still, I’d like it if his out distribution wasn’t so wonky. The Indians will send David Huff to the mound, and it’s actually kind of a miracle that he’s making this start because he was hit in the head by an A-Rod line drive and had to be carted off the field. How he did not end up with a concussion, I have no idea. The Tigers last saw him (and hit him around) in that game that got rained out, so technically the last time they saw him was the home opener. Therefore, this is an Opening Day rematch. And I’ll be in class learning about tuberculosis.

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