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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 3, 2010 at 11:26 AM

No perfect game reversal is right call by Selig

perfecto.jpg

(Here is today’s minor-league report. Note the hitting surge by Dustin Ackley).

Apparently, Ken Griffey Jr.’s retirement wasn’t the only big story in baseball yesterday.

In fact, the predominant buzz today is not about the farewell decision by Junior. It’s the perfect game that wasn’t by Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, and the Botched Call Heard ‘Round The World by umpire Jim Joyce*

*I give credit for this to Jorge Arangure of ESPN: If you look up quotes by the great Irish author James Joyce on the internet, this one is listed first: “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” Fitting.

There is absolutely no question Joyce blew the call, of course. He admitted as much once he saw the replay (and if you’re human, even if you’re a Tigers’ fan, you have to feel for Joyce, who is obviously tormented by this whole thing; he handled himself as well as one possibly could, as did Galarraga, whose class through this situation has been exemplary).

The issue quickly became two-fold: Would Commissioner Bud Selig reverse the call and give Galarraga a retroactive perfect game (which was within his power); and would this debacle serve as an impetus for expanded use of instant replay?

On the first question, the answer apparently is no. Selig came out today with a non-commital statement saying that he “will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay, and all other related features.” But several news outlets, including SI.com, are reporting that the call will not be reversed.

I’m torn on this. I can certainly understand the justification for giving Galarraga his perfect game by decree of the commissioner. It wouldn’t affect the standings, justice would be served, and everyone would be happy, right?

And yet, what sort of precedent would such a decision set? Last night, a few hours after the infamous Joyce call, the Mariners game ended on a call that the Twins are convinced was incorrect, when Twins second baseman Matt Tolbert fielded Ichiro’s grounder in the 10th and flipped to shortstop J.J. Hardy. Josh Wilson was called safe at second by umpire Dale Scott, allowing Ryan Langerhans to score the winning run. Replays appeared to show that Wilson was actually out.

Here’s what a fuming Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said to reporters after the game:

“Did you think he was out? The replays show he’s out, bottom line. We don’t need to talk about that anymore. It’s all out there for you. Just go watch the replays.”

Tolbert told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he hadn’t watched the replay, “but I thought he was out for sure. I couldn’t believe it.”

So should Selig reverse that call, too? Baseball’s history is littered with incorrect calls by umpires. The solution is not for the commissioner to pick and choose when to overturn them, tempting as that might be.The solution is to institute a meaningful instant replay system so that obvious mistakes like the one by Joyce can be corrected. And I believe that will be the upshot of the whole Galarraga mess; I don’t see how baseball can possibly justify not coming up with an expanded replay system now, especially after all the missed calls in the 2009 postseason.

I made that case last October. Jayson Stark of ESPN lays out his proposal here. I’m not sure I like Jayson’s idea of limiting managers to one challenge, though, because imagine the uproar if Leyland had used his challenge already by the time the final play occurred. I’m confident that a fair and equitable system can be instituted, and I’m not worried about the time delays, either. As the NFL concluded, the overriding priority should be getting the calls right — and avoiding embarrassments like Wednesday’s.

It looks like Galarraga will have to live with the knowledge that he lost a perfect game on a bad call — which in a strange way will probably give him more lasting fame than, say, Dallas Braden will have for his traditional perfecto (BTW, the fact that perfect games are coming so fast and furious is definitely worth examination; I’ll save that for another day). Galarraga certainly gained a strong measure of respect and admiration for his gracious handling of the bad call.

Galarraga will also have the satisfaction of knowing that he helped usher in the age of instant replay, which will greatly lessen the chance that any future pitcher will have to go through what he did.

(Photo by Associated Press. Alan Kideckel, left, of Berkley, Mich., and Matt DuMouchelle, of Windsor, Ontario, hold up signs up before the Tigers-Indians game on Thursday.)

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