Replay may get it right, but we don’t have to like it
Armando Galarraga most certainly wishes there was umpire replay available at the Major League Baseball leave on an early June day during the 2010 season.
Pitching for the Detroit Tigers against the Cleveland Indians on June 2, the then 29-year-old Galarraga was dealing. He was two-thirds through the ninth inning and had faced the minimum number of the hitters (26) and thrown just 83 pitches.
A perfect game is a milestone moment for pitchers. If you were playing a game console, it’d unlock an achievement.
To put it in perspective, only 23 pitchers in MLB history have thrown a perfect game.
It means no one from the other team reached base through nine innings. There were no hits, walks or errors that could result in a base runner.
It’s beyond impressive for a pitcher to be perfect. A lot of things have to go right.
So here was Galaragga, a perfect game was at his fingertips, when Jason Donald hit a groundball to first base. Coming out his wind-up, the pitcher sped towards the first base bag while Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball and made the simple toss to Galarraga.
He caught the ball and dropped his cleat on the base a step before Donald hit the bag with his left foot. Galarraga had done it — thrown a perfect game.
Only umpire Jim Joyce saw the play differently. He called Donald safe on the play and put an end to Galarraga’s perfect game bid.
Upon seeing the replay, it was supremely evident that the pitcher had beaten the runner to the bag. Joyce had gotten it wrong. What did we learn from this? The decision makers with the MLB began the process of coming up with an instant replay policy that came into effect in 2014 shortly after the incident.
Since then the process has come under fire on occasion from fans, players and experts alike.
For those that like it, they point to umpires getting the call right. On the other hand, it can significantly slow the game down.
And let’s face it. Baseball isn’t a game that needs to get slower. Where do I stand? I’m not a big fan of it. I’m a fan of umpires getting it wrong and teams getting an advantage because of it. I like it when some guy watching a game being played in Tampa Bay from New York doesn’t bail out pitchers and fielders.
There’s a charm to the human element in sport and the everpresent chance that something goes wrong.
Teams are meant to have big innings sparked by a blown call at first base. That’s baseball. Is replay best for the game? Quite, possibly. That doesn’t mean I have to like it though.
Simply, the Jim Joyce incident doesn’t happen with instant replay. Galarraga becomes the 24th pitcher to throw a perfect game and everyone goes home happy.
He still managed a one-hitter, though. So all was not lost.
I find it hard watching knowing the human element is likely being stripped away from it.
Sports aren’t meant to be perfect.
Just ask Armando Galarraga.