When perfect isn't perfect. Jim Joyce says he blew the call
that would have given Armando Galarraga a perfect game.
Instant replay would have given Galarraga the perfecto,
but maybe more importantly, saved Joyce's conscience.
(KIRTHMON F. DOZIER/DFP)
Last year, in the midst of umpires C.B. Bucknor , Phil Cuzzi and Jerry Meals’ blown calls in the postseason (see Picture This: Umpires Become Unwanted Stars for MLB Postseason), there was chest thumping by PR reps from the NFL about how proud they were of the quality of their referees. The response seemed obvious to me, “Instant replay gives the refs, both in the NFL and NBA, a fallback that certainly 'helps' their quality of calls."
In September of 2008, MLB added instant replay for “boundary calls” – whether homeruns were homeruns. And as last year’s postseason play showed, there’s a case to be made to expand instant replay.
But, on Weds. night, the question that will be uttered over and over is whether instant replay would have saved the last play of the Tigers-Indians game, and thusly given Armando Galarraga the 3rd perfect game in 24 days. Instead, first base umpire Jim Joyce blew the call at first as Miguel Cabrera’s throw to Galarraga covering the bag and throwing out Jason Donald on his grounder should have marked yet another perfect game in 2010.
And, yet… the call was missed with Joyce saying Donald was safe.
Joyce knew he blew it, the minute he saw the replay. (listen to Joyce after the game here).
“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” said Joyce after the game,“I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”
Galarraga said Joyce told him, “I’m so sorry in my heart. I don’t know what to tell you.”
“He feels so bad,” Galarraga said of Joyce. “He’s still sitting in there in his whole uniform. He feels so bad for himself.”
In the midst of the near-perfecto, it’s not really clear who will be burdened with the biggest disappointment, Galarraga or Joyce?
Much like all those calls in the NFL and NBA that were overturned, history would likely have forgotten Joyce, had MLB had instant replay in place. Ask yourself, can you name one referee in the NFL or NBA that got a call wrong only to have it overturned as part of instant replay? No, because it’s seen as a non-call – a mulligan that releases those making the bad calls from the fate the Joyce will now live with.
The technology is here. Bud Selig and the league needs to look at the historic game that wasn’t on Weds. night and say, “By degrees, we need to embrace instant replay, as we’re behind the times. Not only is the integrity of games at stake, but the reputations of the umpires.”
For the sake of Jim Joyce (and Armando Galarraga), increased use of instant replay needs to come about.
The Tigers are considering contacting MLB to see about getting the call overturned, something that has never been done for a perfect game.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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