Wednesday, June 2, 2010 is a day that the entire Major League Baseball community will remember for decades to come. But not for its historical events or inspiring storyline.
Instead it will be marked for its one, big mistake.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga stood ball in glove, foot on bag, waiting nervously and excited for first base umpire Jim Joyce to declare Cleveland Indian Jason Donald out â€“â€“ 27 up and 27 down, or a perfect game.
Since the first recorded perfect game in 1880, only 20 pitchers have been pitch perfect â€“â€“ six less men than have held the Office of President of the United States since 1880.
It should have been a life-changing or career-defining moment for Galarraga, to reach one of baseballâ€™s highest achievements.
It should have been a defining moment for a professional organization that has been, until recently, on the down and out. It would have been a sparkling moment for a Motown community ripped and torn by economic hardship during the past few decades.
It would have been a shining moment for the MLB, making history with three perfect pitching performances in one season â€“â€“ not to mention three within a month.
But the Detroit thrower would need to go get 28 outs that night as Joyce flapped his arms not forward in that satisfying punch-out, but rather to the side to signal safe.
But that sickening feeling that keeps tugging at me, a fan of the game with little to no attachment to either team involved, is not due to a perfect game that was for naught. But instead itâ€™s because Joyce blew the call. Badly.
Not only was Donald not safe, he was out by a substantial margin.
But all Galarraga could do was smile. All Tigers manager Jim Leyland could do was argue. All the fans could do was boo.
All Jim Joyce wanted to do was crawl into the smallest, darkest hole he could find.
But in the end, the Indians score went 0 runs-1 hit-1 error. And the most damning piece of evidence, the instant replay that will forever haunt both Galarraga and Joyce for the rest of their lives, could have been the saving grace for this perfect game.
You see, Jim Joyce is not to be blamed here. Heâ€™s an imperfect man who made an imperfect call at the very wrong time. The very very wrong time.
The true culprit is the system at hand and it proponents. A system without instant replay for anything but home runs. A system that charges these imperfect human umpires with the sometimes daunting task of making a very permanent call.
No Jim Joyce is not to be blamed here. And anyone who does should kindly remove their thumb from their, you know.
Itâ€™s the existing culture perpetuating the fear of instant replay in baseball that should be to blame.
Some former ballplayers chastised Joyce for not giving Galarraga the benefit of the doubt with the play. ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian said an out is an out, and umpires shouldnâ€™t give leeway for anyone.
I agree with both pools of thought.
In the past, it may have been the case for umpires to give the benefit to a pitcher or batter depending on the situation of the game. That goes with the territory of a subjective judge of a professional game.
But these officials maintained such caution because they werenâ€™t afforded the luxury of technology.
Instant replay could only improve the quality of baseball. True judgment calls aside, like balls and strikes, video replay could correct human error with absolute calls, like home runs and plays at first base.
And for those naysayers who believe instant replay would cheapen the game, go tell that to Armando Galarraga. Look into his eyes and tell him that he wasnâ€™t perfect because the umpire made a mistake. For all intensive purposes, Galarraga was. (Interesting theory: Galarraga is the only pitcher to have a 28-out perfect game?)
But nonetheless Joyceâ€™s imperfection caused Galarragaâ€™s. But the real sham is the MLBâ€™s inaction to avoid such historical travesty.
And weâ€™re all at a loss.