Over the course of the last two days, the great American pastime has had a rough time of it.
With 26 outs in a row recorded, Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians hit a ball into the gap between first and second base. Armando Galarrago stood on the precipice of one of Baseball's most hallowed achievements - the perfect game. Twenty-seven batters faced; twenty-seven batters retired. Astonishingly his achievement would be the third perfect game this season.
First baseman Miguel Cabrera moved to his right, fielded the chopping grounder, then, threw to Galarrago who, by now, was covering the first base bag as Donald strained for an infield hit.
Jim Joyce, the experienced umpire, put himself in perfect position to make the call.
Then. Pop! Ball hits glove. Thump! Donald's foot hits the bag. Joyce's arms are flung outward. Safe!
Galarrago has begun to celebrate, only to be stopped short upon hearing the call. Clearly, the young pitcher on the edge of baseball immortality thought Donald was out. So did Cabrera. So did the fans. The announcers. The sports-writers.
And after the replay. So did Joyce, who apologized for his blown call.
A perfect game ruined!
And once again, the clamoring for "instant review" in baseball rises up. In Major League Baseball, review of home runs is already allowed. Over the course of the last two days, many have argued that plays like the one that ended the Detroit-Cleveland game should be subject to review, as well.
First of all, I watched the replay. Several times. One could make a case that Galarrago did not have full control of the ball in the first place. Yes, his foot hit the bag before Donald's, but, did he really have full control of the ball?
Secondly, Joyce thought his call was correct. He argued as much. Didn't reverse his call until he saw the replay. Which is perhaps why he did not appeal to any other umpires after the call was made.
Thirdly, no other umpire stepped forward to challenge the call or ask for a conference, which is within their rights to do. It happens often. Sometimes calls are reversed.
Here's a fourth point. For those who want to use this call to justify instituting instant replay or a fifth umpire in a review booth, or any other changes that might have reversed this call, let me simply offer this.
Baseball ain't perfect! Which makes it the perfect game.
I am biased, I know. I don't like instant replay in football. I don't like review in tennis, in basketball, and, I am not a big fan of it in hockey. I will give the NHL this, however. A goal can be reviewed, but, only after play is stopped within the flow of the game. In hockey, fans "naturally" wait for the review. The game has come to a halt anyway.
Now, however, we make fans wait. We make fans and players wait so that the game will be fair. We make fans wait so that no fans will leave thinking their team was screwed.
Heaven help us if we have to press on in spite of human error, bad judgment, blown calls or perceived adversity!
Sport is about human endeavor and achievement. It is about overcoming the odds. It is about the ability of the human spirit to overcome the adversities of human limitation. It is about athletes pushing themselves past the barriers, and doing so within the confines of whichever sport they find themselves in.
Baseball is game wrought with peril. For instance, the measure of a great hitter is the fact that he can hit safely in three out of ten trips to the plate. Seven out of ten times that player walks away disappointed.
Close plays are part of the game. An exciting part. Umpires are given the immense task of making sure the game follows the rules. And they are given the task of deciding who is out and who is safe, who has stayed within those rules and who has not. There is always the chance they will get it wrong. But that, too, is part of the peril of baseball.
So, now, there are those who want to interject technology; who want to invoke instant review. A technology, mind you, that did not exist when, for instance, Don Larson through a called third strike to Dale Mitchell in that most perfect games of perfect games - Larson's World Series no-hitter perfect game in 1956. It was argued that the ball was high and outside.
I suppose we could have stopped the game at that point. Played the review of the pitch and an umpire in the replay booth could have overturned it. I suppose, since the World Series was on the line, we could have gotten it right.
In a perfect world, I suppose.
But, this is not a perfect world.
And that is the beauty of baseball. It's played in an not-so-perfect world, by not-so-perfect players and officiated by not-so-perfect umpires.
And that, my friends, is why it is the perfect game.
-picture courtesy of CBS Sportsline