Grand Cards: The Grand Scheme Realizes Life Is Just One Crushing Defeat After Another Until You Just Wish Flanders Was Dead

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Grand Scheme Realizes Life Is Just One Crushing Defeat After Another Until You Just Wish Flanders Was Dead

Update #1 Bud Selig is in high-level discussions about the perfect game and will issue a statement today. (From Jon Heyman @

Update #2 Jim Leyland will have Armando Galarraga bring out the lineup card today and shake hands with Jim Joyce, who is the home plate umpire today. (From Jason Beck's Twitter) That's a classy move.

Update #3 Bud Selig will not overturn the call. Jerk.

Context OMG! Did you see So You Think You Can Dance and America's Got Talent! Could you believe it when that one judge gave an X when he totally shouldn't have! They need get replay on in there, or at least the commissioner should step in or something. Also Armando Galarraga threw a Perfect Game last night. Except not. See for yourself.

No, I wasn't watching reality TV last night. But wasn't watching the game either. In fact, I flipped over to the Tigers' website at 9:10 or so to check the score and saw the headline "Galarraga's Perfect Game Lost On Blown Call on 27th batter," or something to that effect. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to gather all the information that I could. Then I watched the video on MLB.TV. Then I lived the rest of my evening in stunned shock and anger as I tried to wrap my head around what happened.

Then I went to sleep.

Now it's this morning and my brain has things all sorted out.

Overturn The Call Ok. Let's get the controversial ideas out of the way, shall we? The consensus is some sort of amalgamation of opinions that leads to something like this:

Boy, it's really a shame that this happened to Armando Galarraga, and if only there was something we could do about it because MLB will never over turn the call, and they really shouldn't because it opens up a can of worms that sends us all into a baseball death spiral in which history is rewritten and the Cubs didn't blow the 2003 NLCS because Bartman was nullified and life as we know it would end. Also, Replay.

One: I'll get to replay in a minute
Two: I know how to take care of cans of worms.

Three: What happened last night was unprecedented. When unprecedented things happen, the initial thought is that there is nothing that can be done about it, mostly because nothing has been done about it before. Because it was unprecedented. Ironically, there is some precedent for dealing with unprecedented things:
  The recount process, in its features here described, is inconsistent with the minimum procedures necessary to protect the fundamental right of each voter in the special instance of a statewide recount under the authority of a single state judicial officer. Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.

That's from the most unprecedented of them all: Bush v. Gore (2000)--the case that effectively decided the 2000 Presidential Election. In an unprecedented case, the court used some unprecedented terms: "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances" as in, if we applied this decision to all Equal Protection law, we would open up more cans of worms than the whole world could eat. So instead, the decision was made on this case and this case alone and can't be applied to any other case. Done.*

What I'm saying is that Bud Selig has the power to change the ruling. He could do so with a limiting clause that says that this decision was made in this case and this case alone and can not be used as precedent in any other baseball events past, present or future. It could happen. Worms avoided.

Of course, it won't happen because this is baseball, and the force of history is too strong and the strength of tradition too great. Nobody wants to be the one that screws with how the game is supposed to be played, and I get that. But this whole thing got me thinking: instead of issuing a decree declaring a Perfect Game as described above and leaving people to swallow it, Selig could actually do something that creates an applicable rule for situations exactly like this one that could be applied from here on out. Let's give it a shot.

*Legal scholars dispute the legitimacy of this, but it doesn't really matter because we're talking about baseball and not constitutional law. In more irony, I am using, as precedent, a case that was explicitly noted as being unable to serve as precedent.

The Armando Galarraga Rule The big concern about Bud Selig stepping in is precedent. Craig Calcaterra--a law talkin' guy himself--describes the risks of such an act.
And doing so risks an awful lot.  Why retroactively overturn this call and not others?  Bad calls happen all the time.  Should Bud Selig be in the business of changing the outcomes of games in which outs were called on trapped balls?  Should he demand that a game be started over from the top of the sixth inning when the umpires missed a balk?  It's an overused phrase, but it's overused for a reason: where do you draw the line?

So let's draw the line. Using the parlance of the baseball rulebook:

Rule 10.23 - Perfect Games

(a) definition of perfect game

A perfect game may also be granted by the Commissioner of Baseball, or a duly appointed review committee if, and only if, the following circumstances are in place.

(b) A Pitcher has thrown a Perfect Game through 26 batters;
(c) On a batted ball in play, the 27th batter is ruled safe by an umpire even though video review of the play after the fact shows conclusively that the player was ruled safe by error;
(d) The subsequent 28th batter makes an out to end the game.

In this, and only this situation, a Perfect Game will be granted to the pitcher through the following mechanisms:

e) The official scorer will rule an error on the umpire for the 27th batter, denoted "E-U";
f) The pitcher will be credited with recording on Out on the 27th batter;
g) The pitcher will be credited with a Perfect Game in which he recorded 28 outs

Review of plays for Umpire Error can only be made after the game has been completed and cannot affect the Win-Loss outcome of the game.

So, how do you like it? It puts a new rule in place that is very limited in scope and doesn't affect the outcome of the games or send us sliding down a slippery slope. I like it. Please note, a similar rule can be put in place for no-hitters and other key milestones. The jist is: treat it like an error, that can only be ruled retroactively on the should-be last batter. It is statistical validation, much like changing a hit to an error, and nothing more. But it's something.

Replay! To me, adding a rule like this is much less jarring than the wholescale implementation of Instant Replay that so many people are calling for. Craig Calcaterra is screaming for it.
It is absolutely imperative that baseball implement some form of replay now. This season, before the playoffs.  The best way, in my view, is to simply station a fifth umpire in the official scorer's box. Give him the same feed the broadcast guys have. Give him a buzzer and, when an obviously bad call like this one happens, have him call down to the crew chief and overturn the call.  In practice it won't take long. In function it will be no different than an on-the-field conference in which calls are changed every day.  There is no reason this can't work and there's no reason it shouldn't be implemented.

But Jerry Crasnick makes the case for why replay would have been a thief of joy in the situation:
Inevitably, the game's sad ending is going to elicit an outcry for expanded use of instant replay. It's a worthwhile debate, but consider this for a second: How gratifying would it have felt if Joyce's botched call was followed by a trip to the replay booth, a five-minute conference, the umpiring crew emerging from the tunnel and Joyce throwing up his right arm with an "out" sign.

Yes, Galarraga would have had his perfect game, on paper, but that single transcendent moment of celebration is something that can never be retrieved. In baseball or any other sport, winners don't get mulligans on euphoria.

To which I say Bah. Galarraga had his euphoria for a split second, it's just that it was stolen away from him. I hypothesize that if you go frame by frame that you can pinpoint the exact moment that Galarraga's heart rips in half. If nothing else, replay would have given him relief and validation.

Still, I'm compelled to channel the thoughts of my friend Butter, who is an Umpire and a Tigers fan and spoke with me extensively on the issue:
I feel like my heart was just ripped out of my chest, and still I can't stand the thought of adding instant replay

He continues by describing the unintended consequences of such a system. Say the situation was different and instant replay is now available for bang-bang calls like this. If runners advance on a disputed call, for example, how do you deal with that? What bases are they allowed? What if runs scored? All of a sudden, you have realistic situations in which you my dramatically reshape the game by altering the result of plays that happen during the course of the disputed play. If nothing else, it is nearly impossible to codify every possible scenario into the rule book to account for replays like this, and I'm not a fan of that.

What's more, I'm a child of the replay era. I was there when the Big Ten was the first college conference to implement replay in football. I've seen it evolve and here's what I notice: Replay removes balls.

It takes officials and makes default towards making the non-controversial call, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. In football it happens an egregious amount. In baseball, with the sheer number of close plays in a game and the number of games in a season, it will be unbearable. I think ultimately, while replay will be able to get these plays right, we will see that Umpires will get them wrong more often than they do now, and the quality of the officiating will decrease, leading to more replay, leading to more disruption. It's a slippery slope that I don't want to be a part of.

That being said, you could do two things: The first is to use replay to review umpires on their ability to make these calls. This probably already happens, and if it doesn't, it should. The second is that if you're going to insist on Replay, leave it up to the Manager. Each manager gets one challenge per game in which he can ask for replay on a call like this. To activate his challenge the manager needs to come out of the dugout, scream in the face of the umpire for no less than 45 seconds and kick dirt on his pants. Throwing bases is optional.

The Other Stuff I'm sure you've all read everybody's reactions and comments and so forth, and because this is already really freaking long I'll spare you the extra linkage and quotes. Instead, bullets:
  • Austin Jackson's catch was absolutely unbelievable. Look how far he ran!
  • Jim Joyce is not dead, nor should he be. He admitted his mistake completely and his quote rings of remorse and honesty:
    "I just cost that kid a perfect game," Joyce said afterward. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay."
    It was a bad call, and he blew it, but he wasn't a dick about it.
  • Miguel Cabrera is my hero, for letting Joyce hear it for the entirety of the next batter
  • Armando Galarraga is clearly one of the most likable players on the team. May I please direct you to a post I wrote last year called "Can anybody not love Armando Galarraga?" He's just a genuinely good guy.
  • Kudos to all the Tigers for supporting their teammate
  • Armando, for what it's worth, your perfect game will be remembered more than just about any of the other ones in history. You did it. Congratulations
  • Thanks to Claire for the idea for the title of the post


  1. Actually, I think this may be better than getting a perfect will be like Pete Rose and the Hall-of-Fame. Pete gets more run because he isn't in there, and this perfect game will not blend into the other recent perfect games thrown this season.

  2. armando is the most popular search on bing! congrats!

    what i can say is that for as much anger the crowd at copa felt last night, not one person threw something on the field, or at JJ as he walked out the tunnel behind home plate. imagine this happening in philly or chicago? nice job detroit. i'm proud of you (and me, cuz i was pissed!)

  3. i can't believe he's umping today. i understand there's nothing mlb can do, but c'mon.

  4. Apparently he was given the option to take the day off, but said that he might as well man up and "take what's coming to him".

    I've got to say, as mad as I was about the call, Joyce has been a total class act since. I give him all the credit in the world. He made a mistake and has completely owned up to it without any ego or grandstanding. I'm not even made at him any more, disappointed and upset about the call, but not mad at him.

  5. I agree with you on pretty much all you have said here, especially the part about how overturning this call, if done right, could be less jarring to the game than instant replay.

  6. Regardless of what he does in his next start, or during the rest of the 2010 season, or even for the rest of his big league career, Armando Gallaraga will go down as one of the most beloved Detroit Tigers of All-Time.

    What Gallaraga did in the immediate moments after the call, and during the sequence of events afterword was simply fantastic.

    Armando's actions will forever be with us, one a Tiger, Always a Tiger.