A perfect situation

The sports world is abuzz about the blown call at first base that denied a perfect game by Detroit pitcher Armando Gallaraga the other night.

It’s a fascinating little situation – a microcosm of human failure (ironically, within the context of something we call perfection), an exercise in forgiveness, and a couple fine examples of human dignity in the face of our predilection for failure.

One angle that I find surprising: the wide cry for making the situation “right” by “awarding” Galarraga a perfect game or by “officially” saying that the runner was out.  Mike Greenberg on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning was arguing for this pretty vehemently. Keith Olberman suggested the commissioner should step in immediately and “give” Galaragga a perfect game.  Let’s reverse the call!  The commissioner should declare that the runner was out!  Let’s give the guy a perfect game!  He was robbed!  We have “negated his place in baseball history”!

But here’s what I wonder: while the call was wrong, how would retroactively changing the call or “awarding” the guy a perfect game now do anything to change what happened?  Because here’s the thing: the stuff that happened has already happened. Umpire Jim Joyce already made a mistake; calling the runner out now won’t change the fact that he did.  He’s owned up to it, he’s made amends with Galarraga, and he should be forgiven.  Great!

And Galaraga already pitched well enough and his defense played well enough that if the umpire had made a proper call, he would have record a perfect game.  That’s been pretty clearly established.  Changing the official record won’t make it more or less true.

So what is it that we want changed?  Do we just want to say that the guy threw a perfect game?  Fine: every one of us can go ahead and say it.  We all know what happened.  Calling it an “official” perfect game will do absolutely nothing to change what happened or how we remember what happened.

As for memories, as for a place in history: I’d say this game is now actually more memorable, more historically significant than most other “ordinary” perfect games, because of these circumstances. It’s like the Harvey Haddix game: a game that baseball history will remember well, no matter what we call it.  Because at this point, anything MLB would do is mere clerical work, which will neither affect what actually happened, nor affect the future of anyone involved.

No, I think we should stop worrying about trying to somehow make it a perfect game, retroactively.  Instead, let’s worry about telling the story properly.  When we describe the history of perfect games in baseball, there’s no reason we can’t say “And on June 2, 2010, less than a month after Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay pitched perfect games of their own, Armando Galarraga pitched a game in which the only runner who reached base did so with 2 outs in the ninth inning on a blown call by the first base umpire.  Galarraga promptly retired the following batter– in effect pitching a 28-out perfect game.”

Isn’t that reasonable?  Isn’t that easy?    Didn’t I in fact just do that, in two quick sentences?

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