Seriously, Bud Selig. If you needed any more evidence that instant replay is a necessity in the MLB, Jim Joyce just provided it for you in ample form.
By displaying the incompetence of the "human element" of baseball in a gut-wrenchingly vivid fashion, Joyce cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga what would have been the third perfect game of 2010, and only the 21st ever, by executing one of the most egregiously blown calls since the infamous Don Denkinger safe call at first base in the 1985 World Series.
With two outs in the ninth, Galarraga found himself one out away from a perfect game. When 1st baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded a Jason Donald sharp grounder and tossed the ball to the pitcher on the bag, clearly ahead of the throw, celebration was about to ensue. But the euphoria quickly turned to complete dismay as Jim Joyce missed what he dubbed "the biggest call of his career."
Yes, Joyce has apologized. He feels terrible about costing Galarraga what would have likely been the high point of the pitchers' career. Bud Selig — using his sweeping powers as commissioner — could even overturn the call and award Armando the honor he rightly earned. But none of that changes what happened on the field. Nothing retroactive can return to the young pitcher the place in baseball history that was stolen from him. The only good that can come from this baseball atrocity is the possibility of it serving as a wakeup call to finally force the hand of Selig on instant replay. The purist be damned. There was nothing pure about what happened at Comerica Park on Wednesday night.
"I just cost that kid a perfect game," Joyce said. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay."
Until he saw the "replay." Let me repeat and reiterate; the umpire was incapable of getting the call correct until he "saw the replay." How much more blatantly obvious does it get? The answer is in the words of the offender. Baseball cannot allow this to happen again. The play at first wasn't even close and yet there was no discussion amongst the umpires, no thought of overturning the call. The game simply went on as Galarraga retired his 28th batter in row and secured his one-hit victory.
And for the rest of his life — regardless of how sorry Jim Joyce is — Armando will forever have to live with the fact that he achieved a feat that only 20 other pitchers in baseball history have ever accomplished, but was robbed of its official finality. For one night, the struggling pitcher was absolutely perfect. After all his recent tribulations — that included a demotion to the minors — Galarraga reached the pinnacle of performance on the mound. And he brought the entire city of Detroit with him.
But like the Big 3 pounding the economic soul of Detroit, Jim Joyce violated and pillaged the baseball souls of the pitcher, the team, and the city. And no amount of apologies, rule changes, or action from the commissioner's office will alter the crushing remembrance of that bleak Wednesday night.
Galarraga should be remembered as the only pitcher to ever retire 28 batters in a row in a single game. But more likely, he will be known as the pitcher who received such a monumental screw job that it paved the way for the long overdue death of baseball's juvenile clinging to the "human element" and allowing it to decide baseball games and the fates of those who play them.
Jim Joyce is simply the tipping point. The umpire owned up to his mistake, apologized for it, and can do nothing more now. He too has to live with the guilt from this error that will undoubtedly haunt him for the rest of his career. It is unfortunate that Joyce's eye sight failed him so greatly on this one important play. But what is even more unfortunate is that Jim Joyce — or his crew chief — didn't have the asset of instant replay to review the call and get it correct.