Look, I have absolutely no love for the Tigers (I’m a Yankee fan), but no hurler deserves to suffer like that (No, not even somebody from the Red Sox). In case you haven’t heard (or seen it yourself), Galarraga was one measly out away from a perfect game when he covered first base on an easy bouncer. The throw came in time, yet Joyce declared Cleveland Indians runner Jason Donald safe. What? He was clearly out by a mile! Seriously, it was no bang-bang play; first-base umps make lots of closer calls. So what happened? Joyce himself does not dispute bungling the call. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he was quoted as saying after the game. The question is, why? What did he think he saw that resulted in a safe call? The world will never know. This is not one of those cases where Galarraga should simply have been given the benefit of the doubt; he should have been given the benefit of a correct call.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has said MLB will look at expanding the use of replay. But, really, what’s the argument against it? Fear of making umpires look bad? Instant replay is already used on home runs, which means the league has already declared that human umpires are not infallible, so why not just expand it? I can understand a worry that every single call may be challenged, but in practice no team would want that, so I think it would be self-policing. Everyone — everyone — acknowledges that umpires are human and screw up. So let’s try to ensure the integrity of the game.
Joyce’s punishment for this debacle will be the erasure of a two-decade career (one that was, by all accounts honorable). He will forevermore be known as “the umpire who ruined that perfect game.” That will certainly be the lede of his obituary (unless he makes an ever bigger blunder in the future). And that seems appropriate to me. He made the call, so now he has to live with it. Galarraga, likewise, will be the guy who almost threw a perfect game. Which I suppose is something, because the guy sure wasn’t on my radar before this game. But almost perfect is not quite good enough.