I was just casually listening to my Tigers on the radio last night, first as I was driving home from work, and then while I was putzing around the house after I got home. Armando Galarraga was pitching for the Tigers, against the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers haven't been playing well lately, so I was hoping that maybe last night would go a little better for them. Galarraga, who had started the season in AAA Toledo, and was making only his third start of the season for the Tigers, started off really well. As I pulled the car into our carport, he had retired the first 15 Indians batters in order, and the Tigers led 1-0.
I went into the house and got my dinner. Nobody else was home, so I pulled up an online summary of the game, while I ate. By the end of the 8th inning, the Tigers led 3-0, and Galarraga had retired all 24 batters he'd faced. So I quickly turned on the radio; if history was going to be made, I wanted to catch it live.
The first Indians batter of the 9th inning was out on a long fly ball that Austin Jackson, the Tigers centerfielder, made a nice running catch on. The next batter grounded out to short. Young Mr. Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game, which would have been the first in Tigers history, and the 21st in 135 years of major league baseball (incredibly, it would also have been the third perfect game of the 2010 season; until this year, there have never been even two in the same season).
The batter hit a ground ball wide of first that Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera chased down, and made the throw to Galarraga covering first, beating the runner by a full step.
And the first base umpire called him safe.
Base hit. Infield single. No more perfect game. Even though, by all rights, it was.
(Check out the video here.)
(And SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote an excellent piece here.)
(And if you're still interested, the Detroit News' Lynn Henning has another excellent piece here.)
I am sick to my stomach. It is simply awful for the game to come down to that. And there is nothing to do for it. The young man should have made history tonight, but instead, he'll just add his name to the list of guys who came really, really close (including the Tigers' own Milt Wilcox, who also lost a perfect game with two out in the 9th in 1983). Because of a blown call.
Please don't misunderstand me - I don't want to exact any revenge on the umpire. I don't want to use this as ammunition to expand the use of Instant Replay in major league games. Baseball has always been a very 'human' game, and errors - by players, managers and umpires - have always been part of the game (the '85 St. Louis Cardinals know what I mean).
So I'm not bitter, or angry. But even so, it's just awful. Armando Galarraga deserved better. There's nothing to do for it; it is what it is. But I'm still sick to my stomach. . .
(edit, 1:55 PM)
It is worth being clear, given the events of last night, that Jim Joyce, the first base umpire who made the egregiously bad call that broke up Armando Galarraga's perfect game, admits that he blew the call. In fact, he is quite likely more upset about it than Galarraga is. The two of them met after the game; Joyce apologized; Galarraga forgave him (even gave him a hug). Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager, however upset he was on the field during and immediately after the game, has been magnanimous (heck, even philosophical, which isn't terribly common among baseball-types) in his interviews since the game. None of the Tigers seem inclined to jump up-and-down or point bitter fingers of blame; the prevailing attitude has been, we know he pitched a perfect game, whether the record-book says so or not.
And that is good. And, it seems to me, right.
There has been some talk of the commissioner overturning the call, thus awarding Galarraga his perfect game after-the-fact, as it were. And I understand the sentiment behind that. There has also been some talk about expanding the role of Instant Replay in baseball, and I suppose I understand that, too. But really, I hope neither of those things happen - as I said above, baseball has always been a 'human' game, that doesn't mesh well with 'technological' approaches like, say, football does. People make mistakes. Even the very best people. And it has been interesting, in the aftermath of last night's game, how many 'baseball people' have been quick to say that Jim Joyce is widely regarded as one of the best umpires in the game today.
So, chalk it up to the tragedy of human fallen-ness (if that isn't just too god-awful high-falutin), and play another game today. . .
And I just saw that Jim Leyland, the Tigers' manager, had Armando Galarraga take the lineup card up to home plate before today's game. Jim Joyce is the home plate umpire today; the two shook hands. . .