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June 04, 2010

Friday Debate Question

Does baseball need to be perfect?

What Commissioner Selig isn't getting is that this taint, this blot, this imperfection will hang over baseball forever. There is no upside to letting it pass because it won't pass. Like the Black Sox scandal or you-know-who's home-run record, it will haunt baseball forever.

In every baseball park in every town, from the Bronx to your kid's Little League field, any time some pitcher gets close to being perfect, half the people there will start talking about the Galarraga travesty. It will never go away. Not to mention the condemned umpire, whose name we refuse to print, out of mercy.

Come on, Bud. The Earth has stopped spinning on its axis. No one cares anymore if the Yankees win their 99th World Series. Little kids with a lifetime of baseball ahead of them are asking their fathers to explain why it has to be this way.

Or do life's imperfections - the times when it just isn't fair - have value?

When Galarraga hears the call, he looks puzzled, surprised. But he's composed and calm, and he smiles, as if accepting fate. Others run to the ump and begin to yell, but Galarraga just walks back to the mound to finish the job. Which he does, striking out the next batter. The game is over.

The umpire, Jim Joyce, 54, left the field and watches the videotape. He saw that he'd made a mistake and took immediate responsibility. He went straight to the clubhouse where he personally apologized to Galarraga. Then he told the press, "I just cost the kid a perfect game." He said, "I thought [Donald] beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career."

Galarraga told reporters he felt worse for Joyce than he felt for himself. At first, reacting to the game in the clubhouse, he'd criticized Joyce. But after Joyce apologized, Galarraga said, "You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry.'" He said, "He felt really bad." He noted Joyce had come straight over as soon as he knew he'd made the wrong call.

What was sweet and surprising was that all the principals in the story comported themselves as fully formed adults, with patience, grace and dignity.

Peggy Noonan writes beautifully - with heart and passion. I've always admired her skill with words: she's an artist.

I don't agree with her much of the time. This is one of the times when I do.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at June 4, 2010 08:39 AM

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Comments

This particular play stands out for obvious reasons, but couldn't every single ball and strike call also be scrutinized? Do we really want the outcome of baseball games to be determined by post-game litigation?


Everyone believes the ump made what he believed was the correct call. In baseball that is as good as it gets, and it is as good as it should get.

Posted by: Hari at June 4, 2010 09:19 AM

As someone who played all through college and even a season+ in the independent minor leagues I'm not sure how I feel about this.

In 120 some odd years only 20 perfect games have ever been pitched. It is the absolute highest accomplishment in the sport a pitcher can have. And to deny it to someone because of an obvious mistake by someone who is, by definition, *not* supposed to effect the outcome... My heart breaks for Galarraga.

The traditionalist in me, though, says "I'm sorry, it sucks to be you, but that's the way the game is played". Umpires make calls on the field. And in many cases the game has grown up around the umpires *not* calling the game in strict accordance with the rulebook, and we like it this way.

Neighborhood plays and phantom tags (where you catch the ball and sweep the glove in the runners path and bring it up before he even gets there) are not technically outs but there are very few umpires who won't call them that way (and ones who do, tend to get bad reputations).

Instant replay could end up destroying those traditions.


And yet my heart breaks because, well, it sucks to be him right now.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 4, 2010 10:32 AM

The traditionalist in me, though, says "I'm sorry, it sucks to be you, but that's the way the game is played". Umpires make calls on the field. And in many cases the game has grown up around the umpires *not* calling the game in strict accordance with the rulebook, and we like it this way.

Like you, I am not sure how I feel about this (and I know next to nothing about baseball).

A big part of me, though, says that no one can take his achievement away and if anything, the amazing way he handled himself only adds luster to his reputation. But almost more importantly in my view, *he* knows he did it. He has a right to be proud of his achievement and no one can take that away from him unless he allows them to.

I think we get too fixated on validation and recognition from others sometimes, as though our own valuation is less real than, somehow inferior to, external valuation.

I had a lot of long talks with my boys over this sort of thing when they were kids. Not sure I had the right take but that's where I came down.

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 10:54 AM

Galarraga may have created a bigger name for himself by the way he handled Joyce's mistake then if he would have got the call. Both demonstrated a lot of class in the aftermath, not something you see very often in pro sports.

Posted by: crazy mike at June 4, 2010 10:54 AM

I agree, he and the ump, have comported themselves with true class. Something that is very lacking in today's sports.

And while *he* will certainly know of his achievement, I think about his decendents one day looking back through their geneology to discover that their great-great-grandpa threw a perfect game in the majors. Only now, they'll never see it because "It didn't happen".

Errors will be made. In both directions. And while the errors are regretable, sometimes trying to correct or prevent those errors just make things worse. But that doesn't make the errors any less regrettable.

In some ways, that may be the lesson.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 4, 2010 11:28 AM

I heard on the radio this morning that the Hall of Fame was already collecting memorabilia from the game for display. I think this is going to be one of those flunky moments that will become baseball lore, the next perfect game will have a reference to Galarraga. If nothing else the "swift" actions of Michigan politicians to have the call changed should provide for a little humor for some time.

Posted by: crazy mike at June 4, 2010 11:50 AM

I'm with Hari: we don't every game turned into a lawsuit. We always knew umps were fallible; it's just easier to second-guess them when we can look at the tape. Isn't the main thing to have a system that strikes a good balance between fairness and speed? If you don't mind slowing the game down, you could institute some uniform rules for occasionally going to the video for a double-check before the call becomes final. Don't they sometimes do that in football?

But the judgments never will be perfect, which gives the players a chance to show that they can be gentlemen in adversity.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 4, 2010 12:08 PM

I have never been a huge team sports person, but that is the thing I loved about sports when my boys were young.

They teach you to work with others, to know when to lead and when to fall back and assist, to follow rules even when it's heartbreaking, to show good sportsmanship not because the other team earned it necessarily, but because that's the right thing to do.

Oh, and "it's not all about you" :)

FWIW, I don't care for instant replays in football. I understand why they're there but I don't like them.

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 12:23 PM

A slightly different comment. It is a shame that everyone is surprised that Galarraga and Joyce acted like adults. This used to be common practice.

Posted by: Russ at June 4, 2010 12:58 PM

Baseball, more so than any other sport played by real men wearing long pants, accepts the frailties and failures of its human participants as “part of the game.” But baseball does not tolerate such mistakes – it catalogues them. If your pitch misses the strike zone, it gives you a ball. If you miss hitting the ball into fair territory, it gives you a strike. If you bobble a grounder, it gives you an error. If you blow a call at first base it gives you a… pass. How come?

I love this game more than any other, and I don’t want to see it adopt instant replay so that Yankees Red Sox games last a week each. And I don’t care about anything being “fair,” particularly in a game where “stealing” bases is encouraged (and stealing signs tolerated). But this call! It wasn’t even close! You didn’t need super-slow-mo replay or 57 camera angles to see that the runner was a half step behind the throw. Stevie Wonder could have made that call correctly from the pop of the glove before the thud of the spikes on the bag. There's no doubt that this particular ump (a good and decent man) has made that call correctly eighty gazillion times over the last 20 years, so its hard for me to accept that this boner should wind up in the hallowed realm of "judgment calls" reserved for imaginary strike zones and frenetic tags at the plate. No, this call wasn’t a “judgment” call at all; it was a brain fart, pure and simple. I've had them. You've had them. And if the Commissioner had more than just bad gas in his own head, he would have recognized it for what it was, and then fixed it, this time only.

Then, that would be that, order would be restored to the universe, and Cass could post something about how really unappreciated the male of the species is, with which I could agree.

Happy Friday, people.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 4, 2010 01:07 PM

You know who else would like to have seen that call overturned?

The guy who batter afterward. I'm sure he'd be glad to not have that out count against his batting average.

And isn't *that* what's important?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 4, 2010 01:46 PM

I think you have a point spd. As I said, I'm conflicted on this one.

But for the sake of argument, re:

If your pitch misses the strike zone, it gives you a ball. If you miss hitting the ball into fair territory, it gives you a strike. If you bobble a grounder, it gives you an error. If you blow a call at first base it gives you a… pass. How come?

Maybe a player's errors are treated differently than an umpire's for structural reasons having to do with incentives?


Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 01:48 PM

Everybody needs to be perfect. Else Obama will flush you out even if you survive the abortion.

We will only accept Perfect Individuals in this new Utopia. A Golden Age will be here, with the requisite sacrifices.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 01:57 PM

P.S. People keep telling me they have to break my eggs to make an omelet. But I don't ever see this omelet. They keep taking it away and giving it to their man eating dogs.

Where is my Omelet?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 01:59 PM

"28 Men Out" - already a classic tale.

Posted by: Aunt Ralph at June 4, 2010 02:02 PM

As long as I don't have to have *&^% cheese in my personal omelet, I am copacetic :p

Well, maybe Swiss cheese, but that's my limit.

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 02:03 PM

I think we get too fixated on validation and recognition from others sometimes, as though our own valuation is less real than, somehow inferior to, external valuation.

That's because modern society is full of frictions and issues that people don't know how to handle, aren't trained to handle, and are even deliberately prevented from handling.

So they feel not so secure. And people who are miserable tend to take it out on others when they don't get what they think they need.

Whenever a person gets angry, it's because he wants something that he can't get or something is blocking him from getting it.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 02:03 PM

To a certain extent, people know that they feel the way they do due to an internal weakness. But they also know that they will be blamed by others for something that they can't change. Either cause they lack the power to remake themselves or because they lack the power to change the past.

So if nobody knows about their mistakes, they can save face. Work on fixing it. But if everybody thinks he made a mistake, when his internal self won't validate that claim, there's friction. Until a person resolves the friction point, anger doesn't go away entirely.

It was very important to resolve issues that create anger and hate, because normally they were the ones that got us killed back in the Day. Emotion was Nature's way of stun prodding the more lazy amongst us into action.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 02:08 PM

Maybe a player's errors are treated differently than an umpire's for structural reasons having to do with incentives?

Do umpires need incentive to make errors?

Posted by: spd rdr at June 4, 2010 02:11 PM

Ppppppphhhhhhttttthhhh :p

You know very well what I meant by that, mr rdr.

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 02:21 PM

The class shown by the three of them, then and subsequently, is just exemplary. Couldn't have been better done, by each (pitcher, batter, umpire) if it had been planned to be done that way. But in today's world, who would think to write a script wherein people are classy, rather than victims and villains? Maybe the thing about learning from sports is true. Class, have it.

Posted by: htom at June 4, 2010 02:28 PM

Class only means that in America.

Class in Europe means "know your place, peasants".

Class in Asia means "blacks and other slant eyed people are inferior".

Class in South Africa means "rich people are white and blacks deserve riches".

Class means different things to different classes.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 02:49 PM

So when the Left, a new caste, brought their class in, the results were predictable.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 02:49 PM

Ymar,

Does everything have to be political these days?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 4, 2010 03:36 PM

It is when you can make a joke of it.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 03:41 PM

Couldn't have been better done, by each (pitcher, batter, umpire) if it had been planned to be done that way.

Here's an interesting moral quandary:

Say you're the batter and you know you were out. Do you say anything when you're called "safe"? Why or why not?

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 04:24 PM

If it was just you on the line up, you could probably take it. But you can take a lot of seemingly unfair advantages if it helps the other guy right behind you on your team.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 04:39 PM

If I know I was out (I felt the ball hit my leg before my shoe tagged the plate), the baseman thought I was out, and the umpire called me safe? I'd probably be very quiet. I'd like to think that I'd say that I had thought I was out, but I'm not sure. Team sports are subtly different than golf, maybe they should be. "Taking one for the team" has multiple meanings. I am sure I'd be haunted by not speaking up.

Posted by: htom at June 4, 2010 05:01 PM

Given the potential for the usual display of bad sports maligning each other, this made me realize the truth in the words of a wise man who once quipped,

"It's not the heat, it's the humility."

- Ya gotta know who...

Posted by: bthun at June 4, 2010 05:06 PM

I suspect that this game will also end up as a Disney sports movie. Which would be a very good thing, IMHO.

And no, no instant replay, no Executive Orders awarding a perfect game, no legislative proclamations. Give it a rest and do what grown-ups are supposed to do.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at June 4, 2010 05:07 PM

""Taking one for the team" has multiple meanings. I am sure I'd be haunted by not speaking up."
Indeed htom.

If only adults could be expected to live up to the same standards as the ones they teach their children.

Posted by: bthun at June 4, 2010 05:09 PM

"no Executive Orders awarding a perfect game,"
Ok, but would a The Ump acted stupidly proclamation be too much?

Posted by: Xerxes the IV - of the almost as capable as Jimmy Carter fame at June 4, 2010 05:13 PM

I'd probably be very quiet. I'd like to think that I'd say that I had thought I was out, but I'm not sure. Team sports are subtly different than golf, maybe they should be. "Taking one for the team" has multiple meanings. I am sure I'd be haunted by not speaking up.

That's kind of what I thought.

I'd like to think I'd stand up and do the right thing but man, either way you would pay big time. I think the situation is subtly different if it was just any hit - not one that breaks a perfect game.

But that's kind of what I was getting at on the FGM post. Bright line rules have a tendency to go fuzzy on us when the risk-benefit calculation tips too far one way or the other. Maybe they shouldn't.

But they do and I'm not sure that's always a bad thing.

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 05:14 PM

Ok, but would a The Ump acted stupidly proclamation be too much?

*snort*

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 05:15 PM

Let's not forget the first baseman, either. Four classy gentlemen. Protested the call, played on without complaint.

Posted by: htom at June 4, 2010 05:18 PM

bthun, I have a ten-years old whose mind vacuums up everything his mom and I do. It really sucks when you go to discipline him and realize that you taught him how to do the very thing that you are about to discipline him for.

Posted by: Russ at June 4, 2010 05:19 PM

Heh. Been there, done that a time or two Russ... Got the Heavy-duty WaterPik, the Crow-remover version.

Posted by: bthun at June 4, 2010 05:24 PM

Say you're the batter and you know you were out. Do you say anything when you're called "safe"? Why or why not?

No. And the answer is partly cultural.

Forgive a digression, but one of the first things you learn in umpire training is to sell your calls. No matter what you call, call it with conviction. Let everyone in the stadium know that *you* know you made the right call.

Umpires get yelled at for two reasons above all others. 1: They were out of position to make the call. This means the umpire blew it because he was too lazy to make the effort. And relevent to this discussion 2: They act uncertain. If *you* aren't sure you made the right call, then why should I. (Notice that neither of these deal with whether or not the umpire is actually correct. Coaches know the umpire won't change his call, he's arguing to ensure the umpire won't blow the next one.)

We all know umpires blow calls. Baseball umpires make more active calls than any other sport. Over Two hundred pitches per team plus foul balls, catches, forces, tags, etc an umpire crew could make almost 500 calls per game. Not all of them can be correct. So the only way the game works is under the presumption that the umpire will be correct. You must assume he is credible (which is why you sell your calls).

Overturning the umpire, especially against yourself, hurts the umpire's credibility. It's one thing when the call goes against you, you are expected to argue to your own favor. But to argue to your own detriment you are essentially telling everyone his call was so bad, even you can't accept it. You have now gone out of your way to publicly embarrass him. You'd have been better off questioning his parentage. You will open up the floodgates and make his life (and the game) a nightmare for the rest of the day if not for the rest of the series.

And given the vast number of calls these guys make, do you really want them mad at you without a very darn good reason?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 4, 2010 06:04 PM

Galarraga may have created a bigger name for himself by the way he handled Joyce's mistake then if he would have got the call.


Concur.


And I'll take Cass' cheese from her omelete. I like cheese on my cheese.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at June 4, 2010 10:23 PM

Overturning the umpire, especially against yourself, hurts the umpire's credibility. It's one thing when the call goes against you, you are expected to argue to your own favor. But to argue to your own detriment you are essentially telling everyone his call was so bad, even you can't accept it. You have now gone out of your way to publicly embarrass him.

That is a very good point, Yu-Ain. I don't think I would have been smart enough to think of that.

I like cheese on my cheese.

I don't mind cheese on omelets I cook at home, but why do restaurants have to put so MUCH goopy cheese on everything? And a lot of the time it's not even *good* cheese!

I guess everyone has their pet peeves. That's mine :p

CHEESE! And having to ask for salsa.

Posted by: Cass at June 4, 2010 10:31 PM

Yeah, that stuff is what we call "cheese by DuPont" - better no cheese than that. And even good cheese doesn't have to be dumped into an omelette by the truckload.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 5, 2010 03:30 PM

I don't think I would have been smart enough to think of that.

Smarts got nothing to do with it, just experience. I was a catcher so I had the closest exposure to an umpire of anyone on the field. You learn some things doing that.

For instance I could absolutely wear an umpire out from first pitch to last so long as I did 2 things: stay quiet enough that no one in the stands could hear me and most importantly face forward.

As long as I did those two things, no one else would know and the umpire looks really bad if he ejects someone for seemingly no reason.

If I turned around, it wouldn't matter what I said, I'd get tossed because then everybody would know I've obviously given him reason.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 6, 2010 12:57 PM

And even good cheese doesn't have to be dumped into an omelette by the truckload.

I must take exception to that T99, there is never such a thing as too much cheese, nor too much garlic. Those things simply do not exist.

Posted by: MikeD at June 7, 2010 09:28 AM

Everything is about politics in the end because even one on one relationships with umpires involve social maneuver, public perception, and strategic ploys.

If a person wishes to win and obtain advantage, politics is unavoidable or even fated.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 7, 2010 01:48 PM

Everything is about politics in the end because even one on one relationships with umpires involve social maneuver, public perception, and strategic ploys.

True, I guess, if you define all social interaction as political. I don't, but whatever. In any case, I just don't recall Party Affiliation ever being an issue. And I talked to these guys constantly*.


*"Hey batter, batter, swing batter" is easy to tune out. Talking to the ump: "Did you see that guy on the news last night that embezzled all that money, and then kept the damn reciepts? Just how much of a f&*@&^$ idiot can you be?" Now that will get in the batter's head!

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 7, 2010 02:12 PM

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