|The perfect reaction to a terrible call.|
Of course, he wouldn't have had the opportunity to deprive Detroit of celebrating its first ever perfecto, the 21st in Major League history, and the third in less than a month if it hadn't been for Austin Jackson's convincing Willie Mays impersonation. And, yes, those last two links are to the same video. Jackson saved perfection a mere two plays before Joyce spread his arms outward and flew Galaragga's dream into oblivion.
Baseball parlance holds that a pitcher throws a perfect game, but a lot of things—maybe an infinite assortment of things involving every person in attendance—have to align in impeccable harmony to bring a perfect game to fruition. There is usually some amazing defensive spectacle, such as Jackson's back-to-the-infield basket grab or Dwayne Wise's walls-be-damned miracle (MLB packaged both catches into one clip, conveniently enough). But the burden of perfection extends to the easiest tasks as well, such as an umpire's routine semi-close out call at first or a third baseman's ability to range to his left.
For those of you who remember Kerry Wood's dominating tour de force, you know that what may have been the best pitched game in baseball history was two plays shy of perfect and one away from a no-hitter. A stray Kerry Wood fastball struck Craig Biggio in the 6th inning, but that's not what broke up the perfect game. No, in truly undramatic fashion, Ricky Gutierrez singled to left on a ground ball just past Kevin Orie; in fact, it seemed like he got a glove on it. But the official scorer, the White-Sox-loving Bob Rosenberg, deemed the play exceeded the reasonable expectations of out-making and called it a hit rather than an error. To this day, I wonder what would have happened if that play was ruled an error. But I just can't know.
Official scorers, though, don't figure into perfect games because there can be no errors (hence the term perfect). This is what makes the not-so-instant replay discussions a tad silly. If video replay had been in effect and the replay booth could have informed Jim Joyce of his wrongness mere seconds after he breathed the word safe, he could have inhaled it right back in, changed the call, and allowed the celebrations to ensue straightaway. That would have been perfect.
Much to the ire of fans of Tigers, amazing feats, and general statistical justice, baseball's officiating policy is far from perfect. Armando Galarraga needed it to be, but it failed him. That can't be undone. Galarraga himself and all his fans can convince themselves that they really did see a perfect game, but they would have to overlook the glaring imperfection known as the human element. Instead of the 21st perfect game in MLB history, it's the 237,992nd game to be marred by the flaws of everyone involved. Instead of Call your sons, call your daughters, it was Call the $*&*# batter OUT, *&@!-$^%&$#!!!
Even if Bud Selig overturns the call and rules the game technically perfect, the moment, the unforgettable calls, the leg-breaking celebrations and the unstained memories of how it all went down so perfectly, can never be brought back from the imaginary land of Should-have. You want to throw a perfect game, you need everyone to be perfect. You have to make perfect pitches. Your teammates have to make perfect plays (and score at least one run). The other team needs to be perfectly inept against your efforts. And an incredible amount of luck has to run perfectly in your favor as well.
And last, and in last night's case least, the arbiters of the game need to fairly and accurately call every batter out. The errors of the umpires and administrators of the sport itself stubbornly remain major players in a game where they're not welcome. I feel for Jim Joyce and the suffering he and his family have encountered because of one mistake, but he's part of an umpiring union that refuses to progress in a sporting organization with no detectable interest in improving. That's not a moment of weakness. That's full-on commitment to imperfection.
Just imagine if Armando Galarraga played a sport in which everyone was dedicated (or at least moderately agreeable) to getting absolutely everything right. That (and a 1908 reprise) would be perfect.