Thursday, June 3, 2010

Morning: The Robbery in Detroit

It's impossible to lead with anything else. This was one of those moments that makes you sick as a sports fan, and curbs your enjoyment of anything else that might be happening.

The situation: Armanda Galarraga, Detroit pitcher, is one out away from a perfect game. Though there have already been 2 perfect games in MLB this year, it's still a very rare phenomenon. In fact, it's only happened 20 times in the the game's history. Galarraga was on the verge of a legendary accomplishment. Then this happened. Fireworks start at the 1-minute mark.

I flipped over from the Yankee game to watch this last inning on ESPN, and I can honestly say that my heart was in my stomach. It's not that he lost the perfect game; it would have been interesting and exciting if Donald had managed a base hit to break it up with two outs in the ninth. The same thing happened to Mussina once, against Boston. At least then, he would've lost the perfect game fair and square. But to lose it on a blown call...

The Detroit announcer's incredulous, repeated cry says it best: "why is he safe?"

It's pretty heartbreaking. And not just for Galarraga (though especially for him). Jim Joyce, the umpire, is a well-respected guy throughout the league. He's had a long and distinguished career. We're not talking about a guy like Joe West or C.B. Buckner who seem to always make the wrong call, and are on a constant mission to make the game about themselves. Since 1989, Joyce is humble, Joyce is good, Joyce is reliable.

And Joyce fucked it up, big time. In his own words:

"Most important call of my career and I kicked the shit out of it. I took a perfect game away from that kid over there who worked his ass off all night."

The full audio, bleeps and all, is well worth your time. You can listen here.

Nobody feels worse than Jim Joyce this morning. But you have to wonder: even on a bang-bang play, why would you ever err on the side of the runner? If I was umping that game, I'd be terrified to wrongly cost Galarraga the perfecto. And it wasn't even bang-bang! The guy was out by a step! I still can't get over it.

To everyone's credit, there were a lot of classy reactions. You saw Joyce's above, taking full responsbility. The Tigers followed suit. After (rightly) chewing him out on the field, Jim Leyland struck a magnanimous tone after the game, saying that Joyce has been a "good umpire for a long time," and forgiving him for missing one call.

As for Galarraga, he was beyond magnanimous. In his post-game reaction, he didn't say one bad word about Joyce or his call. In the locker room, the Venezueland pitcher had this to say:

He feel really bad. He probably feel more bad than me. As I say before, nobody's perfect. Everybody is human

Again, that video is highly recommended. He went on to express his admiration that Joyce apologized to him. When the ump came over to express his regrets, the two men hugged. You can't say enough about Galarraga- what a forgiving, awesome guy. That was the best part of the whole night. And he smiled the whole time.

However, there will be more incendiary reactions, such as this one. And people will clamor for instant replay, or a 'challenge' system for managers. The so-called 'human element' is not sitting well with the masses these days. The general sentiment, especially in the aftermath of an episode like last night's, is 'bring on the robots.'

I hope you didn't think I'd exhausted the angles from that game. Oh no. Let's add to these to the mix:

-Austin Jackson's incredible catch to get the first out in the ninth.

-Various TV and Radio calls of Donald's hit, the most famous of which will always be "He's out! No! He's safe. He'sssss safe."

-Donald's take on breaking up the perfect game.

-And how about this: nobody will talk about it, since they got the out, but Miguel Cabrera should have been nowhere near that ball. But I get that it was a tense moment, and he didn't want to let it go through. Still, if he sits tight at first base, that's a routine ground-out.

My final verdict: baseball is an amazing, amazing game. Even when it makes you feel awful, it's infinitely interesting.

I guess I'll move on. Believe me when I say this detracted from the easy Yankee win I predicted yesterday. But it also overshadowed from a pretty huge story:

Ken Griffey Jr. retired.

It's too bad he went out with a whimper, struggling to even be below average this season, but part of me admires guys who play as long as they can. Tip of the cap to the Griff. We all know that barring injuries, he'd be the all-time home run king. And I like to think he never juiced, too.

Okay, on to the Yankees. The 9-1 win gives Hughes his 7th win, tied for the league best. (Oops, just looked it up, and apparently Price now has 8. Consider myself corrected.) He went 7 strong innings, and bolstered an All-Star caliber resume. Barring a collapse in June, we'll be seeing him in Anaheim for the midsummer classic.

And Robbie Cano...oh, Robbie Cano. 3-4, 2 singles, 3 runs scored, 2 RBI, and his 12th home run of the year. The hitting streak is now at 16 games and counting. And top it off, he's your current AL batting leader at .373. As someone who's been promoting Cano as a potential legend since the beginning, these first two months have been incredible. I'm giddy every time he steps to the plate.

Something else that makes me giddy: last night's lineup. The injury bug is leaving us alone for the time being, and we put out a studly nine: Jeter-Swish-Teix-A-Rod-Cano-Jorge-Granderson-Cervelli-Gardner. It doesn't get much better than that. And although Jorge is hedging his bets, and still wants to catch, he seems to be coming to terms with the fact that our best lineup has him at DH.

After the game, the press asked Girardi for a comment about the adventure in Detroit, and he had an interesting take:

Girardi suggested that Major League Baseball should think about overturning Joyce's call and crediting Galarraga with the perfect game that television replays clearly showed he had earned. Galarraga instead settled for a one-hitter.

"I think it's something baseball should look at, possibly," Girardi said. "If they do change it, it doesn't affect the game, it doesn't affect the outcome. I know it would be the first time that it ever happened, but you're talking about a very unusual circumstance here. I don't know what will happen. I don't want to open up a can of worms, but..."

And apparently there are other sports happening...

*NBA Finals game 1 tonight. I probably won't watch much of this series, but I'll definitely have to miss tonight's game because I'm on a plane to Carolina to search for housing. I predict Lakers in seven.

*Coach K will not be coaching in the NBA. Still. Please stay tuned for the next installment of this exact same story, coming next June.

Gah, that's it for now. An afternoon post today, and then I'm off for tomorrow. Nick will be filling my shoes with the long-awaited Tupac-Duke article.

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