Give Galarraga the Perfecto and bring on Instant Replay

I admit that I haven’t read many discussion boards about this subject, and I’ve only heard some of the commentary on TV. I’m sure there are angles here that I haven’t considered. Having said that, I would go against my instincts and give Armando Galarraga the perfect game. I’d take away Jason Donald‘s single, declare it an out, assume that Jim Joyce got the call right and decree that Trevor Crowe never came to bat. I’d do this for several reasons:
{exp:list_maker}This is a storybook story. Three perfect games in one year. I seriously doubt that anyone would object—certainly not publicly.
It fits the personalities. It takes a heavy burden off Jim Joyce’s shoulders and rewards a good guy who responded to a bad call with true grace.
This is a perfectly benign situation, the last out of a game in which the outcome of the play affects nothing except the record books (and that in a correct manner).
It sends a message that something will be done in the near future. That we will have some form of Instant Replay, and soon. {/exp:list_maker}My instincts? They tell me not to overrule Joyce. Such a ruling sets a dangerous precedent—If you’re willing to overrule an ump for a relatively meaningless game in early June, why not do it when something serious is at stake, like in the postseason? Why give this game special treatment when there are probably hundreds of others that would “benefit” from the same decision?

I’m overruling my instincts here because I think more Instant Replay is inevitable in the game of baseball, and I’d rather make a positive statement here than a negative one. That is, I’d rather say: “This was the first game in which we approached things differently” instead of “This was the last game in which we approached things differently.”

Instant Replay is already in place in baseball; we’re using it to review home run decisions today. Everyone seems comfortable with the process. It’s been deemed a “success” by most commentators I’ve heard. Does anyone seriously doubt that we’ll soon be implementing it in more situations?

I see an incremental rollout in the long run. First of all, there are so many areas in which it could be easily and positively used today, such as bang-bang plays at first and close plays at the plate. These are the sorts of plays that don’t require a “do over.” The outcome of the play could be reviewed on the spot, a different judgment applied (or not) and the game could resume its course. The Joyce call is a perfect example.

“Do over” plays, such as improperly trapped balls that were mistakenly called outs, would require the runners to return to their bases and the batter to bat again. I see those types of plays as the next phase, after everyone is comfortable with the previous phase and there is some high-profile, terrible call that doesn’t get Instant Replayed because it would have required a do over.

And in the long long run, we may well see those Pitchf/x cameras overrule umpires on really bad ball and strike calls. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Yes, I’m an incrementalist. At my age, I’ve been in (and led) too many implementations that were built from the “ground up” and meant to be perfect, throwing aside all previous systems and their inherent mistakes. These implementations nearly always failed. I’m now more cautious and much prefer a phased approach toward new systems and ways of doing things. You learn better from changing things at a manageable pace, isolating the changes you make and taking note of which ones work and why. You grow with your new system.

That’s why I’m in favor of the phased approach. Some people think we should have people at video monitors, watching all games, calling the umps when a bad call is made. To me, that is too much, too fast, too many things likely to go wrong.

Give managers an option to question an ump once a game on plays that don’t require a “do over.” If the ump is overruled, the manager gets another option. If he’s wrong, that’s it. No more options.

What I like most about it? It would give us another opportunity to talk about Win Probability. Heh.

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  1. Jay Gloab said...

    The Commissioner isn’t the US Supreme Court. He is not bound by precedent, not even that which he himself set.

    Selig can make it perfectly clear, should he do what Dave suggests, that he’s only doing so because of the unique circumstances of the game. The next pitcher to lose a perfect game (or maybe a no-hitter) on what would otherwise be the final out of the game on a badly botched umpiring call could reasonably expect to appeal to the commish but nobody else. Since this has happened exactly once in the history of baseball that I know of I don’t consider it particularly likely that Selig would be swamped with such requests.

  2. Dave Studeman said...

    Let me put it this way.  Let’s say that, in a couple of weeks, Selig announces that MLB is going to start an instant replay appeal of all close calls at first base.  And let’s say that he announces, in the spirit of this rule change, that he is retroactively giving the Perfecto to Galarraga.  What’s wrong with that?

    I’m arguing that this is a better outcome than remembering the Galarraga gem as “the Perfecto that would have been if it had only happened a few weeks later.”

  3. Henry said...

    I’ll fall into the ‘disagree’ column, as well—

    If this is about memorializing Galarraga’s accomplishment, I have to say that I think most people will remember this far longer and far better than they will Halladay’s or Braden’s.  My mom has no idea who Braden is, but she thinks Galarraga is a great person.

    And (putting on flame-retardant helmet) there’s not much to set right here in baseball terms—there’s no impact on won/loss, on races, on any stats other than one guy’s BA and another guy’s WHIP.  There’s simply not much to fix.

    So then, why do anything?  The ‘let’s honor and remember A Galarraga’ is covered, the ‘fix the baseball outcome’ is covered—and on top of it, we’ve gotten to see these two ridiculous and positive human performances over the last 2 days.  IMHO, those matter less after the fact if Bud just steps in.

    Just my opinion.

  4. D Leaberry said...

    What needs to happen is a change in the umpire ethos where umpires don’t overrule each other even when one makes an obvious error.  In the Galarraga game, the other three umps should have overruled Joyce, who obviously blew the call.  But they did not want to show Joyce up.

    Selig should- 1) call Donald out, thus Galarraga has his perfect game; 2) change the umpire ethos; and 3) turn his back on instant replay.

  5. Scott said...

    To often, we see the smaller picture in cases like this because it is easier to ‘solve’ the problems in that view. Ultimately, this is not about giving a pitcher a perfect game that he should have had or about replay or about how classy everyone supposedly was.

    This is still/again about the fact that MLB umpires have for some time been less than efficient and effective in thousands of situations. Because this one is more visible and emotional it makes good discussion fodder, but the seemingly simple solutions proposed are not consistently workable in the long run.

    The same night as Joyce’s call, the Minnesota/Seattle game ended in extra innings on a bad call at second base. If the commissioner can overturn Jason Donald’s base hit, why can’t he overturn Ichiro’s? It’s the same thing, really, overruling an umpire’s safe/out call to get it right. I understand the differences, but once you set the precedent I assure you that those differences will be explained away in the rush to ‘get it right’. You also can’t possibly expand reply enough to actually get all of the calls right. So where do you draw the line? Once you draw it, will it stay drawn? Not likely.

    The bottom line and the big picture is that MLB umpires are slow, unfit, lazy and careless. Supposedly, Jim Joyce is torn up over his mistake (though he was not concerned enough before the fact to actually take two quick steps to his right as the play developed so that he could be in proper position to make the call). Let him use that to exert influence on his union to allow MLB to have some legitimate authority over umpires and be able to fine, suspend and release them when they fail to make the effort to put themselves in proper position.

    I heard an interview with Joyce in which he said he knew how important that call was and he knew what was going on in the game from the fifth inning or so, yet he never made any effort to move off the baseline to get an angle on that fateful play. Go back to Don Denkinger’s famous gaffe and the same thing applies. He put himself directly behind the bag so had no idea when the ball was in the pitcher’s glove. Most really bad calls are the result of poor positioning.

    By all reports, Joyce has been a good ump and a good guy, but he’s clearly older now, not as quick, not as fit and (based on his approach to this play BEFORE he realized his mistake) not as inclined to huslte through the last pitch of each game. That’s our underlying problem and addressing that is the only way to solve what happened. Anything else is a band-aid.

  6. Dave Studeman said...

    Not sure if you read the entire article, Scott, but I’m not proposing that we give Galarraga the perfect game in isolation.  I’m proposing that we do it in the context of providing more Instant Replay oversight to the game.  It may not be your big picture, but I don’t see how you can call my recommendation the “smaller picture.”

  7. paul e said...

    Galarraga seems less upset about this than anyone else. Probably because HE’s the professional and realizes it’s about wins and losses. It seems to me that baseball fans are the ones who obsess on this kind of stuff and the players just want to play (and win) and get paid.
        I don’t think Joyce is a criminal but that Denkinger call in ‘85 was borderline genocide

  8. Henry said...

    Well—and again, I know not everyone’s going to agree with the choice of words here—the difference is that Denkinger’s call mattered in baseball terms while Joyce’s didn’t. 

    I know that MLB has a definition for a perfect game, the one updated by the Committee for Statistical Accuracy, but I’m not sure that it’s actually in the Rulebook, is it?  It’s not in the index, anyway.  Anyone got a searchable digital copy?

    If that’s the case, then this is an MLB issue, but not, strictly speaking, a ‘baseball’ controversy because (aside from the minor statistical adjustments to WHIP and BA) it didn’t make a difference that the rules would notice.  I know that’s narrow, but it’s accurate, and I think that’s why Denkinger’s really a separate conversation.

  9. Joe Distelheim said...

    Dave, as always, your instincts are right. Go with ‘em.  Your arguments for Instant Replay are right on… but for this case, you gloss over the your own “dangerous precedent” observation. There are blown calls every day.  Do we really want the commissioner deciding which are egregious enough to reverse the next day?

  10. Dave Studeman said...

    No we don’t, Joe.  However, I think we can all agree that this is a unique situation, and once Instant Replay is implemented for non-do over plays, the commissioner won’t have to overrule anyone.

  11. Dave Studeman said...

    By the way, commissioners have overruled umps in the past “for the good of the game.” The pine tar game comes to mind.

  12. Dennis said...

    The commish overruled the “pine tar” decision because it was a misinterpretation/misapplication of an existing rule. There is nothing in the Rules of Baseball authorizing the commish to overrule judgement calls.  I agree it’s a bad precedent.

  13. Ernie said...

    Being from the NY metropolitan area, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to numerous discussions, both pro and con, on this issue over the past couple of days.  Some of the arguments have been very lucid and well presented, others have been emotional knee jerk reactions, and still others have seemingly come from an entirely different planet – but in the end, most (if not all) have been sincere and well intentioned. 

    Here’s the one point that I’ve not heard discussed, but to me is perhaps the most relevant – if the opposite action had occurred – if Joyce had called Donald out and the replay had shown he was actually safe – are any of us even having these conversations?  Yes, there likely would have been a few people who would’ve used THAT series of events to promote instant replay, but nobody would be clamoring for Selig to take away the perfect game – everyone would accept that baseball works that way sometimes.

    I understand, on an emotional level, why the two situations are different – especially because as a society, Americans generally like to reward individual effort and it seems like Galarraga is not getting his due for such a tremendous effort. 

    But on every other level – shouldn’t these two situations be exactly the same?  And shouldn’t the fact that they’re not be enough of a reason not to overturn the “ruling on the field”?

    As for instant replay?  I would be in favor of limited use, but not until other rules are enforced consistently so that games stop being 3, 3 1/2, 4 hour long events with a time out between every pitch – make that happen, and I can live with the extra time it will take to “get it right”

  14. Dave Studeman said...

    It’s a good question, Ernie.  From a purely ethical perspective, you may be right.

    My take is that this isn’t a purely ethical situation, however.  There is a unique, practical sense that this call is having an impact on the credibility of the game and that will very likely lead to some sort of Instant Replay implementation.  In fact, if I weren’t pretty sure that Instant Replay of these types of calls is inevitable, I wouldn’t argue for overturning the call.

    There is a another practical reason to react differently.  The bad call can be taken back, Galarraga given the perfect game and nothing has to start over.  On the other hand, if Donald had been called out when he was actually safe and someone overruled that call, we’d have to pick a date, reset the situation and replay the end of the game.

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