Friday, June 4, 2010

Armando Galarraga and Histrionic Whining

The sanctity of the baseball record books are challenged every summer in some respect. Steroids, balata-based balls, All-Star ties, 162-game seasons, midget batters, World Wars, the lowering of the mound, the raising of the mound, the designated hitter... every one of these has caused some variation in the sanctity of the record books. Any decently enlightened fan has realized that part of the job is to mentally adjust for the conditions and exceptions that have applied to the game over the years.

Whenever some new variation comes up, some writers inevitably call for adjustment to preserve the sanctity of the books. They're missing the obvious: the "sanctity" that they're preserving is only sacred because baseball fans and historians have learned to adapt their thinking. It's an insult to the fans to suggest that every record book entry requires an annotation giving every contextual detail.

The latest entry comes from ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor, who has supplied us with stupid before. He calls for Bud Selig to reverse Jim Joyce's call and declare Mr. Galarraga the author of a perfect game.

Hey Bud, don't shrug this one off

Bud Selig can get the shrug back. Right here, right now.

No, he can't. The shrug still exists. The shrug will always exist, unless we pull some Big Brother shit and destroy every copy of the news from the summer of 2002.

Mulligans aren't normally awarded in sports. Bill Buckner cannot get that Mookie grounder back, Scott Norwood cannot get wide right back, and Greg Norman cannot get a hundred Sunday putts back.

That's the whole POINT of sports. That's why we compete - to declare a winner. If everyone got do-overs, there'd be no point in competing. Everyone would just do it over until they got it right.

But Bud, this one's for you.

Ian, why?

Remember that shrug at the 2002 All-Star Game in your very own Milwaukee backyard, where you threw those bony hands in the air, slapped on your best Willy Loman expression, and told the finest baseball players in the world their spirited 11-inning contest would end in a 7-7 tie?

This is a poorly used rhetorical question couched within a poorly used rhetorical device (apostrophe) and tied to a poorly used allusion. I feel poorer, like Willy Loman near the end of that play, for reading that paragraph.

You're getting a do-over, Bud, and here's a little unsolicited advice: Don't shrug this second time around.

He didn't shrug. Also this is not the second time around; this is a totally different situation.

Invoke your best-interests-of-the-game powers to make Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce and Jason Donald and the rest of baseball whole.

I don't know why sportswriters consistently think baseball is broken or dying. Baseball has had thousands of blown calls over the years - some even in games of much more gravity than an early-season non-division matchup. Somehow, it continues. This whole article is dramatic silliness. It is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

The imperfect man pitched the perfect game, Bud, just like the old newspaper story said.

That's a reference to Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Did you other readers recognize that immediately? I had to google it.

The offending umpire, Jim Joyce, is in full agreement even as he picks through the rubble and ash of a distinguished baseball life.

Ash? Rubble? Is a volcano metaphor really appropriate right now when thousands of Icelanders are viciously dumping their geological shit all over Europe?

"It was the biggest call of my career," Joyce conceded as he reportedly paced in his dressing room, "and I kicked the [stuff] out of it. I just cost that kid a perfect game."

And yet, he didn't. Everyone knows it was a perfect game. I suspect that Armando Galarraga will receive more press, notoriety, and mention than Dallas Braden ever will.

So this isn't only about granting Detroit's Galarraga his rightful corner of history, or about acknowledging that Galarraga caught Miguel Cabrera's throw and put his foot on the first-base bag before Cleveland's Donald did the same.

He HAS his rightful corner of history. And everyone already has acknowledged it.

This is about freeing Joyce from the grim prison cell that will hold him for the rest of his professional days.

Good lord, this is dramatic nonsense. Yes, he will get a lot of annoying press. If he has the sense to not buy into the hand-wringing whining of people like Ian O'Connor, he'll have a fine life.

Don Denkinger can fill you in. He once told me on the phone about his infamous blown call that turned the 1985 World Series, when he ruled Kansas City's Jorge Orta safe at first before replays showed that the Cardinals' Todd Worrell had beaten him to the bag.

And that's why Bud Selig can't reverse a call. You can't just go back and start changing calls, even if they were wrong. The game is over. Umps have always made bad calls. No amount of sentimental nonsense or played-up drama can change the fundamental nature of a sport officiated by human beings.

"It's a crushing feeling," said Denkinger, who received death threats and a never-ending stream of hate mail from gamblers and fans. "You can't imagine what a person feels when you're written about, talked about, and then they show 13 different angles of the call in slow motion."

Hate mail from gamblers? I already imagine that most sports gamblers are dummies, but I can't even fathom having the gall to risk thousands of dollars on a sports contest which has a huge luck factor to begin with, and then complaining when a person makes a good-faith mistake.

Don't want to get yelled at over a bad call? Don't become a professional baseball umpire.

Life isn't fair, but we like to think of stadiums and arenas as places to go to escape life for a few hours. Games are supposed to be fair. What went down in Comerica Park on Wednesday night was a million miles from fair.

Ian O'Connor is somehow confused into thinking that every game was perfectly fair up until June 2010. And the thing is: it actually was completely FAIR. An unbiased, independent third party who is not related to or paid by the Detroit Tigers or the Cleveland Indians organizations made an objective call with a clear view. It was completely fair. It just wasn't accurate.

So the expanded use of instant replay is the issue of the day, the item atop the commissioner's morning agenda. Only there's no time to measure the merits of technology against the charms of a sport officiated by fallible men.

What are you saying here, Ian? That if Bud makes the decision today, it'll be better than if he makes it tomorrow?

That debate isn't going to help Galarraga, or Joyce, or millions of right-minded baseball fans who need some healing ASAP.

Healing? Who out there is healing from this terrible injury wrought upon us all? A plague of locusts has struck the land thanks to the pernicious villainy of Jim Joyce!

Selig shouldn't wait. Even the city of Cleveland would be with him on this one.

Haha, Cleveland sucks.

He wouldn't be fighting a powerful and antagonistic players union over the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, and he wouldn't be flexing his pecs in an attempt to stop or expedite the sale of a team.

What? So, Mr. O'Connor, you're ENCOURAGING him to gain PR points for a cheap-shit sentimental issue like this one and make the call that would make a bunch of people feel happy but violate the sentiments of the game?

Selig would simply be using his power to call a batter out at first. If the "best interests of baseball" clause doesn't cover that, what the hell does it cover?

Eddie Gaedel is still in the books, even though the commish tried to strike him. This kind of stuff just happens in baseball, and really, nobody is hurt by it, since everyone knows Galarraga pitched a perfect game anyways.

There is only one real danger here: the precedent of allowing the commissioner to redact the results of a game based on popular outrage. That simply can't be allowed to happen - just as Ford Frick is justly hammered for insulting the fans when he tried to intervene in the record books to preserve the public's vision of righteousness.

Even the commish isn't above the rules.

"I just watched the replay 20 times," Galarraga said, "and there's no way you can call him safe."

He's right.

Baseball players, coaches and managers are taught to move on from a moment like this. Get over it. Prepare for the next day's game.

Good advice for you to take, Mr. O'Connor.

You're supposed to live and die with the good and bad breaks, and remember that the 162-game season is an endless narrative that rewards the characters who weather the most plot twists.

Sounds good to me.

But those terms of engagement just don't cut it here. There's no moving on from the damnation of the 21st perfect game in history, and the third in a month.

"Damnation". "Grim prison cell". "Healing". Good lord, the histrionic diction of this article is nearly making me swoon. If I had a wife and I lived Victorian England and I read this to her, I would need some smelling salts and my fainting chair.

This commissioner has always loved to be loved. In fact, I've never met a sports executive who cares more about his or her public standing than Bud Selig.

And that's why I'm almost surprised that he made the right decision by not caving to the immediate pressure of sentimental writers and fans. Good for Bud - by taking an unpopular stance, he avoided setting a dangerous precendent. Choosing to restore the perfect game would have been easy for Bud to do, but would have added to the weight and pressure put on future commissioners in similar situations.

He wants you to appreciate him for introducing the wild card, for authorizing the Mitchell Report, and for giving birth to the World Baseball Classic. He would also prefer it if you forgot all about that 7-7 score at the 2002 All-Star Game.

Who really hates Bud Selig for that, anyways? Actually, the real problem with that game wasn't Bud's decision to allow it to end in a tie... the real problem with that game is the nonsensical pandering of the managers trying to get as many players in the game as possible.

Well, here's your big chance, Bud. The Tigers are in the books as 3-0 winners either way.

So grab your heaviest lumber, step into the box, and remember one last thing:

Don't shrug.

He didn't, and I'm glad. If you want to see hilarious examples of incredible shitspouting braindead fluttertalk, read the comments on the ESPN article. They're so awful.


Anonymous said...

Judging from Jim Joyce's weepy apologies, I get the impression he's a real Boy Scout. I have this feeling that as that scenario was unfolding, he kept telling himself over and over that he wasn't going to just declare an out to preserve history. He was so intent on getting it "right", that he completely fucked up the call. I can't stand how this guy is practically being celebrated for his fuck-up. So an umpire made an obviously bad call and wasn't a total dick about it. Big fucking deal. If I never see another picture of his mustache dripping snot as he weeps like a little bitch, it'll be too fucking soon.

dan-bob said...

I'm with you, anonymous.

Alex said...

Just bring in instant replay already for fucksakes.

It's retarded to deny having this neat tool at your finger tips. I just wouldn't allow it in Red Sox/Yankees games.