Friday, June 4, 2010

Armando Galarraga, 28 up, 28 down.

You're in Detroit, Michigan. It's a moderately cool night, with a comfortable breeze. Summer is right around the corner, and with that comes many hours of America's favorite pastime. So now you've watched eight and two-thirds innings of perfect baseball pitched by 28 year old Armando Galarraga, a pitcher who had been in the minor leagues all season until May 16th. After watching a would-be double chased down and improbably caught Willie Mays-style by Austin Jackson about eight feet from the wall to start the top of the inning, you know something magical is going to happen. So you watch as Galarraga calmly and collectively goes into his windup and delivers the third pitch of the at-bat to the 27th batter of the game. The right-handed hitting batter grounds in into the first-second base hole and all of a sudden, everything is in slow motion. It looks as if the ball is going to be trouble for first baseman Miguel Cabrera, but he fields in cleanly, turns to throw to Galarraga, who is covering first, and delivers. The play is made. Galarraga beats the runner by a step, and the Tigers win. It's the 21st perfect game thrown in major league history, the third this month, and the second by a totally unlikely source this season. Everyone on the Tigers is celebrating. Club ace Justin Verlander comes out of the dugout and gets the kid in the face with a shaving cream pie on his perfect day. Bud Selig comes out of the stands and shares a celebration smoke with manager Jim Leyland and Galarraga. It's a great day to be a fan of the game (unless you're an Indians fan).

But that's not how it happened. What really happened will go down in baseball lore for the rest of eternity. What really happened was inexplicable and egregious. What really happened was a prime example that is everything wrong with sports; an umpire blew the call. Jim Joyce called Chris Donald safe at first after he was clearly out on the play, costing Armando Galarraga a chance at history. Instead of the celebrations on the field, there was nothing but consolation and disdain. Animosity towards Jim Joyce, who apparently is one of the best umpires in the game, is not out of surplus. Even though the Tigers won, the day is ruined.

After what happened today, there is absolutely NO WAY that Bud Selig can deny the sport of baseball some form of instant replay. Last season human error reared it's ugly head in Game 4 of the ALDS when Tim McClelland decided that a player doesn't have to be standing on the base to be safe. I understand that baseball games take long enough as it is, but it's not like we need replay for every play, and especially not for balls or strikes. I honestly believe that managers should have some sort of challenge flag that they can throw on the field and ask for a replay. Unlike football however, there would be no repercussion for being wrong on the challenged play; instead, each team only gets one opportunity to challenge a call, and that includes a safe-or-out play at any base, a catch-or-trap instance, or a fair-or-foul call. No more, no less. Furthermore, the challenge flag should only be able to be used in situations where one call can make or break a game (i.e. If your team is behind by six or more runs in the bottom of the ninth inning with nobody on base, the challenge flag is unusable). With this method, there is very little time wasted watching replays, and we eliminate human error to an even higher degree. Everybody wins.

Other baseball-related thoughts

After a rash of injuries to start the season, the Dodgers are back at full strength, yet their offense seems to be doing worse now than they were without Furcal and Ethier, and they won yesterday because of a wild pitch and an unexpected line drive single from Garret Anderson, who isn't even batting his weight this year. Will the shoddy offensive play continue? I doubt it; the guys who just got back from the DL are still shaking off the rust. Vicente Padilla is due back within the next week or so, and he should be no higher than fifth on the starting pitchers depth chart for the Dodgers, but that doesn't really make them any more of a contender. They still desperately need an ace-caliber starting pitcher, and they need it this season. If the Dodgers want to win a World Series, they had better do everything possible to acquire Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt before the trading deadline. Manny Ramirez is gone after this season, so going all-in on this season seems like the smart thing to do.

After Kendry Morales broke his ankle in that freak post-game celebration last weekend, the Angels are going to need more production out of Hideki Matsui, the guy that was supposed to fill the shoes of an apparently over-the-hill Vladimir Guererro. After hitting just .184 in May, he is 4-8 with two doubles in June. I realize it's a small sample size, but with this franchise it always seems like the players always find a way to deliver. The return of Jeff Mathis should help the Angels, and hopefully Mike Scoscia finds a way to keep Mike Napoli's bat in the lineup; it's clear they need the slugging catcher's bat now more than ever with the loss of Morales. If Napoli or Mathis can't play first base, the Angels might try to make a trade if they're still in the hunt around the trade deadline. Interesting options would be Lance Berkman, Garret Jones, Adam LaRoche, or Paul Konerko.

Ken Griffey Jr. finally said goodbye to the game today. My thoughts on the matter is that this should have been done at the end of last season. I love Griffey and I truly believe that he is probably the most unlucky player this game has ever seen. He missed a total of 472 games between the ages of 24 and 34, which translated to about 1844 at-bats. From his breakout year in 1993 to his last full year with the Reds in 2007, he averaged a home run abuot every 13 at-bats. If you calculate that out, Griffey probably would have hit another 142 home runs, giving him 772 home runs for his career, which would be ten ahead of Barry Bonds. I know that's purely statistical speculation, but what if he hadn't gotten injured? This guy would be the undisputed, asterisk-free home run king and everyone outside of the bay area would sleep a little more easily at night knowing that a cheater didn't sit atop the all-time home run leaderboard.

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