Armando Galarraga Was Perfect… Until Jim Joyce Said He Wasn’t

Cleveland 0, Detroit 3 (box)

You’ll forgive me if I veer away from the routine recap for this one. There have been 20 perfect games in the history of major league baseball, two of those have happened this year. Tonight in Detroit, Armando Galarraga threw what by all rights was the 21st.

Except when you look at the box score, you’ll find that it wasn’t.

As Mario Impemba said as the game came to a close, I’ve never felt this disappointed with a Tigers win.

In case you missed it, allow me to set the stage. Galarraga sat down the first 24 batters of the game in order. He was beyond masterful. Throughout this game, he was not only the Armando Galarraga of 2008, he was better. All the cool, calmness that he has carried in his career with the Tigers was on display, as was his running fastball and his trademark slider. He command was as good as it has ever been.

This wasn’t a game like Justin Verlander had when he threw his no-hitter in 2007, Galarraga could never be that overpowering. This was a game more similar to the perfecto thrown by Mark Buehrle last year. Galarraga attacked hitters, but worked the corners to, well, perfection.

Mark Grudzielanek lead off the ninth and swung at the very first pitch. He sent a long, deep fly ball to the gap in left center. Off the bat it was trouble, no question. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Austin Jackson made a catch that the Indians radio team could only compare to Willie Mays in the ’54 World Series. A running at full speed, over-the-shoulder, basket catch to save a perfect game. It had to happen now.

Mike Redmond was next and after Galarraga got ahead of him, the Indians catcher rolled a ground ball to short. A routine play that was made cleanly for the second out.

(more after the jump)

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This is when umpire Jim Joyce became the story. Not part of the story, mind you, he became the story.

The Tribe had a rookie shortstop batting ninth, Jason Donald. Donald is a good looking young player and I’m sure he’ll get a lot of base hits in his career, but this one he shouldn’t have had. Donald grounded a roller wide of first, Miguel Cabrera ranged far to his right, cutting off the ball before it could get to Carlos Guillen. Cabrera fired a strike to first and Galarraga was there to snag the throw and touch the bag ahead of Donald. The crowd erupted, Cabrera dropped to his knees, arms raised in ecstasy, for a split second, it had happened.

But Joyce, working first base, called the runner safe.

To the naked eye, Donald was out, I had thought. Perhaps it was the Tigers fan in me, perhaps the baseball fan in general that was hoping to see history. Either way, I was shocked. How can you make that call, at that time? To his credit, Galarraga said nothing, simply smiled in disbelief. That is his nature after all. He climbed back to the mound, not bothering to work from the stretch, and retired the next batter to complete the one-hit shutout.

Replays showed time and again that Donald was out. Clearly out. In that situation, with a perfect game on the line, the runner should have been clearly safe before Jim Joyce should have made that call. But he wasn’t, and yet Joyce, a long-time veteran umpire, blew the call.

Throughout the final at bat, as Galarraga worked the hitter, Cabrera was giving Joyce more than just a piece of his mind. And rightfully so. To his credit, Joyce stood there, he took the punishment. I think Joyce knew he had blown the call. If he had been sure he had gotten it right, I don’t think Cabrera would have been in the game to record the final out.

When the game ended, Joyce began trotting off the field only to be confronted by a host of Tigers, lead by Gerald Laird. The Tigers were angry, Jim Leyland joined in the battle, if only to protect his guys. After the game, Leyland noted in his press session that all of us are human, but that Joyce missed the call. He wasn’t angry, at least not outwardly, just disappointed.

Galarraga, on the other hand, displayed nothing by gratitude and grace in his post game comments. Wally Fish gives a great breakdown of Galarraga’s reactions over at Call to the Pen.

The talking heads will begin clamoring for instant replay to be expanded. I understand their arguments. I feel sick about what happened tonight, but I disagree with them. Baseball has long been defined by the human beings that play the games, and by the human beings that call the games. Certainly, Joyce didn’t try to miss the call, but once the call was made, there was no going back. He knew it, so did we all. And that’s how it should be. It’s a part of the game, for better or worse. Personally, I like having the human element, even when the calls go against my team.

I was hoping to see history tonight and I did. Jim Joyce will now have his name forever attached to this game, for this call.

I know it’s just a meaningless game in June, but this call was every bit on par with Don Denkinger’s blown call in the 1985 World Series, to me at least. I’m sure Cardinals fans would disagree. Either way, my gut tells me that Joyce won’t be working the series finale tomorrow, I’d bet he gets out of Detroit as quickly as possible.

The record books will continue to show only 20 perfect games in history, but we all know better. Armando Galarraga knows better, and so does Jim Joyce. This was a travesty perhaps unparalleled in baseball history.

Galarraga was perfect, until Joyce said otherwise.

Topics: Armando Galarraga, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Jim Joyce

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  • Pingback: Armando Galarraga’s almost perfect game | Call to the Pen

  • http://philiptortora.blogspot.com/ Philip Tortora

    Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig absolutely has to apply common sense here, and award Armando Galaragga a perfect game. Selig must use his authoritative powers and overrule the blown call by Jim Joyce

    http://philiptortora.blogspot.com/2010/06/major-league-baseball-should-reverse.html

  • http://www.baseballinthebushes.com Baseball in the Bushes

    This is a down right travisty. This kid has been screwed like no other in baseball. He just gets recalled from the minors and pitches a game of a life time. WOW.

  • http://yahoo Jim McGinley

    an absolute travesty, the guy who stated it was a bang-bang play on here is absolutely clueless.
    the play wasn’t even close. the guy robbed the young man and the play wasn’t even close.
    i believe this blogger is right…. Bud Selig needs to make an unprecidented ruling and reverse this pathetic call. he needs to make it clear that this will never be done again, however the negligent nature of the call and the timeing of the call (last out of the game) make this a perfect opportunity to do the right thing and make it right by reversing the call.
    the tigers need to file a formal protest and jimmy leyland should have done so at the time of the call. nevertheless Bud selig can foster a whole bunch of goodwill by making this right while cleaerly explaining that a reversal like this will not and cannot occur again.
    horrible call, on the last out of a perfect game the ump better be damn sure a guy is safe before he makes a buffoonish call like jim joyce did here!
    reverse the call and make it right bud selig!!

  • Chris

    Is there any precedent for having a call that did not affect wins and losses retroactively overturned? Obviously sports have done that as punishment for cheating, but anything for the record books?

  • http://motorcitybengals.com/ Zac Snyder

    In addition to being the 21st perfect game in MLB history, Galarraga was robbed of a couple other distinctions:
    -Fewest pitches in a perfect game since 1908 (Addie Joss)
    -Shortest perfect game duration since Koufax in 1965

  • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

    I bet Randy Marsh sent Jim Joyce some flowers or a thank you note or something.

  • Bob

    The human element is part of the game. Always has been and (probably) always will be. Selig will not go against 130 years of precedent and reverse this call. This is a man who doesn’t like controversy(although he’s caused some of it), and opening Pandora’s box isn’t in his nature. The game’s over, the score has been officially filed, and we just have to live with it.

    • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

      It just feels like there should be some way to make it right. Everyone in the world right now knows what really happened, but 50 years from now, when some kid looks up the list of perfect games, he won’t find Galarraga’s game there. And that’s an injustice that could be fixed.

    • http://motorcitybengals.com/ Zac Snyder

      Precedent? Like in 1991 when Fay Vincent erased 50 no hitters from the record books?

  • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

    Another tragedy in this situation is that the game has become so much more about Jim Joyce and the call, and not as much about how stellar Armando was.

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