Now, it’s time for Bud Selig to take a stand and prevent Armando Galarraga’s brilliant night from becoming one of the biggest embarrassments in recent baseball history.
Wednesday’s story was supposed to end with Galarraga riding on the shoulders of his teammates, after completing the first perfect game in Tigers history. Instead, we found Joyce pacing back and forth in the umpire’s room at Comerica Park, wearing his skivvies and the grim look of a man who knew he had erred, profoundly and tragically.
Jason Donald was out. Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game. We all saw it.
But not Joyce — at least not at first. He was in position. He had a good angle. He just thought Donald had beaten the play.
Safe, he said.
Boo, cried everyone else.
Joyce initially was convinced he got the call correct. The on-field protests of Gerald Laird, Miguel Cabrera and Jim Leyland didn’t change his mind. No way. But then he retreated to the innards of Comerica Park, asked a clubhouse attendant to cue up the replay, and saw for himself.
That’s when a burst of mournful curses came from inside those walls.
“I missed it,” Joyce said a few minutes later, almost in tears. “I missed it. … This isn’t ‘a call.’ This is a history call. And I kicked the s*** out of it.
“There’s nobody that feels worse than I do. I take pride in this job. … I took a perfect game away from that kid over there, who worked his ass off all night.”
Joyce spoke with a group of reporters for six minutes. Short of a life-and-death circumstance, I cannot recall being involved in a more gut-wrenching interview. The self-loathing was that intense.
As hard as this may be to believe, Joyce owes the public no further explanation. He said what he needed to say.
Now, it’s Selig’s turn.
The commissioner must do the right thing: overturn Joyce’s call and credit Galarraga with the perfect game he deserves.
Sound radical? Perhaps. But so was changing the World Series rules on the fly. That didn’t stop Selig from taking such an extreme step in 2008.
At a time when the credibility of umpires is nearing an all-time low — if it isn’t there already — Selig must intervene and prove to the fans that baseball games are, in fact, officiated in a credible manner.
Selig can’t stand to have Galarraga, the Tigers and 17,738 paying customers feel like they were cheated out of their place in history. If that isn’t worthy of Selig invoking the “best interest of the game” clause, I don’t know what is.
The real truth is that Joyce’s conscience needs the reprieve worse than Galarraga’s resume. The welfare of Joyce, a longstanding MLB employee who has umpired in All-Star Games and World Series, is in the commissioner’s hands.
Joyce admitted that he made a horrible mistake. Selig is the only man who can save him from perpetual ridicule in Detroit.
“He feels so bad,” said Galarraga, who hugged Joyce while meeting with him after the game. “He really feels bad. He probably feels more bad than me.”
And what, exactly, would be the downside to Selig’s intervention? One base hit for Jason Donald?
The game lasted only one batter beyond the blown call. The Tigers won, 3-0. The Tigers would have won, 3-0, anyway.
Let me be clear: This is not a call for the broader use of instant replay. This is a straightforward, isolated case: When everyone agrees that a wrong has occurred, and there would be so little hardship in making the change, action must be taken to protect the game’s integrity.
Selig has been wary of expanding replay, for reasons I understand. But correcting one simple call, at the end of one game in June, is not going to open a Pandora’s Box of infinite protests and replay requests.
The Twins can’t ask to bring all parties back to Yankee Stadium and replay last year’s American League Division Series from the point of Phil Cuzzi’s blown call. Yes, Cuzzi made a mistake. But it happened during the flow of play. Selig couldn’t have been expected to halt the game and order a replay.
This was different. This was the 27th out of a BLEEPING PERFECT GAME — a mistake that had absolutely zero effect on which team won.
For all those who are worried about setting a precedent that changes the nature of baseball, I believe you would get unanimous support for the following rule change: If a pitcher is wronged out of a no-hitter or perfect game by an umpire’s call with two out in the ninth inning, and the umpire himself almost immediately declares that the call was incorrect, the pitcher should be awarded with what is rightfully his.
There. Let’s put that right in the book for next time. But for there to be a next time, there has to be a first time.
Bud Selig, and Bud Selig alone, has the chance to make this right for all who love baseball and its great history.