— You should have reversed the call, Bud. For the first time in your irresolute reign as commissioner of Major League Baseball, you could have been a leader.
When you have the ability to correct an injustice, you also have an obligation to do just that. Bud Selig had the ability and the authority to reverse umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call and declare Armando Galarraga the newest owner of a perfect game.
What’s great about this is that the situation is unique. It’s never happened that a pitcher lost a perfect game on the last out because of a clear mistake by an umpire that’s right there on a DVD for all to see. So there is no precedent to break, just one to set.
Correcting Joyce’s call from safe to out would have taken a hit away from Jason Donald and an at bat away from Tim Crowe, who got to make the final out after Donald was declared safe. Crowe certainly wouldn't have objected to losing an at-bat that resulted in an out, and Donald shouldn't complain about losing a hit he neither earned nor deserved.
This was a no-brainer decision, which means Selig was singularly qualified to make it. There were no ramifications other than to correct an egregious injustice and relieve Joyce of the crushing guilt he feels at having blown the biggest call of his life. The game result would remain the same. The score would remain the same.
The argument against changing the call is that it lets the night crawlers out of the can. If you correct this call, then you have to correct others, starting with Don Denkinger’s blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series between the Royals and the Cardinals.
It’s a convenient argument raised by people who can’t bring themselves to do the right thing. After all, baseball has been doing the wrong thing and defending it as tradition for more than a century. Acting against reason is a hallmark of the game.
Football fans have to be laughing themselves silly over this. Their sport has a mechanism to correct bad calls, so this doesn’t happen in football games. It wouldn’t happen in a basketball game, either, where officials can check the replay to determine if a last-second shot is a two-pointer or a three-pointer and whether the player got it off before or after the buzzer.
But not baseball. Baseball is a game that insists on doing things the old-fashioned way for no good reason other than that’s the way it’s always been done. That’s how the game managed to get to 1947 before it allowed a black to play. It’s why the game tolerated and even encouraged cheating by pitchers for generations. It’s why the game continues its inexplicable and indefensible opposition to replay for anything other than home run calls.
But the ban on blacks was broken and cheating by pitchers has been eliminated. So saying that this call cannot be changed because baseball has never done such a thing before is not a valid argument. In the old days, the technology didn’t exist. Now it does.
Besides, baseball does have a mechanism for changing results. It’s called the protest, and, while it doesn’t apply to blown calls, the intention of the protest rule — to correct a violation of the rules of the game — is the same. And a protest can change a result. This would not.
The good thing about this controversy is that it turns up the pressure on Selig to allow replay on such calls, and the sooner the better. Others have weighed in on that issue, so all I’ll say is that at the same time Selig announces that Donald was out, he should also announce a replay system. I’d give each manager one challenge a game, with a league official in a booth to demand replays of questionable last-inning calls. Do it right and it won’t add appreciably to the length of the games.
In any event, umpires aren’t wrong that often. In most games, the replay would never come up.
But that’s for the future. Selig had to break another stupid tradition and reversed this call. It wasn't a matter of exercising his discretion, but of doing his duty to the game.
It’s not about games that happened last year or last century or in 1985 in Kansas City. It’s about a unique situation that happened yesterday.
You could have started a new tradition, Bud. Call it “doing the right thing” or “simple justice.” You could even go back to the commissioner’s catch-all explanation for everything: the integrity of the game.
If this didn't qualify as a matter of integrity, nothing does.