#151: Perfect Disaster
One, history will remember forever; the other... might get a few mentions for about a week (outside of Pittsburgh).
The first, of course, is the one-hitter that was actually a perfect game thrown by young Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga.
Naturally, as with all officiating travesties in sports, the crucial call game at the precise moment when the game should have ended.
Two outs, top of the ninth, his team up by three, and the 27th opposing batter comes to the plate. The Cleveland Indians' Jason Donald (remember that name: it will be the answer to a trivia question) grounds the 1-1 pitch to first. First baseman Miguel Cabrera fields it and quickly flips the ball to Galarraga who has come off the mound to cover the bag. The ball beats Donald by a little less than a step, but first base umpire Jim Joyce (another name to remember for trivia purposes) calls Donald safe.
It would have been bad enough had the call come in the top of the 8th with nobody out (and the rest of the game could have been perfect), but the timing in this case was, and is, excruciating.
Some critics were saying that you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the pitcher in this case, but I disagree. Had the two arrived at the same time, then the tie should go to the runner (the rule indicates that a tag or a force must occur "before" the runner reaches the bag.
But this was not a tie.
It is also not the first blown call in Major League Baseball history, so I implore those wanting to lynch Joyce to calm down a little bit.
The crime appears to be happening in baseball's front office.
As of yesterday, commissioner Bud Selig said that the call will not be overturned.
His office does have the power to rule a play differently, but is electing not to.
Selig (and the few who support his decision) and the thousands who think the call should be reversed are both citing "integrity of the game".
As though juiced baseballs and athletes, in addition to poor officiating, haven't denigrated it enough.
I have never wanted to see replay instituted in baseball, because it's a slippery slope that will probably ultimately replace human umpires with strike zone-precise machines.
But in a case like this, where an historic 3rd perfect game in a season was denied by human error, it might be time to institute a challenge rule, like the one used in the NFL.
With the exception of balls and strikes, each team can challenge two calls per game (including foul balls, close plays at a particular base, diving catches, or home runs). If they're right twice, they get a third, and so on, until they are incorrect.
Even this idea makes me shudder, but if there's going to be replay, I'd rather the decision to review a play be in the hands of the teams rather than the umpires.
Unless something changes, "Steeltown Sports" congratulates Armando Galarraga on his perfect game*.
The other disaster unfolding is much closer to the Steel City.
The 2010 Major League Baseball amateur draft starts on Monday, and the Pittsbugh Pirates have the second overall pick.
The word has been that the team with the first overall pick, the Washington Nationals, will probably not draft all-around high school player Bryce Harper, having tied up a ton of money in last year's #1 pick, Stephen Strasberg.
This would leave a potential cornerstone player (once again) ripe for the plucking for the Pirates.
However, rumors are abounding that Pittsburgh is poised to draft someone else.
Not that we should be surprised.
Remember all the arm-twisting/tooth-pulling/rectal-thermometering that went on two years ago when Pirate management reluctantly selected Pedro Alvarez...then nearly lost him because super-agent (and baseball's super-villain) Scott Boras would not settle for less than a major league contract?
Well, as usual, the best player in the draft has Boras as his agent (that's almost more predictable than a Pittsburgh losing season).
After getting schooled by Boras two years ago, it's unlikely that Bob Nutting, Frank Coonely and Neal Huntington want to walk that road again, especially since saving (and banking) money is this organization's modus operandi.
And when they pass on Harper (I really don't think this is much of an "if") expect lots of talk to gloss over their actual pick and focus more on the talent they have coming up (or those that are already here). Lots of touting Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. Talking up Brad Lincoln, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata (while delaying promoting them, so they can save some more money by keeping them down in the minors.
Meanwhile, no one will mention that their actual #1 pick does not have Scott Boras for an agent.
I don't blog too much about the Bucs anymore, because it all comes back to a whole lot of Nutting.
But I do take pleasure in pointing out to the Pirate fans who continue to fork their money over to the Syndicate that they are the ones making this perfect circle of ineptitude continue to roll.