Tradition or Natural Law? Over the past few days it has became pretty apparent that Armando Galarraga will not, in fact, be given credit for the perfect game he threw Wednesday in Detroit against Cleveland. Late Thursday, by refusing to address directly the matter of the universally acknowledged blown call in Wednesday’s game, the Commissioner of Baseball seemingly raised the tradition of an umpire’s expected “human” error to the level of Baseball Natural Law. Of course, umpire error has always been an element of baseball, and many seemed “just all right” with Bud Selig’s implicit support for umpire Jim Joyce’s admitted mistake. For his part, Joyce went on the record to declare the whole affair somehow a positive thing. After more or less weeping through an acceptance of Detroit’s lineup card at home Thursday, he detailed for reporters the public’s kind embrace of his human frailty. For example, a police officer apparently stopped the ump in Detroit’s airport him to thank him (for what was a bit unclear). “He saves lives,” said Joyce, “and I call balls and strikes, and he was thanking me.” Some baseball broadcasts on Friday night also emphasized the “feel good” aspect of the reaction to Joyce’s error.
Galarraga, for his part, also seemed to accept his exclusion from history despite the fact that we have now had the technology for a while that, under appropriate rules, could have given him a place in it.
OK, OK, maybe there’s a “teaching opportunity” here. (See, kids, how both these men and everybody all round them behaved with so much understanding and grace?)
I’d still like to check back in with Galarraga in about two weeks to hear his frank opinion of his place in baseball’s universe and whether he’d personally support a limited number of manager’s challenges to calls per game.
The debate about the matter of using more replays in baseball has tended to run to extremes. One side argues, as did a blogger in The Times Herald, that replay should be used because “it is time,” just as the time came, in the past, to outlaw the dangerous and unhygienic spitter or to allow African-Americans onto the playing field. How often it should be used isn’t generally defined by blog scribblers, though. The other side invokes the “charm” of human (arbiter) error and, implicitly, the fun of yelling, “Kill the ump!” For example, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Frank Fitzpatrick suggested Sunday that trying to make baseball “flawless” will turn it into “a soulless video game.”
No, no, no – to both sides. Errant calls do not rise, as an issue, to the level of rationally defenseless racism or even to the level of a slippery pitch hitting a batter in the head. Also, quite obviously every play could not be challenged if MLB still wants a game to end within a calendar day (as I expect it does). We’ll gladly keep all those sloppy calls on the pivot out at second base in double plays…because they’re charming. Just give each manager one call challenge per game (to start, and never go above two). It will introduce a new, strategic tool (to use the challenge early in a game would be iffy), and it will take the target off the umpire’s back.
Sammy in Charge: The announcement Saturday that Juan Samuel has been named interim manager of the Orioles likely brought a smile to the face of more than one long-time Phillies fan. A player with mostly lousy Phils teams in the 80’s, “Sammy” was one of a number of players to have escaped the poverty of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic to play major league baseball in the US.
A free-swinging speedster and three-time All-Star, he is fondly remembered in Philly for twice leading the league in triples and stealing 72 bases in 1984.
Samuel is also recalled for his classic (but possibly apocryphal) answer to a reporter’s question about why he didn’t take more pitches: “You can’t get off the island if you don’t swing the bat.” (For the record, Google can’t find this remark as such, but unlike some, I’m not sure that means anything at all.)
Unfortunately, the O’s new skipper has his work cut out for him. His team is so far out of first place in the AL East, most of his new charges couldn’t spell “Rays” if they were spotted “r-a-y.”
Pat the Bat by the Bay: After a dreadful turn with the Rays (and being waived by them), former Miami star and ’08 Phillies hero Pat Burrell resurfaced in San Francisco Bay, where he was rescued by a Giants fishing trawler. Saturday Pat played his first game for San Francisco in Pittsburgh and went one for four. Sadly, the Giants home field, AT&T Park, will likely turn Burrell into an F7 machine. The left field foul pole is 339 feet away, but the wall angles steeply outward from that point; in left-center the barrier is 382 feet from home plate. Burrell hits, when he does, right-handed.
Vote McCutchen: We all know Andrew McCutchen plays for a dreadful team in a dreadfully small market, but c’mon. In the most recent MLB update of the current All-Star voting (June 2nd), the Pirates’ only real star isn’t even in the top fifteen among outfielders. Before play Sunday, McCutchen is hitting .320 off a four-hit game Saturday against Burrell’s Giants; he’s hit seven homers, stolen thirteen bases, scored 34 runs, and thrown out four base runners. The recommendation here, for those unaware that they can do this, is to log onto MLB.com and vote the 25 times allowed for this rising superstar.
“Andrew McCutchen.” baseball-reference.com. 6 June 2010.
“AT&T Park.” ballparktour.com. 6 June 2010.
Fitzpatrick, Frank. “Game’s charm is in its imperfection.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 6 June 2010: E9.
Gonzalez, Alden. “Plenty of tight races for NL All-Star spots.” mlb.com. 6 June 2010.
“Is now the time for baseball to check the instant replay?” thetimesherald.com. 6 June 2010.
“Juan Samuel.” baseball-reference.com. 5 June 2010.
Narducci, Marc. “Umpire says good things came from his bad call.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 5 June 2010: E1.
“San Diego at Philadelphia.” Major League Baseball. CSN. 4 June 2010.