Saturday, June 5, 2010

Always the worst reason for a decision: "That's the way we've always done it."

It's 4:30 in the morning and outside the air smells like summer for the first time, and I am wondering about things. Things like why every apple has to have a sticker on it that delays my first bite, and why some people are trying to provoke a(nother) war in the Middle East, and why the auto-correction logarithm in my iPhone thinks it's more likely that I'm trying to write the word "lice" than "love." And I'm thinking about the unperfect game.

Every blogger and pundit worth his or her salt has long ago weighed in on this topic, I know. My turn now.

Quick primer for those who don't follow baseball: a perfect game is when a pitcher gets the other team out for all nine innings and no batter reaches base. No hits, no walks, no batters hit by a pitch, no errors that allow a base runner, nothing. Nine innings of three-up-and-three-down. 27 batters come to the plate, 27 batters walk back to the dugout. It's only happened in the big leagues 18 times since 1900, and when you consider the thousands of games that have been played in 110 years, you get some perspective.

Earlier this week, as described in Wikipedia...

On June 2, 2010, Armando Galarraga of the Tigers was charged with a single when Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians was incorrectly ruled safe on an infield grounder by first-base umpire Jim Joyce. After the game, Joyce acknowledged that he had made a mistake: "I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay." The New York Times game report by Tyler Kepner called it "easily the most egregious blown call in baseball over the last 25 years."

The unique circumstances here have fostered a lot of talk about the absolute truths and purity of the rules of baseball, the class shown by Galarraga in not throwing the kind of baby fit we've come to expect from professional athletes, the need for instant replay in baseball, and other topics. Some, myself included, think the waste-of-life baseball commission Bud Selig, who has proven to be the most consistently wrong-headed dipshit in the history of the national pastime, has remained silent. He has the authority to right the wrong, but evidently lacks the huevos to do it.

Why make an exception here and review and overrule? Why violate the sanctity of the game for this one situation? For me, the answer is simply because it's the right thing to do.

Most of the mistakes we make in life can't be undone. In day-to-day life, you can't un-say something hurtful - you can't accidentally un-crash into someone's car. On the larger stage, you can't un-bomb the wrong Afghani village or un-shoot a guy you meant to Taser in a BART station. The mistake is made, and you're left with apologizing, paying reparations, going to jail - but the mistake remains uncorrected. In this case, a few words, a stroke of the pen, and justice would be done. Baseball would not be harmed by making it right. When there are so few things in the world over which we have this retroactive control, why pass over this chance to do the right thing? To perpetuate an injustice "because that's the way we've always done it" just doesn't wash for me.


juliana inman said...

You are so right on this, Barry. Well said/written.

DodgerScott said...

You can't go back and change a bad call. It opens a Pandoras box. It all falls squarely on the umps shoulders.

David said...

What in God's name were you doing up at 4:30am?