Posted by: mdegeorge | June 4, 2010

Galarraga and Joyce a living argument against instant replay

It was a day that could have fractured baseball’s good name even further. It turned into a spectacle of two men’s ultimate respect for their respective trades.

Jim Joyce made the worst call of his life on one of the biggest occasions. Galarraga got robbed of history, something he will never be able to replicate or recapture if he pitches until he’s 50. It was a bad situation. It could have been an utter disaster.

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But you cannot overstate the credit each deserves in the aftermath of the call. Joyce tearfully admitted he was wrong and apologized for stealing the pitcher’s bid for history. Galarraga immediately shrugged off the call, never once dropping his head or looking for the woe-is-me excuse when it so easily could have been used. Instead, he climbed back onto the bump and got the final out with the same machine-like efficiency with which the previous 26 and a half fell.

Thursday’s game, though, was the ultimate testament of each man’s respect for baseball. There’s Joyce, walking out on the field in his chest protector and shin guards barely 12 hours after a call that earned 17,000 boos and threats against his family, to face the man he robbed of history. The hardened veteran with his fierce demeanor and Fu Manchu had to wipe tears from his eyes as he apologized to a kid who was just six when Joyce first stepped onto the field as a Major League umpire.

The only thing matching Joyce’s humility is the graciousness of Galarraga. He didn’t yell, scream, or snub. He just put his hand on Joyce’s back and forgave. He didn’t demand Major League Baseball change the result, he just chalked it up to being a part of the game he shows such respect for.Even the fans in Detroit, a bunch that could have been seething and riotous at seeing new public enemy number 1 Joyce, reacted not to the missed call made in a split second, but the thoughtful, tearful, heartfelt apology from the depths of the umpire’s heart.

These two men have lived a microcosm of the debate for instant replay in just 24 hours. Joyce showed how it could be used to repair the errors inherent in anything subject to the human element.

Then both men, one standing at home plate and one in the third-base dugout, saluting to each other, showed the best the human element brings. The willingness to put themselves at the mercy of the occasionally error-ridden and anomalous game which has given them so much shows what we stand to lose with the mechanization of the game through increased instant replay.

Baseball is a chess match, one with the largest set of possible outcomes of any major sport. Events happen even now, after 13 decades and countless thousands of games, which have never been seen before. It’s the unpredictability of every moment that makes it so exciting. It’s a cerebral game that is made great by the imperfections of the elements involved: field dimensions, weather conditions, even the players and umpires. It’s an inexact science that can’t be perfect every time for the sheer number of repetitions. It all leads to players who know they aren’t bigger than the game, know they are at the mercy of its vagaries.

Yes instant replay will make for more exact baseball, but will it make for better baseball? I know two people who, though they have endured its worst, don’t think so.



  1. […] made the argument before, but it bears repeating: Baseball is an inherently inexact game. It is possibly the least […]

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