Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

June 05, 2010 | Erich Hawbaker

So Dave Trembley is gone. Made such a huge difference having Juan Samuel in charge, didn’t it? Clay Buchholz wipes the floor with the Orioles yet again, 11-0. The dismissal of Dave Trembley actually caused more of a stir in the sports media than I thought it would. There seems to be a consensus among most people that Trembley is a very nice guy, that the state of the Orioles really isn’t his fault, that this was bound to happen sooner or later, and that it’s just too bad. All that I can agree with. Some O’s fans have been calling for his head for awhile now, while others have pointed out that he really couldn’t be expected to work miracles with the subpar team the front office gave him. I’d have to put myself mostly in the latter category. Yes, I saw him make some dumb moves over the last couple years, but I must concur with the few players who have chimed in that it is ultimately they who succeed or fail on the field, not the manager. Anyway, I wish him well.

However, outside of “Birdland” (with apologies to Maynard Ferguson), the biggest controversy of the day is the botched call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Detroit’s Armando Galarraga his perfect game on Wednesday. By now, I’m sure we’ve all seen the footage. After recording 26 consecutive outs, Galarraga induced a ground ball to firstbase. The firstbaseman fielded it, Galarraga ran over to cover, and clearly had the runner by a good half-step. But Joyce called him safe, ruining the bid for a perfect game on the very last out. Joyce almost immediately admitted that his call was wrong, and Galarraga openly forgave him just as quickly. At the beginning of Thursday’s game, Galarraga came out of the dugout to give Joyce the lineup card, and the two shook hands.

The first thing that struck me was the amount of class that both men showed in this situation. Joyce has been nothing but humble and genuinely apologetic, but he will now be forever remembered as the ump whose bad call cost a pitcher a perfect game (the third one this year, no less!). Galarraga has been very gracious in being so terribly wronged, although I heard today that Chevrolet presented him with a new Corvette for his efforts. They both deserve praise for being such gentlemen amid turmoil. Baseball, and indeed, the world need more men like them.

Since this happened, there have been people everywhere inside and outside of baseball (not including Armando Galarraga himself) who have argued that the ruling should be officially changed to award Galarraga the perfect game. But as you might expect, the ever-benevolent commissioner of baseball Bud Selig has refused to even consider it. I’ll tell you right off that I don’t care for Selig and I never have. The only really good thing he’s done lately is refusing to move the All Star Game out of Arizona to placate the handful of whiners about that new illegal immigration law. His defense of his position in this case has been the preservation of baseball’s “human element” and not wanting to open the floodgates for more demands to overturn umpires’ important calls based on replay.

The logic here could not be more misguided. The fact is that Galarraga did pitch a perfect game, and it was only judged to be otherwise by human error. There is absolutely no doubt about that. I, for one, would argue that getting the call right is a much higher priority than the notion of the human element and the speed of the game. Every other major sport uses replay in some form because they all understand that. Baseball has it wrong, and it needs to be changed. I’ve been saying this ever since the Jeffrey Maier tragedy. It has to be implemented practically (balls and strikes are clearly out of the question), carefully, and intelligently, but it must be done.

Also, there’s the “slippery slope” contention. In the world of politics and law, it’s very commonly used by people of all persuasions. I personally find it cheap and distasteful, as it is often the sandbag one uses when one is opposed to something without really knowing why or having an intelligible argument to the contrary. Instituting instant replay, if done correctly, will not doom the game of baseball to be five hours long with managers and players demanding that every little thing be reviewed. To me, it’s like saying that I shouldn’t have bought my motorcycle just because it rains sometimes. There may be occasions when I’m riding Matilda and it rains, and getting wet will be unpleasant. But on the majority of days when I’m riding and it does not rain, it will be enjoyable and therefore a good investment. The net gain far outweighs the risk.

Armando Galarraga earned his perfect game. And the record, corrected by replay, should reflect that fact. But even if it doesn’t, he’s still welcome to take his new car for a spin with me and Tilly.