The decks are awash: the tears have already reached the scuppers, and there’s no sign of abatement. The output from the perpetually lachrymose has been prodigious.
Even people who aren’t baseball fans are screaming, eyes bedewed, for justice—justice at any cost!
“They outta let managers have red flags!”
“Why don’t they have instant replay? They have it everywhere else!”
“Oh, hu, hu hu! It isn’t fair!”
Before one more word: I am a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. Although I no longer live in that shell of a city (and its degradation is truly something worth weeping over), I routinely pay for remote access to the games, and follow the team both on and off season.
Like any fan, I’m happy when the team wins, not so happy when they lose. It might even be true that, in my greener days, my passion was such that the intersection of my metacarpals and phalanges met and breeched the thin veneer of an apartment door in San Antonio after the Tige’s dropped a game in the 1984 series.
(I am enough of a fan to know that the previous sentence does not contain a typo.)
I also wasn’t so happy when Jim Joyce blew the call which changed Armando Galarraga’s recorded game from a no hitter to a one hitter.
My disappointment was almost immediately tempered by my now advanced age, but also by the way Joyce—who is the spitting image of my Uncle Pat—handled his mistake. “I blew it,” he said. And he said it over and over, emphasizing and demonstrating that he knew of the importance of his missed call. He screwed up and took his medicine like a man. What more can you ask for?
Turns out, a lot of people are asking for a hell of lot more. They are asking that baseball be forever altered. But should we be picketing Bud Selig’s office with posters that read “Change we can believe in”?
Let’s pause to understand exactly what happened. Galarraga indeed pitched a perfect game, one of only twenty others in the history of the game. Wait a second. Did you get that? Galarraga pitched a perfect game.
Everybody knows this. But many are besides themselves with grief because Galarraga’s game won’t be recorded in some dusty tome without a superscripted asterisk. These people are acting like the fans of a hit movie that did not win the Oscar who have falsely convinced themselves that the lack of a goofy statue on the Director’s mantle somehow diminishes the beauty of the film.
There are growing calls for Selig to “reverse” the umpire’s call, and thus retroactively change history. Perhaps, in their fevered imaginations, they see Selig removing his ducal dagger to cut the sealed records, they envision that his magic eraser swabbing out Galarraga’s asterisk will ease their pain.
You know what these cries sound like? Exactly like a people trained to grieve over every perceived inconvenience. “Oh, why won’t they pass a new rule or law and so restore justice?” They are like the children who have refused to believe that life isn’t fair and that it is sometimes tragic, and who say that if only we tinker with the system sufficiently and overlay enough provisos, then nothing will go wrong. Where else have we heard that?
For over a century players have styled their game and managers have developed methods to account for the human element and possibility of umpire error. For example, you ever see a catcher shift his glove from off the bag to somewhere closer to the strike zone in order to fool the ump? It sometimes works, especially on the close calls.
Injustice! But do you eliminate it short of putting an camera inside the catcher’s mask, a team of videographers then reviewing each pitch. Won’t that be fun.
There are dozens of other examples. But we have enough experience with instant reply in other sports to know that its introduction in baseball will be no panacea. Already in football, we are one step shy of allowing lawyers to rush the field after each play to file little red affidavits. Games will soon no longer be decided at stadiums, but in the courts.
Anyway, instant replay is imperfect. The camera angles are not always cooperative, the delays caused by umpires peering at cloth covered screens are interminable, and the reversals, when the come, are always a let down. True, they give a momentary sense of triumph that all is set right, but they leave a bad taste because the game has been shifted from men to machines.
But best argument is: How do we know any change will result in a healthier game overall? Biologists tells us that nearly all mutations are bad. And history has taught us that the best laid plans of progress oft go awry.
Conserve the game as it is. Resist change, embrace tradition.