Thursday, June 03, 2010

Small Ball via Radio, plus Galaraggian Musings

So, in an unfortunate scheduling coincidence, the Altoona Curve are playing their annual 3-game series up in New Britain this week, not a good time for me to go see them. Or rather, to have time to twist anyone's arm to go see them with me. (I'd have given it a last-minute shot today, but there's been a severe thunderstorm warning for the Hartford area since this afternoon. I doubt anyone I know would still consider a double-A baseball game under that threat.) It's actually turned out to be a beautiful evening, and I was really tempted to grab a Zipcar and drive up there after work. But despite the draw of a Tim Alderson start and a recent Hector-Gimenez-led surge of offense, I didn't think I want to see myself as a guy who hangs out alone at minor-league baseball games.

So instead I've made a summer-appropriate snack (strawberries, crackers with blue cheese, toasted pecans, asparagus, Smuttynose IPA) and have settled in the living room to listen to the game on internet radio. Did you know you can listen to Altoona Curve games on the radio online? I did not know that till this evening. That's the most useful thing I'm going to tell you tonight. I'm not exaggerating. They run radio ads for Yuengling and Isaly's chipped ham.

But all of this is small potatoes. Obviously, all eyes on the baseball world have been on the Armando Galarraga incident yesterday. My thinking on the topic goes like this:
1. First of all, I feel really bad for Jim Joyce, who clearly feels terrible about everything. This must be one of those situations where the umpire is watching for the feet and listening for the throw to hit the glove -- like they always do -- but where the throw is too soft for that to work well. Galarraga doesn't make that catch too cleanly, either, and the play is a lot closer than most people are making it out to be. Clearly enough it's a missed call, but it seems less egregious to me than everyone's saying. In a way, Joyce deserves credit for making that call honestly and not intentionally giving the play to Galarraga so as not to spike the perfect game.

2. It sounds like everyone's handling the situation really well, especially Joyce and Galarraga. The lack of bitterness is refreshing, especially by professional sports standards.

3. Isn't this one of the least probable things ever to happen in a baseball game? Like, a perfect game plus an unambiguous blown call by an umpire, with two outs in the ninth? Aren't people talking past how unbelievably weird this is? If you ask me, this makes the game more historic, not less historic. Anyway, apparently we have normal perfect games all the time now.

4. On another level, what's the difference between an actual perfect game and a game that literally everyone agrees is exactly like an actual perfect game except for a blown call irrelevant to the outcome? It's not like what's at stake is the actual nature of Galarraga's game. He hasn't had anything really tangible stolen from him, except posterity. And even if he's not written up in the history books, I doubt that connoisseurs of baseball history are going to forget about him (see issue #3).

In short, I'd say that for the sake of uniqueness, good will, and lack of metaphysical pertinence, we should play the ball where it lies and appreciate the game for its own character. No one would ever have predicted it, and maybe it's even metaphoric for something.

Although it's a damn good thing Galarraga got that 28th out without any fuss: that guy rips a double into the gap and you've got some less pleasant food for thought.


Blogger said...

It’s a shame Galarraga lost his bid for a perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call. It would have been the third such game thrown in the majors this year, and the season is only approximately one-third over! This is amazing when you consider that this is the first year in baseball’s modern era that saw not one but TWO perfect games thrown.

Major League Baseball definitely needs to take a look at expanding the use of instant replay because of this incident. I am always amazed at the fact that serious events seem to always bring about changes. This applies to many areas, not just sports.

6/03/2010 8:36 PM  
Blogger nate said...

Really good thoughts on the Galarraga game. I should be packing up and driving down to Kyle's house right now, but briefly: Well said on #s 2 and 3. Re: #1, it's a good time to recommend (again) Bruce Weber's "As They See 'em", which paints a really good portrait of professional umpires, both sympathetic and not. His section on what Don Denkinger went through after blowing a key call in the 1985 World Series is very germane to the present situation, although I suspect the reaction will be calmer. I may quibble with you later on #4.

Re: the robopost above, I'm kind of tired of isolated high-profile incidents prompting calls for increased use of instant replay. Pat Lackey ends an otherwise very solid post on the Galarraga incident on that note, sounding a familiar note that the "human element" should be taken out of officiating when possible. But -- though I don't know what goes on in the NHL -- you don't need to look further than the NFL's instant replay habits to gauge the risk that you just bump the human element up into the domain of judging video evidence. To echo your #3, a visibly incorrect call with two outs in the 9th inning of a perfect game is a preposterously clear-cut instance. But in the game-to-game grind of a whole season I suspect that new and technologically advanced ways of watching the watchers will just spread most of the existing grief around, with perversely greater frustration (familiar to football) rising from the fact that the mistake is that much further removed from the action on the field.

6/03/2010 9:35 PM  

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