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A lot to lose

June 3, 2010

It was an eventful day for baseball yesterday, to say the least. Between a should-have-been-perfect game and the retirement of one of the game’s greatest, Major League Baseball lost a lot, and those were just the top two stories of the night.

The obvious place to start is with the Detroit Tigers’ Armando Gallaraga, the Indians’ Jason Donald and umpire Jim Joyce. Only three days after Roy Halladay’s perfect game, Gallaraga retired the first 26 Indians he faced last night before inducing a grounder to the right side from Donald. First baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded the grounder and flipped to Gallaraga on bang-bang play that, though close, was clearly out to the naked eye. But you all know what happened already: Joyce blew the call and ruled Donald safe, Gallaraga and baseball lost a perfect game and forever etching his name into history as making the wrong call at the worst possible time, ever. This one almost made Tim McClelland look not so bad, but then again, McClelland’s calls were horrendously obvious mistakes in non-pressure situations. So don’t think you’re off the hook, big guy.

Yes, we all feel bad for Gallaraga, as his one-hitter was a hell of a ballgame, in which he threw a mere 88 pitches and would’ve had even fewer if the perfect game had been preserved. Yes, hopefully everyone also feels bad for Joyce, who not only has to live with the fact that he blew the last out of a perfect game, but also will be remembered only for that distinction. Years from now, if someone is asked, “Hey, does the name ‘Jim Joyce’ ring a bell?” said person will no doubt answer, “Isn’t that the guy who blew the call in that perfect game?”

Or they just won’t know who he is at all. Joyce should hope for the latter.

Some say it was a long time coming, or at least a few weeks coming. After being accused of sleeping on the job and not producing at the plate, baseball’s classiest act this decade bowed out yesterday, retiring after a prolific twenty-two year career, during most of which he was speculated to be the next home run king. Ken Griffey, Jr. was widely considered the best hitter in baseball when he was in his prime, and even after an injury-marred tenure in Cincinnati, it was still a joy to watch him play. I made it a point to take my little brother to watch him play when the Reds came to Shea Stadium a few years back, making sure he saw what was the sweetest swing I’ve ever seen.

This is one of those cases where you wish Major League Baseball would waive the five-year waiting period for Griffey to be put on the Hall of Fame ballot. After his subpar, injury-riddled years in Cincinnati, there were questions about whether Junior was still Hall-worthy. At a time when most of baseball’s heroes are being stained with steroid usage, Griffey has always stood out as being a natural superstar who always had a beautiful swing and a smile on his face. Countless kids in my generation wore their baseball hats backwards because of Ken Griffey, Jr. He was the reason my brother Linus learned to bat lefty, and the most treasured baseball possession my brother Noam owned when he was younger was a Louisville Slugger with Griffey’s signature etched in it. He was truly a hero for all.
Seattle managed to pull out a walkoff victory for Junior last night, as Ichiro grounded one up the middle for an infield single to score the winning run in the tenth inning. It was fitting, considering that the last hit of Griffey’s career was a walkoff single. Ichiro’s was really more like a fielder’s choice, though, as the Twins’ second baseman tried to get Seattle’s Josh Wilson at second on the grounder with two outs, but Wilson was ruled safe. Aaaaand here’s the kicker: once again, he was out. Bad call. But at least the Mariners’ won on Griffey’s night. 
Between the two bad calls, baseball lost a lot because it’s brought back to the table the question of expanded use of replay. Replay is currently being used for home runs, which became an issue a few years back when umpires all over baseball seemingly couldn’t get a call right. Replay should stay a home run-only resource, as using it to call other close plays will undoubtedly lead to using it to call balls and strikes, and soon, baseball will really have no need for umpires and games will take six hours, with every play being called via replay. The human element of umpires is part of what makes baseball great, and even though two big calls were blown yesterday, umps tend to get most calls right. So let’s keep it that way. Of all people, McClelland was vocal in favor of expanded replay last night, losing even more of my respect than he already had. First George Brett, then the 2009 ALCS, now this? Shame on you.
No short hops once again, but look for a full entry tomorrow!
One Comment leave one →
  1. angelsgirl012 permalink
    June 6, 2010 1:03 am

    i’m going to miss Griffey and so will baseball. For him to leave after 22 seasons is just… incredible! What a great career! Definitely a shoe in for the Hall 🙂

    http://mimi.mlblogs.com

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