"Nobody's Perfect:" Let's Put the * In Sports Pt. 2
Yesterday evening, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galaraga pitched the 23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball history, but he'll never actually get the recognition for it. With two outs in the top of the ninth, only one batter in the way of history, Galaraga hadn't even reached 90 pitches. Jason Donald was up to bat next, and due to the unimaginable events that followed, he would not prove to be the last hitter Galaraga would face. Donald dribbled a ground ball towards the first & second base gap, causing Galaraga to cover first as Miguel Cabrera came off the bag to field the ball. Cabrera's toss hit Galaraga in stride, and as his foot landed on the base just before that of Donald's. Unfortunately, that's not how field umpire Jim Joyce saw the play go down. As Galaraga began to throw his arms in the air in celebration, he saw Joyce re-adjust his arms, signaling the runner safe. All he could do was smile; motionless.
After immediately getting the next runner out, and a polite exchange in words between Tigers manager Jim Leyland and the umpire who made the call, Joyce was confronted by dozens of reporters all interested in the same question; what the hell happened?
With no answer, Joyce regretfully apologized for his lack of judgement, saying, "that wasn't just any call. I just cost that kid a perfect game." Joyce continued to explain that he thought he had a good angle on the play, he just flat out missed the call. "It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it," Joyce stated.
Who could argue that Galaraga isn't deserving of a perfect game added to his credentials? Nobody. In fact, many are insisting that commissioner Bud Selig over rule the call and set the record straight. The call was obviously wrong, and Galaraga in true did throw a perfect game from the mound. Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow even issued her take on the situation earlier this morning, stating, "last night's performance deserves its place in the record books. It is clear that Commissioner Selig should make an exception in this case and invoke the 'best interests of the game clause' to reflect Armando Galarraga's perfect game for the Detroit Tigers."
As right as she is, and everyone who's seen it for that matter, the play was ruled safe, as certain as a called strike three that ends a game; It's just never occurred in a situation quite like this one. Hereby my friends, is a more reasonable, collectively-understood example of why there is a place for *'s in sports. If the blown-call occurred in a 6-2 game in the top of the ninth, we wouldn't have been suffocated with the incident all morning. If Pete Rose's stats appeared next to another individuals name, they'd be a sure first-ballot hall of famer without question. Granted the two situations are much different, but they each happened nonetheless. Yes, Pete Rose went against the game he dedicated his life to, but in the grand scheme of things, the situations are very alike as well. The hall-of-fame deserving numbers Rose put up, he did and deserves credit for. Galaraga did nothing to cost him his perfect game, yet he has to suffer through it.
The bottom line is that the hall of fame is not a judge of character. It's merely one of talent and statistics. You can be mean, argumentative, violent, what have you. But if you put ink on the stat page then it's there, no matter how it got there, and must be treated with all others it compares too. Unless, of course, the sports world just bites the bullet and adopts Asterix's. Give Bonds, McGwire and Sosa the hall of fame, just put they may/have cheated and had an unfair advantage. Give Galaraga his perfect game, but credit the circumstances which it occured. Plus, in Galaraga's case at least, his asterix wouldn't take away from a single thing. Steroids I'll give you, do.
Many people's reaction is that this idea would simply get abused, that we would end up using them as an excuse for any mistake or misjudgement, which is ridiculous. Rarities like hall of fame nominations and perfect games are hardly usual or common occurrences.
Here's how it would works: There's three types of applicable "asterixes" (a physical label or marking noting some sort of information); a performance-based, judgemental and a justifiable asterix, going from worse to to least offense. A performance-based asterix would be applied to somebody like Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. Their stats resemble legendary achievements and are hall of fame worthy numbers, but at some point in their career/s manipulated the system in ways tied directly to performance such as steroids, human growth hormones, corking a bat, etc. A judgemental asterix is also one that recognizes significant career achievement, however represents the misuse, abuse or mal-practice of a common social norm, un-related to performance enhancement. A judgemental asterix would be associated with the likes of someone who's numbers and stats are iconic, however showed poor character and knowingly participated in or contributed to practices not socially accepted. For instance, betting on baseball like Pete Rose, or being convicted of armed robbery like O.J. Simpson. Neither 'cheated' the game they played or held any sort of unfair advantage over opponents, but acted at some point in a shameful way that is looked down upon by society norms. The third asterix, a justifiable asterix, is not really any offense or drawback at all. It would appeal to instances where an outcome was compromised only for the purpose of correcting an obvious, acknowledged mistake. If Sen. Stabenow were to get her wish and Bud Selig overruled the controversial call, ruling the game final one batter earlier than originally, Galaraga's perfect game would go down with a justifiable asterix.
We are in the middle of an era that encourages and hoists professional athletes to be higher than the rest, and it's obvious through their behaviors and unjust decision making. But one day, Armando Galaraga deserves to be able to share a piece of history with his grand kids. And Jim Joyce deserves to live down his "career-defining call." And when I take my kids to the baseball hall of fame someday, I won't be satisfied If they can't relive 1998's 3-way home run chase, or Barry Bond's incredible 2004 season.
"To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve greatness. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable, stay in touch, but most importantly, never be afraid to fail." -MJ