Thursday, June 03, 2010

An open letter to Bud Selig

Mr. Selig.

Let the call stand.

I should be one of the last people to tell you to let umpire Jim Joyce's call that deprived Armando Gallaraga of a perfect game Wednesday evening in Detroit stand. My first response on Twitter was "I'm glad Major League Baseball is an equal opportunity employer, but hiring blind umpires is going too far."

But the truth is, we need umpires. We need the guy who's on the field to make the call, otherwise the game would degenerate into endless arguments, like the one that just sprang up in the few hours since the last out.

You're being besieged with demands, pleading and possibly even dinner invitations that you reverse the call. Probably the only other people other than myself who are saying let the call stand are other umpires, who are saying if you reverse this call, every time a controversial call is made you'll be asked to change it, undermining the umpire's near-omnipotence on the field. They're also, no doubt, worried that this will bring on more use of instant replay, which is currently only used in the case of questionable home runs. As much as it pains me to agree with an umpire (yes, I have that inbred hatred of the guys in black), they're right. Baseball doesn't need instant replay. It slows up what is already a leisurely game. Baseball has existed more than 200 years without it, and it has become the national pastime anyway.

And like I said, we need umpires, not just on the field, but in real life. We need people to be the final arbiter, like judges, teachers and parents who say that's right, that's wrong, move along. Otherwise, we're all just standing around claiming to be victims.

Americans like to believe they are the champions of fair play. The truth is we're really a champion of winners. When we lose, we'd like to point to something and say that's why we lost. Now people are pointing at Jim Joyce, saying because of him Gallaraga, and by extension everyone who wanted to see a perfect game, have been deprived. And Joyce, who already has suffered more abuse in less than a day than most umpires suffer in a whole career, is now a scapegoat.

Joyce and Gallaraga are the victims here, not the rest of us. I say let them decide. Joyce has already said he made a mistake, but he hasn't said whether the call should be reversed. My suspicion is as much as he knows it will haunt him for the rest of his career, he'll say umpires' call should stand.

And as far as Gallaraga goes, if you do reverse the call, all he gets is a mark in the record books. He doesn't get to go back in time and be mobbed on the field by his teammates. He doesn't get the shaving cream pie in the face during the post-game interview. He doesn't get to have the clip played over and over again on Sportscenter. That moment is gone. Ask him which he'd rather have, the mark or the moment, and I bet we both know what the answer is.

So, Mr. Selig, let me be the one to say, let the call stand. Let Joyce join the lineup of infamous baseball mistake makers, like Bill Buckner, Fred Merkle and Steve Bartman, whose misdeeds fuel debate even to this day.

We all make mistakes. And we all have to live with them and their consequences. Wiping them away changes nothing.