In case you missed it, or have joined the millions of Americans who give news about our national pastime a quizzical look similar to bringing up the leg spinning prowess of Shane Warne in a bar, baseball spent the past week shitting all over its fans.
In very public blown call, Armando Galarraga's perfect game was broken up on one of the most misjudged close plays at first base since Don Denkinger saved Kansas City from a game 6 loss and elimination in the 1985 World Series. In a moment of grace and humility after the game, Umpire Jim Joyce admitted his error and expressed profound regret for the mistake.
The blown call was meaningless, as Galarraga easily retired the next hitter to preserve the 3-0 victory. In that regard, the screw up is different from Denkinger's boner, as it has no effect on baseball in the grand scheme of things, but for Galarraga the effect is profound. No spring chicken at 28, Galarraga has all the makings of a journeyman starter, having already been sent down once this season to the minors. June 2, 2010 is almost certainly the highlight of his career, and while he'll gain fame from the blown call and undoubtedly make money signing balls in perpetuity long after his rotator cuff has given out, it's not the same as having a perfect game.
Which is where Bud Selig comes into play in the first part of this post. Selig, while doing his best Greenspan impression, announced he would not overturn the blown call, and award Galarraga the honor of pitching only the 20th perfect game in league history. His justification amounted to a weak version of the "shit happens" defense. This is just garbage of epic proportions because the case is so cut and dry and no precedent needs to be set here.
The Commissioner of baseball can pretty much do anything he wants and while I understand the inevitable slippery slope argument that will follow, he can also emulate my parenting strategy: "Because I SAID SO, Goddamnit!!" If the commissioner can declare an All-Star game a tie or attach asterixs to records, then it's not much of a leap to give Galarraga his due place in history.
Of course, now the chattering classes are foaming at the mouth about instant replay. Which is really what the game needs: another mechanism to extend the already laborious game lengths. As anyone blessed/cursed to be a Red Sox/Yankees fan will tell you, their Homeric games are destroying productivity and REM sleep cycles across the New England and New York regions. Allowing umpires to stare slack-jawed at video monitor's to decide whether David Ortiz pulled a ball foul is not helpful.
So all fans are denied the amazing event of three perfect games in a season, something we can all rally around and celebrate, and are instead told by Angry Uncle Bud to shut the hell up and feel privileged to get to spend four hours on a Wednesday night taking in a Royals-Twins snooze fest.
Today, Washingtonians will enjoy the spectacle of Walter Johnson pitching for the first time in nearly eight decades. Or as the rest of America calls it: Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg is a dominant pitching talent, although his minor league numbers are not really any better than Tim Lincecum or Mark Prior's, he clearly is ready for the show, and DC-ites are excited with his arrival. The Nationals recently slide below .500, which is outstanding for the modern day Senators. Strasburg's arrival is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal sports year for Washingtonians.
What is not cool is how the Nationals have handled Strasburg's expected arrival. Using standard baseball business practice, they've delayed his call up in order to put off starting the contractual "clock" on his eventual ability to apply for arbitration and get expensive.
About a month ago, the National's publicly rearranged his starting schedule at Double AA Harrisburg to give him an extra day of rest, thus allowing prognosticators the ability to guess Strasburg's call up date: June 4, at home against the Cincinnati Reds. The date made eminent sense as the Nat's would be coming off a long road trip, in need of fresh arms, and Strasburg would be able to start again during the home stand against Pittsburgh.
The Nats PR and Coaching staff then began to play very coy with the media about the proposed day, neither denying or confirming, although unsourced comments from Nat's organizational staff appeared in the Washington Post indicating June 4 would be the big day. The Nats saw brisk ticket sales for the June 4 date, and also June 9th. With the game reaching sell out status, they announced Strasburg would not be called up on the 4th, but instead the 8th, which set off a firestorm of criticism and ticket sales for the 8th.
On my ride home on the fourth, the Metro was typically bereft of Nat's fans, with a couple of fat Reds fans talking about chili or Jose Rijo, or whatever they talk about, and a lot of tired commuters looking to get home. Tonight is expected to be a rough commute for the big game.
Again, where is the Commissioner? The Nats clearly bait and switched Strasburg's arrival to gin up ticket sales and did so in a decidedly callow fashion. Obviously there is a bit of caveat emptor to guessing an exciting prospect's arrival, but baseball, and the Nationals in particular, are not in a position to be acting like a Goldman banker given the sportwide downward trend in attendance over the last two years.
The commissioner needs to have the foresight to step in and brow beat the Nationals into treating their fans better "in the best interest of the game." Bowie Kuhn got into it repeatedly with Charlie Finley for acting like a horse's ass, so the precedent exists.
When the tone deaf commissioner decides to avoid the obvious solution to a grave injustice, it insults the fans of baseball, and gives us all another reason to watch a 30 Rock rerun on TiVo, go surf porn, or just do anything more entertaining, like watch paint dry.