Friday, June 11, 2010
Sports Q&A: MLB’s “Perfect” Conspiracy
Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce's blown call on a play at first cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Joyce's mistake, for which he apologized, opened the floodgates on the debate of expanding instant replay in MLB. Was it an honest mistake, or all part of an intricate conspiracy plotted by MLB? And will these events lead to more instant replay in baseball?
"Honest mistake?" Baseball umpires don't make those; baseball players do, in front of Congress.
But let's be serious about the role of the now cult hero Jim Joyce in the instant replay debate. He's no hero. But that's not his fault. Joyce is merely a pawn in an MLB conspiracy to preserve the sanctity of the perfect game in baseball. Yes, it was a conspiracy, albeit a yet-to-be-uncovered one.
Why would MLB feel the need to rob a deserving player of a perfect game, while pinning the backlash on a compassionate umpire? The answer is simple: with two perfect games already this year, one by Oakland's Dallas Braeden and one by Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, MLB felt that such gems were becoming all too commonplace. That's hallowed ground being stepped upon much too often. And MLB had to put a stop to it.
Does the conspiracy theory sound far-fetched? Of course it does, but don't all conspiracy theories? Look at the replay. Not convinced. Look at it again, with Oliver Stone beside you. You'll see that Galarraga took the throw and stepped on first base well before Cleveland base-runner Jason Donald reached the bag. This wasn't a "bang-bang" play; this was a play that a blind man could have made correctly, blindfolded.
Sure, Joyce was "blinded," by his duty to deny Galarraga a perfect game, a mandate obviously subliminally supplied by the MLB powers that be, probably through the drone-like voice of Joe Buck. How do I know MLB "got to" Joyce? I don't. If I did, they'd have to kill me.
Understand this, though: MLB's cold-heartedness was matched only by its brilliance in executing this nefarious scheme. Even though Galarraga had the defining moment of his career stolen, and Joyce's bungled call made him the biggest scapegoat in major league history, they both still emerged as winners. Sure, Galarraga's name won't be in the record book, but everybody knows he pitched a perfect game. Any emptiness Galarraga feels can best be cured with a tattoo commemorating his accomplishment.
MLB just won't recognize it, thus maintaining the integrity of the perfect game at the expense of the integrity of its own umpires.
Heretofore, no one viewed umpires as sympathetic figures. Now, thanks to Joyce's screw-up, apology, and tears, there is a new-found love for the men whose emotions have so often been limited to anger and defiance. Umpires are human! And at least one of them is loved. Former Yankees umpire antagonist Billy Martin is probably stirring more dirt spinning in his grave than he did kicking it on an enemy umpire.
Is Joyce's example the "human element" that purists long for? No way. Crying should never, under any circumstances, be seen on the field of play. Crying, in baseball, should be exclusively reserved for admissions of the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs.
It's all part of MLB's elaborate scheme to discredit umpires, while simultaneously garnering them sympathy in anticipation of expanded instant replay talks, which will undoubtedly center around inadequacies in the umpiring profession. MLB has cleverly directed blame on the umpires for the sudden spate of perfect games, and they have done this while, at the same time, welcoming redemption for one of the most egregious officiating blunders in the history of sports.
Are umpires to blame for the unusually high number of perfect games? Absolutely. Combine an ever-expanding strike zone with an already inconsistent one and you've got the makings of perfection. MLB knew it had to step in, and by any means necessary, create a smokescreen that would eventually lead to instant replay talks, and indirectly lead to a narrower, more well-defined strike zone. And a labyrinthine chain of events involving a malleable umpire and an impeccably-pitched game seemed the only logical manner in which to accomplish it.
Somewhere, someone code-named "Deep Throat" is waiting on a park bench.
Now that instant replay is the hot topic, is there a chance that its expansion is imminent?
As with anything, except the argument as to whether Joyce's call was correct, there are two sides to every story.
In theory, expanding instant replay in baseball would favor all parties, particularly pitchers who would otherwise have perfect games ripped from their beings. Calls, for the most part, would be correct, and a new era of statistical accuracy would be welcomed.
In addition, instant replay would spare us tearful apologies from umpires. Joyce gave us two things that should never be seen or heard from MLB umpires: an admission of error, and tears.
Of course, many would like to see no change to the instant replay rules. Baseball traditionalists, and their extremist brethren, also known as the "Status Quo Fo's," love to preach about the "human element" in baseball. And it's possible that expanding instant replay would rob the game, and these purists, of their precious "human element."
Of course, when people speak of this "human element," they are essentially referring to umpiring "mistakes." Of course, these mistakes often lead to entertaining arguments between umpires and managers. Baseball absolutely can't live without these, just as hockey can't live without fighting.
Will we ever see expanded instant replay in baseball? It's hard to imagine baseball owners agreeing to something that's been a huge success for their counterparts in football. Can you imagine baseball managers equipped with a challenge flag? Does it seem feasible that owners would agree to give Lou Piniella something else that he could throw? Probably not.
And can we honestly expect Bobby Cox to last more than two innings with only three challenges? It won't happen.
There's only one way expanded instant replay would be approved, and that's if advertisers were allowed to "sponsor" instant replays. For example, "This instant replay review brought to you by Budweiser."
In actuality, the chances of expanded instant replay are as likely as uncovering the truth behind MLB's "perfect conspiracy." I say leave instant replay alone, and leave the conspiracy explanation to baseball's greatest storyteller and investigative reporter, Jose Canseco.