Selig won’t overturn call

Imperfect gem is focus of baseball

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 4, 2010

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To Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, the decision was simple. It was incumbent on commissioner Bud Selig to overturn the blown call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Detroit’s Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday night.

“As blatant as it was, the commissioner needed to fix it,’’ said Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter in 2007. “It’s history. It’s not like he was throwing a shutout and a call got blown.

“That’s a historic moment. To me, that is the time he needs to step in.’’

But Selig will let the call stand. After spending much of yesterday discussing the situation with his deputies, Selig issued a statement congratulating Galarraga and applauding the Tigers for their sportsmanship. He also credited Joyce for having the candor to admit his mistake.

“As Jim Joyce said in his postgame comments, there is no dispute that last night’s game should have ended differently,’’ Selig said. “While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed.’’

Sources within Major League Baseball said Selig pondered the merits of reversing Joyce’s call but decided against it.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona also was opposed to changing the call.

“The game’s the game,’’ said Francona. “Play the game. You can’t do that. Nobody’s perfect.

“It was a bang-bang play and it was wrong. It happens. That’s the way the game is.’’

General manager Theo Epstein agreed.

“I don’t see how baseball can let that happen,’’ he said. “Then every time a team loses a game on a blown call, there’s going to be no good reason why that can’t be overturned as well.

“It’s a slippery slope. It would fundamentally change the nature of the game. I don’t think you can do that, unfortunately.’’

But for Buchholz, the idea that Galarraga could have joined Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay with perfect games this season was worthy of a reversal.

“That might never happen again,’’ said Buchholz. “The guy pitched a great game and he was denied. In my mind, he threw a perfect game. They should give it to him.’’

Teammate John Lackey is more of a traditionalist.

“You can’t start changing things,’’ he said. “That opens up a lot of possibilities down the road. I was impressed with how Galarraga handled it. He did better than a lot of guys would have.’’

The legacy of the dispute could be expansion of instant replay, beyond rulings on home runs.

“I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay, and all other related features,’’ said Selig, who consults with a committee that includes managers, general managers, owners, and team executives for on-field matters.

Francona hopes the current replay system is not changed.

“You can’t take it to every [call], we’d be out there all night,’’ he said. “There has to be a line where you stop.’’

Epstein predicted the blown call would lead to “stronger voices’’ calling for expansion of replay.

“There’s growing sentiment for it,’’ he said. “They listen. I’m sure you’ll see some changes moving forward at some point.’’

In Detroit yesterday, Galarraga presented the Tigers’ lineup card at home plate. He shook hands with Joyce, who was the plate umpire, and Joyce patted him on the shoulder.

Joyce wiped away tears when fans applauded him as he walked onto the field. According to Detroit manager Jim Leyland, Joyce had the option of not working the game.

“I didn’t want this to be my 15 minutes of fame,’’ Joyce told reporters. “I would have liked my 15 minutes to be a great call in the World Series. Hopefully, my 15 minutes are over now.’’

Meanwhile, three Michigan politicians inserted themselves into the story. Governor Jennifer Granholm issued a proclamation declaring that Galarraga had thrown a perfect game. US Representative John D. Dingell said he would introduce a resolution asking Major League Baseball to overturn the call. Another US Representative, Thaddeus G. McCotter, wrote Selig a letter asking him to award Galarraga the perfect game.

As for Galarraga, the day was not a total loss. General Motors gave him a 2010 Corvette convertible.

“I have a lot of respect for [Joyce],’’ he said. “It takes a lot to say you’re sorry and to say in interviews he made a mistake.

“I’m sad, but I know that I pitched a perfect game. The first 28-out perfect game.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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