Right off the bat, I'd like to get one thing straight: I am not related to baseball commissioner Bud Selig either by marriage or by genetics. Apparently I am also not related to Bud Selig by decision-making style. I'm talking about Armando Galarraga's thwarted bid for a perfect game.
Here's what happened: On June 2 Detroit Tigers pitcher Galarraga was one out away from pitching a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians. Detroit was leading 3-0. The Cleveland batter hit a ground ball and Galarraga ran over to cover first base and take the toss. Jim Joyce, the first base umpire, called the runner safe. After an outcry from Detroit, Galarraga retired the next batter, winning the game but losing the perfect game honor.
Everyone in the known universe with access to instant replay saw immediately that umpire Joyce had blown the call. When Joyce himself saw the replay, he manfully acknowledged his error and tearfully apologized to Galarraga. Galarraga graciously accepted that apology. "Nobody's perfect," he said. (For insight into this moment, see PT blogger James C. Kaufman's article entitled, "Armando Galarraga: Not Perfect, But Divine.")
In baseball, statistics and records matter. It appeared that Galarraga would have to spend the rest of his life knowing that he'd pitched a perfect game but would never get into the record books except perhaps as an asterisk. Jim Joyce's fate would be to spend the rest of his life knowing that he'd deprived a deserving player of his rightful place in baseball history. It was a lose-lose situation.
But there was one way out: Bud Selig could overturn Joyce's decision and make everything right with the baseball world.
He chose not to.
Why wouldn't Bud Selig use the magic of instant replay in a tough situation like this? I can only explain it by the resistance to change that comes from clinging to old, outmoded habits. Tradition is important, but it doesn't make sense that anyone with a smart phone would have access to more information than an umpire. Moreover, there are precedents for changing an umpire's call, and Selig could have seized on those precedents to justify a different decision.
I am hopeful that some sensible rules about instant replays can soon be implemented. Meanwhile I would hope that someday soon simple compassion and fairness would prevail and make what is now imperfect...perfect.