Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just call me Miss Cleo

Wow! My Hollywood spin on Ken Griffey, Jr.'s long career turned out to be a prediction of the future. Apparently, I was controlled by other-worldly forces because just 14 hours after my post, Junior announced his retirement after 22 years and 630 home runs in the big leagues.

Not only that, he does it on my mom's birthday and 23 years to the day after he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners as the No. 1 pick. As George Costanza would say, worlds are colliding!

It's clear I possess some supernatural ability, so I will now don a purple cape with gold lining, a pair of 3D glasses, grow out my fro and highlight it with white streaks. I will make appearances at baseball stadiums and sporting goods stores across the country and derive visions of the future with my magical baseball, unearthed from the rubble of the old Yankee Stadium.

Who will win the 2010 World Series? When will the Pittsburgh Pirates finish above .500? Will Jose Canseco sign a deal to appear as himself in his own documentary entitled "Steroids & Me: A Love Story?" These questions and many more will be answered!

Or it was all just crazy coincidence.

Either way, my so-called psychic instincts were clearly out to lunch earlier this evening when I was laying out the front page of the sports section. I managed to fill it completely before 8 p.m. Griffey then decides to announce his retirement, and then a pitcher no one ever heard of was cheated on what would have been the final out of a perfect game, baseball's third in less than a month.

Making just his third start of the season for the Detroit Tigers after initially failing to land the No. 5 spot in the rotation in Spring Training, Armondo Galarraga seemed destined to nail down the first perfect game in franchise history after rookie centerfielder Austin Jackson made a Willie Mays-type catch over his shoulder for the first out of the ninth inning. Two batters later, a ground ball to first base set up what I have to believe would have been the first perfect game in which the pitcher made the 27th putout himself. Miguel Cabrera's throw to Galarraga at the bag beat Jason Donald by at least a half-step, but veteran umpire Jim Joyce called him safe.

Galarraga was the only one who didn't argue the call and remained composed enough to settle for a one-hit shutout. He threw just 88 pitches, 67 of them for strikes. That's perfection in anybody's book.

Joyce confessed to making the wrong call to the media after viewing the replay. The remorse he must have feel is unimaginable. Baseball players, managers and broadcasters all quickly came to Joyce's defense for his human error.

Despite what the replay showed, I do believe that as an umpire, it's your responsibility to keep emotion out of your decision-making on the field. If Joyce felt in that moment that Donald was safe, then he had to call him safe, regardless of what it meant for Galarraga and the Tigers.

However, the tidal wave of media and fan speculation and accusation may force Major League Baseball to finally loosen its grip on the old traditions, join the 21st century with every other sport and implement a full instant replay system.

My only question is can baseball afford to go down that road? I never hear people complain about the tempo of any other sport, and you know managers are going to toss their red flags out onto the field at least five times per game. Baseball may have recovered from the financial crisis it faced 15 years ago, but does it really want to move for something that may turn people away from the ballpark? The die-hard fans it has will stay no matter what, but all the others may not be willing to sit through more delays.

MLB should proceed cautiously through this pressing consideration. Then again, I suppose that's easy for me to say. The umpires got all the calls right in Roy Halladay's perfect game.

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