Thursday, June 3, 2010

Here Comes the Blind Commissioner

Category: Sports News/Rant

Here comes the blind commissioner
They've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tightrope walker
The other is in his pants

(Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row")

Needless to say, Dylan did not have baseball in mind when he wrote "Desolation Row," but if ever a line proved prophetic it is the above-quoted lyric.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, on a mission to cement his place in history as the worst commissioner in history, has refused to declare the June 2 game by Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers a perfect game.

With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, Indian batter Jason Donald was called safe by umpire Jim Joyce, when every replay angle showed without question Donald was out. It was not just a "blown call," it was a blown call that cost Galarraga a place in history as the 21st pitcher of a perfect game. Umpire Joyce admitted he blew the call and said he felt terrible, not because the call had any outcome on the game itself, but because "I just cost that kid a perfect game."

All was not lost, initially, because the Commissioner of Major League Baseball has the power to overrule things like that. However, Bud Selig quickly announced that he would not overturn the umpire's bad call and declare that Galarraga's game was, indeed, perfect.

This ruling proves one thing is perfect, and it's Selig: a perfect jerk. People like ESPN's Tim Kurkjian praised the commish for not overturning the call, saying that we cannot go back and undo the past. After all, the "human element" is part of the great game of baseball.

Not so fast, Mr. Kurkjian. In 1991, Fay Vincent undid the past when he changed the definition of a "no-hitter." His ruling wiped fifty no-no's off the books. Among the no-hitters that were no longer no-hitters, no matter how many hits the other team did not get, were "visiting pitcher losses." Such a game happened on July 1, 1990, when the Yankees' Andy Hawkins lost to the Chicago White Sox when the Yankees gave up four 8th inning errors, but pitcher Hawkins allowed no hits, in a 4-0 White Sox victory. The Yankees were the visiting team so the bottom of the 9th was not played, meaning Hawkins only pitched eight innings -- so his no-hitter was taken away from him! The loss, however, was not. The Red Sox' Matt Young also threw an eight-inning no-hitter as a losing pitcher in 1992, and in 2008 two Dodgers pitchers combined for an eight-inning no-hitter in a losing effort. Vincent also declared that a no-hitter had to be "at least nine innings," meaning that several games that were official games (meaning they went in one team's "won" record and the other team's "lost" column) were no longer declared to be "no-hitters" because things like rain or darkness ended the game before nine innings.

There is also other cases of "the past" being changed: most famously, George Brett's "pine tar" home run. In 1983 Brett was called out after hitting a home run for having too much pine tar on his bat. Lee McPhail reinstated Brett's homer.

So, Mr. Kurkjian, there is precedent (which is what you were afraid of): the definition of a no-hitter was redefined by the Commissioner of Baseball, effectively eliminating four dozen no-no's from the history book. (The article about disqualified no-hitters.) And, and in all honesty, the "precedent" I would love to see established is for Bud Selig to do the right thing for a change.

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