This week in baseball was crazy. It will be remembered for Armando’s Almost and the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., as well as the week that Strasburg-mania officially swept through Washington.
Armando Galarraga’s Almost Perfect Game
Armando Galarraga was perfect, but it was not a perfect game. As has been well documented, Jim Joyce missed the 27th out at first base, calling Jason Donald safe. We already addressed this in an article written minutes after the perfect game, which can be found here. Many people have been calling for Joyce to be fired and to never step foot on a baseball field again. He denied the kid a perfect game, and do many, that is an unforgivable sin. I disagree, and not just because Joyce felt terrible, gave a tearful apology, and has done everything in his power to reconcile his mistake. Firing Joyce will not undo his mistake, or somehow make it all better. Then not only does Galarraga miss his perfect game, but MLB loses a man who was voted the 2nd best umpire in a SI players poll. We all know that everyone makes mistakes, and I think few are mad at Joyce for making the mistake. It happens, it was just horrible, horrible timing. It still is horrible for Galarraga, who handled himself with incredible class and dignity, but firing Joyce or doing anything about the result is just overkill.
It has also been suggested that MLB go back and change the result. Horrible idea. You need a little bit of luck to throw a perfect game (ask Harvey Haddix), and Galarraga did not have it. Going back to change it also sets a horrible precedent. If you change this, then everyone who has ever been wronged by a bad call is going to come to MLB with their grievances. The 1985 World Series with the bad call at first in game 6. Milt Pappas’ borderline ball 4 call in the 9th inning of his near-perfect game. Matt Holliday sliding into home against the Padres (did he touch home?). It would be Pandora’s box. Human error is a part of the game, and going back to change it would just open a can of worms so messy that cleaning it all up would be impossible.
The final topic brought up by this whole situation is replay. I am still torn on it for a few reasons. On the one hand, I love the human error in the game. Sometimes the baseball gods are not on your side. The final paragraph of this piece on OTC shows one side of the argument. To briefly summarize it, the human error matters. Absolute precision is not always great for baseball. It takes away the gamesmanship, the old-time natural feel of the game, and other things that are detailed in better depth by simply clicking the link. On the other hand, you have situations like these where a kid is denied baseball history because of a bad call. We all know Galarraga did everything in his power to get that perfect game, but he did not get it. It is not a perfect game, but it was about as close as I have seen without it. It was not like other one-hitters. He did everything he could but didn’t get it, but did not. He deserved that perfect game, but didn’t get it, and instant replay could have given us “justice”. It is really a tough situation, and frankly, I do not have an answer yet. I do not know which way baseball should go. Both sides have good arguments and at the moment, it is hard to argue against replay. I still think baseball should take s tep back before expanding replay as everyone is still a little angry about the perfect game. Wait a couple weeks before doing anything about it, and I will do the same and hopefully have an answer.
Ken Griffey Jr. Retires
There are very few scenarios in which this is not the headline story. He was the greatest clean player I have ever seen, and I think that most people of my generation would agree. He was stunning to watch. His smile could light up a room. He was graceful, yet spectacular in the field. His swing was a work of art. He handled himself with class from start to finish. Not enough can really be said about Griffey as a man, let alone Griffey as a player. The only thing separating him from being even higher on the list of all-time greats were his numerous injuries. My personal list of all-time greats (among non-pitchers) goes as follows: Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial. Y#ou could throw Gehrig, DiMaggio, Cobb, Hornsby, or Wagner in there without any complaints too, but that is beside the point. If Ken Griffey Jr. stays relatively healthy for his whole career, you can make a very good argument for putting him in that top 5. 630 home runs, 2781 hits, 9 gold gloves, the 1997 MVP, 13 all-star games, a career OPS of .907, and a plethora of other amazing statistics that are even more impressive when you consider that he lost big parts of 7 seasons (played 128 games or less) to injury. It is extremely cliche, but people often do not realize what they had until it is gone. The same will be true of Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball has lost one of its great, so in honor of Griffey we should all remember his amazing career for what it was. Spectacular.
Again, in most weeks this story would be much higher on our list. The kid is almost here. He blew through the minors while posting a Ubaldo-esque ERA, and throwing all three of his plus-pitches for strikes. Often with young guys as talented as Strasburg, you see inconsistency in throwing strikes, or an over-reliance on one out-pitch. Strasburg pours strikes in, can throw all his pitcher for consistent strikes, oh, and he throws a 100 mph fastball to go with his 80 mph curveball and 70-ish mph changeup. If you wanted to build a perfect pitcher, you would build Stephen Strasburg. Just imagine if legislation in Washington moved as fast as Strasburg did through the minors. Curt Schilling, well-noted blowhard and former pitcher, said he thought Strasburg could be the best pitcher in the majors the day he steps on a big league diamond. Ivan Rodriguez (who caught Nolan Ryan for a little bit if I am not mistaken) compared Strasburg to Ryan. Upon hearing his projected start date, the Nationals sold out the game. Once they changed the date, there was some grumbling, but immediately sold out that game as well. As the resident of a AAA-baseball city (the Indianapolis Indians [Pirates]), I am jealous he did not stay in the minors longer so I could see him. Usually, when Scott Boras talks about his clients, I tune out. But when he called him one of those guys who only comes around every 50 years, it did not even seem far-fetched. I cannot heap enough praise on Strasburg really. He maintains that he has done nothing and proven nothing so far in his career (which will endear him to the veterans on the Nationals) and could energize a team that has been decent this year, but is in desperate need of a jolt.
All I can say is that when Strasburg takes the mound this upcoming week (I believe it is Tuesday), I will be watching, and so will the baseball world.
On a less exciting note, he still needs a nickname. Comment on this article with your ideas, send the name to us on Twitter @outtatownclowns, or get at us on Facebook LINK HERE.
As promised last week, here it goes. Imagine Joe Mauer, except with consistent power and speed. Imagine this character with a little less defensive savvy, but is so good that he will not play catcher at the big-league level like he does for his school. Imagine this character just hit .442 with an OPS of 1.51, hit 29 home runs, stole 18 bases in 22 attempts, drove in 89 runs, and scored 88. In 62 games. At the age of 17.
(Letting it sink in)
Oh yeah, he can throw the ball faster than you can drive your piece-of-junk car (95). 17. The man cannot vote. He cannot attend R Rated movies without an adult present until later this year. He is 6’3″ and 205 pounds. Oh, and his 3.5 GPA doesn’t hurt either. He was so good, that he graduated high school early so he could find some better competition at the Junior College level. Psh, .442. Great competition. He needs something more challenging, maybe like Major League pitching. The link below is to the SI article on him that gave me my first glimpse of him. It look my a few minutes to pick my jaw up off the ground, put my eyes back in their sockets, and re-assemble my mind, which had been blown, but it was all worth it. You see the hype with Strasburg? Just imagine what it could be like with this kid.