Commentary

Hey Bud, don't shrug this one off

Selig must overrule Jim Joyce's call and award Armando Galarraga a perfect game

Updated: June 3, 2010, 7:50 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

Bud Selig can get the shrug back. Right here, right now.

Mulligans aren't normally awarded in sports. Bill Buckner cannot get that Mookie grounder back, Scott Norwood cannot get wide right back, and Greg Norman cannot get a hundred Sunday putts back.

But Bud, this one's for you. Remember that shrug at the 2002 All-Star Game in your very own Milwaukee backyard, where you threw those bony hands in the air, slapped on your best Willy Loman expression, and told the finest baseball players in the world their spirited 11-inning contest would end in a 7-7 tie?

You're getting a do-over, Bud, and here's a little unsolicited advice: Don't shrug this second time around.

Invoke your best-interests-of-the-game powers to make Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce and Jason Donald and the rest of baseball whole.

The imperfect man pitched the perfect game, Bud, just like the old newspaper story said. The offending umpire, Jim Joyce, is in full agreement even as he picks through the rubble and ash of a distinguished baseball life.

[+] EnlargeBud Selig
Andy Lyons/Getty Images Bud Selig, we still remember the 2002 All-Star Game. Make us forget it.

"It was the biggest call of my career," Joyce conceded as he reportedly paced in his dressing room, "and I kicked the [stuff] out of it. I just cost that kid a perfect game."

So this isn't only about granting Detroit's Galarraga his rightful corner of history, or about acknowledging that Galarraga caught Miguel Cabrera's throw and put his foot on the first-base bag before Cleveland's Donald did the same.

This is about freeing Joyce from the grim prison cell that will hold him for the rest of his professional days.

Don Denkinger can fill you in. He once told me on the phone about his infamous blown call that turned the 1985 World Series, when he ruled Kansas City's Jorge Orta safe at first before replays showed that the Cardinals' Todd Worrell had beaten him to the bag.

"It's a crushing feeling," said Denkinger, who received death threats and a never-ending stream of hate mail from gamblers and fans. "You can't imagine what a person feels when you're written about, talked about, and then they show 13 different angles of the call in slow motion."

Life isn't fair, but we like to think of stadiums and arenas as places to go to escape life for a few hours. Games are supposed to be fair. What went down in Comerica Park on Wednesday night was a million miles from fair.

So the expanded use of instant replay is the issue of the day, the item atop the commissioner's morning agenda. Only there's no time to measure the merits of technology against the charms of a sport officiated by fallible men.

That debate isn't going to help Galarraga, or Joyce, or millions of right-minded baseball fans who need some healing ASAP.

Selig shouldn't wait. Even the city of Cleveland would be with him on this one.

He wouldn't be fighting a powerful and antagonistic players union over the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, and he wouldn't be flexing his pecs in an attempt to stop or expedite the sale of a team.

Selig would simply be using his power to call a batter out at first. If the "best interests of baseball" clause doesn't cover that, what the hell does it cover?

"I just watched the replay 20 times," Galarraga said, "and there's no way you can call him safe."

Baseball players, coaches and managers are taught to move on from a moment like this. Get over it. Prepare for the next day's game.

You're supposed to live and die with the good and bad breaks, and remember that the 162-game season is an endless narrative that rewards the characters who weather the most plot twists.

But those terms of engagement just don't cut it here. There's no moving on from the damnation of the 21st perfect game in history, and the third in a month.

This commissioner has always loved to be loved. In fact, I've never met a sports executive who cares more about his or her public standing than Bud Selig.

He wants you to appreciate him for introducing the wild card, for authorizing the Mitchell Report, and for giving birth to the World Baseball Classic. He would also prefer it if you forgot all about that 7-7 score at the 2002 All-Star Game.

Well, here's your big chance, Bud. The Tigers are in the books as 3-0 winners either way.

So grab your heaviest lumber, step into the box, and remember one last thing:

Don't shrug.

Ian O'Connor is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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