Could a Flubbed Call Bring Instant Replay to Baseball?

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Shock turned to incredulity and then growing outrage last night among baseball fans across the country, who turned their wrath on Jim Joyce, the umpire who openly admitted to costing pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game with a blundered call.

For those who perhaps lost electricity Wednesday night and failed to catch SportsCenter, here’s the scene: Galarraga has pitched a perfect game all the way up until the final out of the ninth inning. A short ground ball is hit to the right side of the infield; first baseman sprints, Galarraga himself rushes to cover first.

Even in real-time, the throw looks to be a half-step ahead of the runner, resulting in a moment that should have been euphoric for the pitcher: Catching the final out to cap off the biggest game of his career. But then disaster. Just watch (skip ahead to 3:35):

Galarraga, who displays superhuman composure, merely smiles in disbelief as the perfect game evaporates in his hands at the very last second.

The stadium erupts into prolonged boos. The TV announcers – who initially seem to assume that the umpire must have seen something that the rest of the viewing audience didn’t – slowly veer into exasperation. After the game, once shown the slow-mo replay himself, Joyce himself accepted blame: “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Sports Illustrated reported the ump as saying.” I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

It was also reported that the umpire, with tears in his eyes, personally apologized to Galarraga, who responded with a hug.

By midnight, however, it was clear that there would be no hugging it out online. Already an uproar was brewing among fans and pundits alike, demanding both the adoption of instant replay by baseball, and that commissioner Bud Selig reverse this call, and award the perfect game.

The controversy is sure to boil even hotter today. For now, only one thing’s for sure: No matter how bewildered Galarraga may feel this morning, here’s betting that Joyce is feeling a whole lot worse.

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