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Selig's call not to overrule Joyce was tough, unpopular and wrong


As Tigers manager Jim Leyland mentioned several times after umpire Jim Joyce's whopper of a mistake on Wednesday night, humans tend to err. The story of Armando Galarraga and Joyce is a very human one indeed, and the nicest ending possible would have been the decision by a human to undo Joyce's error and award the perfect game Galarraga rightfully deserved.

But Bud Selig passed.

Baseball's commissioner could have reversed Joyce's bad call, and if he had it would have been a perfect ending to an imperfect story. For Galarraga's sake, for Joyce's sake and for baseball's sake, too. Because Galarraga earned the perfecto, and Joyce doesn't deserve to be remembered for one bad call in a career of mostly very good ones. It was the easiest solution for Selig to make a one-time exception and overturn Joyce's momentary lapse, and it would have been wonderful to see Galarraga have the perfect game he earned when the Indians' Jason Donald was out at first base (whether Joyce saw it that way or not).

Justice would have been served if Joyce's incorrect safe call had been corrected. There isn't anyone on this planet who believes Galarraga didn't throw a perfect game. So he should have one.

Thanks to an era of performance enhancing drugs and people, there are already enough inequities in the record book that Selig can't do much about. But here was one chance to correct a correctable imperfection. This was an extraordinary circumstance, and it deserved a special response from Selig.

The commissioner made the unpopular and expected decision to do nothing, and nobody can kill him for that. While both Galarraga's game and Joyce's call were discussed at length inside MLB's offices, and Selig was a big part of those discussions, there apparently wasn't serious consideration given to reversing the umpire's verdict. The discussion really didn't even amount to a "review'' of the call, people familiar with their talks say.

Selig understandably didn't want to set a precedent to turn the commissioner's office into a review board. He doesn't want to risk being called upon to correct or expunge every inequity in the game, and perhaps he especially didn't want to do make the big call over an issue that didn't affect a game's outcome, or certainly a season's. Selig believes the "best interests of baseball'' clause is to be used sparingly and for the betterment of the game, not to correct every last perceived injustice. He wanted to be practical about it. And it's understandable how he felt.

Selig didn't review the NL Wild Card tiebreaker game in 2007 when Matt Hollidaymay or may not have touched home plate to send the Rockies to the playoffs. He didn't review or reverse any of the umpiring mistakes that tarnished the 2009 postseason. So why start now? Why start with something that didn't even affect a game, much less a pennant?

Selig didn't even address the decision to let Joyce's bad call stand in his mid-day statement, and the omission probably reflects what little consideration he gave it. He did say he'd take a closer look at umpiring and expanded use of instant replay, and that can't hurt.

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But I still think doing nothing was the wrong call.

I understand the concern about setting a precedent. I understand about wanting to be practical. But this was an extremely rare case and Selig could have noted that in overturning Joyce. There had never before been a blown call on what should have been the 27th out of a perfect game, and there's no reason to think it will happen again. If Selig reversed the call and set a precedent that the 27th out of perfect games would forever be under review, so be it.

Selig made the tough decision. But he missed the chance to right a wrong.

Ken Griffey Jr. went out the way he wanted, with no fanfare, and even less than he intended thanks to the attention given Galarraga and Joyce.

But the lack of fanfare shouldn't diminish a career that was nothing short of great. I'd rank him one of the six best players I've ever covered (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Rickey Henderson, Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter are the others), and in his prime, maybe as good or better than any of them.

Griffey was a five-tool superstar in his prime. And he may also have been the greatest clean slugger in the steroid era since Bonds and A-Rod have been tainted. Griffey deserves special commendation for avoiding any temptation (in spring, he told me there was never any temptation for him, and good for him). He never failed a test, and I believe he never took drugs. Steroid guys often say they did it to stay healthy. But how many home runs would Griffey have hit had he stayed healthy all those wasted years in Cincinnati?

Griffey deserves a big sendoff. But he said this spring he didn't want a big to-do, and he wasn't kidding. He did his goodbye his way, which is how he conducted his whole career.

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