Three months ago, we learned the only thing that could derail perfection was imperfection.
Twenty-seven batters came up to bat against Armando Galarraga, and 27 batters were, by rule, put out. However, the last, by way of Jim Joyce's human element, was ruled safe. You know the rest of story. Galarraga smiled a confused smile, stepped back on the mound, and retired a 28th consecutive batter.
Debate erupted in the media what to do about the perfect game gone awry, what to do about possibly the most visible error by an umpire in the history of the game. But Galarraga cut through all of it by accepting the result with class, accepting Joyce's contrition and reminding all of us: It's just a game. We're all human. Mistakes happen. Life, and baseball, keep marching on.
Soon, the moment faded. Joyce shook the guilt of the mistake, and actually found himself officiating another no-hitter not too much later. Galarraga reverted to an inconsistent pitcher who seemed to lack confidence in his perfect stuff. The record books show a one-hitter. There's 20 perfect games. How many one hitters are there ... in a season?
Well, if you've read the headline, you know what's tonight. Armando Galarraga is scheduled to take the mound for the Tigers and Jim Joyce is scheduled to stand behind home plate calling his game. (He was the first base umpire on the fateful night that forever linked the duo.)
These few months later have your feelings changed about the imperfect episode?
Me, I get the human element. I get that it was a beautiful lesson for sports parents that if a guy at the top level of the sport loses the opportunity to have his name in the history books, and he does so with grace, maybe you shouldn't be so hard on the volunteers that make sure Little Johnny can play a game with his friends. (To continue that thought: You shouldn't be as hard on the sportswriters, bloggers or fellow commenters, either).
Put it behind us? I still haven't seen a pitcher for my team throw a perfect game. "Almost perfect"? No, I am not going to accept that phrase, no matter how many times it is autographed and sold for $100. "Unofficially perfect" it is. I can't help but wish that the MLB had done something to make it right. When we all see it. When we all know it. There's just something unpalatable about accepting the perfect footnote, if it remains even that in the years that will follow.
I hold no grudge against Joyce. I hold no grudge against baseball. I remain disappointed, but I suppose that will fade with time. It's a shame that one of the great memories in the team's modern history has to be relegated to fading with time, but that's the way it is.
What else is there to do but accept it for what it is? So I do.
Unofficially perfect, the story of Galarraga and Joyce may be a good story, but it remains a disappointing ending.