Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game. I know he’s not credited for one, because of the blown call, but he did it. Sometimes you have to look at a blown call in a “what if” manner. You can not know if a bad call in the third quarter of a football game really made the difference, or if a hit given up in the 5th inning really was the difference in a no-hitter. It’s impossible to know these things. However, this was the last out. There is no doubt the runner was out and there’s no doubt that if that is called correctly, it is a perfect game. For the record, the umpire did own up to his bad call but it still won’t go into the record books as the perfect game it was.
Now, more people are commenting on the whole, gee it’s easier to throw one of these when everyone is off steroids thing. I know I alluded to it in my last post, but given the unprecedented feat of three perfect games in a single month, it is intriguing to consider how many numbers have been skewed by the steroids era in baseball. I’m a Braves fan, so I view things through that prism, but I do think there are a couple good examples from ex-Braves. As I mentioned before, Greg Maddux was a location pitcher that is one of the least likely to have been on steroids. He showed a perfectly normal career arch as well and one has to wonder how well he would have done had he not had to faced juiced up versions of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and the like. On the other hand, his main rival as the best pitcher of the era, Roger Clements, was juiced and did have a career arch that I was able to identify as symptomatic of steroid use well before it became publically known he used them. Statistically both are two of the best pitchers of all time but what are they if you remove steroids from the equation? How many wins does Clemens lose? How far does Maddux’s ERA drop?
Then you have Fred McGriff, a slugger that is unique in the steroids era because his numbers actually remained quite stable throughout. He hit 31 home runs in 1991 and was fourth in the NL in home runs. He hit 31 home runs in 2001 and that put him in a 5 way tie for 35th in the majors in home runs. He didn’t change, his body didn’t change, the league did and we know why. In 2001 Luis Gonzalez hit 57 home runs. Luis only hit over 30 one other time and despite no proof (yet) Luis remains a poster boy for steroids use. Luis had three seasons in which he got over 500 at bats and didn’t even hit 20 home runs. Imagine getting overshadowed by guys like that, that has to hurt. Despite these things and six sluggers ahead of him with ties to steroids, McGriff still is 26th all time in home runs. Imagine if he didn’t have to face a juiced up Roger Clemens and didn’t get overshadowed by roided up otherwise mediocre sluggers. McGriff wasn’t even elected to the Hall of Fame. His comments reflect some understandable frustration (what would you feel like if you were one of the best sluggers of your era and most people didn’t even recognize it?): “It’s like they came to the conclusion that the Steroids Era was all good, and it’s over with now.”
Now that I’ve done my steroids rant, I want to touch on one other thing. Being a umpire, ref, etc… is one hell of a hard job. It’s one of those jobs that if you do your job perfectly, absolutely flawlessly you’re still likely to have people mad at you and if you do make a mistake? You just might make Sportscenter. You’ll never get called out for making the right call though, only the wrong call. My first job was as a batboy clubhouse assistant for the Mobile BayBears and as such we were pretty much the only people on the field that dealt with the umpires. Running out to deliver a cup of Gatorade (not like they could go into the dugout) or the like, I could often sense the loathing of thousands of people on their shoulders. They do make mistakes sometimes, who doesn’t? I just can’t understand why they subject themselves to it. You make a mistake and you get death threats, you do a great job and you probably don’t even get a thank you. The manager will run out and scream at you if you get something wrong, but it’s not as though he can go out there and say thank you if you make the right call. So sure, they screw up, one ruined a historical achievement. But, here’s to the thankless guys that enforce the rules of sport.
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