This blog began as a means of communicating with all family and friends when I struck out across the country this winter past. Along with the ability to efficiently communicate and illustrate my travels, this medium also enables, and for me, begs, for a more sustained creative effort than most social networking sites. This does not surprise me, as the fundamental point of social networking sites is to form new connections, to interact with others. I and a few others I know were Facebook users when the site first launched, when the status bar was a drop-down menu to broadcast to your roommates and friends that you were asleep, in the shower, at class, and I think working was the final choice. I digress.
My point is that social networking sites were a platform I could have used to share my experience. I chose this instead for three particular reasons. First, this site does not require its readers to register or divulge personal information. Second, it is much easier (in my eyes) for the reader to navigate, as information is present in reverse chronological order. Last, this site allowed me to communicate with the least restrictions. I could tell a story as long as I wanted. I could insert pictures, text, music, and videos however I chose. I once again risk digressing.
The formative purpose of this blog was to alert all who knew and cared about me that I was indeed alright. As time went on, I became interested in documenting sidetrips and my surroundings that others may not ever get a chance to see. Now that I am back, I wish to continue this blog as a sort of weekly column. It does and will likely not be on a fixed topic. Here I write on things that I find interesting, and that can vary widely. This will alllow me to continue to hone my writing skills, as I’ve found out the hard way with other pursuits of mine that rust can be difficult to loosen. As many before me have attested, including Bill Watterson (the writer of the Calvin & Hobbes strips), writing can serve a theraputic purpose, can foster personal growth, and if nothing else, encourages sustained higher-order thinking.
Thus, I turn our collective attention to a story that has been most curious. Some background is in order.
When I was about eight I was signed up for Little League baseball. I did not come from an athletic family. I’ve never been large for my age. But as a young boy, I did go to Fenway Park and see Roger Clemens pitch. I also remember falling asleep at the game. The other boys collected baseball cards, as well as comic book cards. I still have both binders. The most tangible memory is a three-way tie- the taste of boiled hot dogs, sand and assorted grit in my mouth, and fighting off insects during night games in left field.
By the time I was eleven, I think, I was no longer deemed good enough to continue in organized youth bsaeball. Maybe I had the chance to opt out. I don’t remember.
As I grew older, I quickly lost interest in professional sports. This was the end result of kids who hopelessly upstaged me. I started to become bookish, and had better success with music. I forgot about organized sports most of the time. I say most because when I started working, my first multi-year job had a TV right behind me. You knew when Pedro Martinez was pitching. I couldn’t name the rest of the starting rotation nevermind team, but I heard lots of loose spanish and joy every time Pedro was on TV. My interests continued to meander.
I remember watching the 2004 postseason with my girlfriend. It was per her choice, not mine. I had no idea who these people were. The campus was celebratory for months afterward, and it was curious. I couldn’t rationally explain why these kids were awash in accomplishment despite the fact that the team’s performance had no bearing on their daily lives. I do not own stock in the Boston Red Sox. I do not profit from their victories or ticket and merchandise sales. I resumed my life after that 2004 spell and paid basically no attention during 2005, 2006, and all the way until the opening summer of 2007.
I worked with a kid who was very involved in school sports. He followed these things. Through him, I became familiar with the people and practices. I started following baseball loosely to keep conversation fodder while we worked. When I was sick for a while that winter, I watched basketball when nothing else seemed interesting.
At the end of 2007, I was looking to improve my physical condition. I wasn’t in bad shape, but my endurance and peaks were declining. In jest, I picked one of the players close to my age (Josh Beckett) and said that when he did his work, I’d do mine.
I tell this story after thinking about the events of Wednesday night. I am walkig away from baseball once again.
For those unaware, Armando Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, threw a perfect game. Let me repeat: Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers threw the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball, and the third perfect game this year alone. While I have issues with the criteria for a “perfect game” itself, using the current criteria, the pitcher must get twenty-seven of the opposing players out by any means necessary- flyouts, groundouts, or strikeouts. The twenty-seventh batter for the Cleveland Indians hit a ground ball which the first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, retrieved and successfully delivered to Galarraga who was standing on first base before the batter reached the bag. This is clearly evident from the tape.
The closest umpire did not accurately see the events and called the batter safe. Galarraga got the twenty-eighth batter out as well, ending the game. When the umpire saw the tape, he realized his error, admitted it publicly, and thus, the logical outcome is to align the results of the game with reality- Galarraga threw a perfect game.
The one person with the power to rectify this situation, much as he dragged his feet on the rampant drug use in the sport, adamently refuses to correct the error. This is not a case of the umpire denying his mistake. He admits it freely, with genuine remorse. A stroke of the pen will not alter the Tigers’ win-loss record. It will give credit for a truly extraordinary accomplishment to a man who earned it, fair and square.
Disgustingly, the management of the local Boston Red Sox opined earlier today that the error should be allowed to stand. These inconsistencies are part of the game, and must be lived with. Yet they have no gripes when the umpires disappear to view the replay and award Marco Scutaro a home run that, without video replay, could have been easily mistaken as a long single, likely double, or a daring, fleet-footed triple off the left field wall. Home run review has only been practiced since 2008. This is inconsistency at its finest.
Baseball has problems. The problem that has received the most attention in the past few years has been the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs. Oddly, this is perhaps the most difficult of the problems to rectify. Substances must first be identified that would affect performance. Tests must then be developed to test for these illicit substances. Tests must be administered frequently and randomly to dissuade drug use. Those in violation must be sanctioned. That’s quite a battle to wage.
The argument against expanded replay, which is a far easier problem to rectify, is a fallacy- the “appeal to tradition”. If something has always been done a certain way, then it should never, ever be changed. This is idiocy, and as more people ruminate on the topic, more will walk away in disgust as I am.
I understand why the game has umpires. Before the 1950s, replay technology basically did not exist. We now have the game taped at the professional level from a plethora of angles. The information is being gathered and can be consulted within moments. Choosing to ignore it is as illogical as claiming that the earth is flat.
I understand that this horse is being sufficiently flogged. I shall exercise mercy.
But along with this incident and the Steroid Era, consider:
The DH Rule Divergence| This also makes no sense. The spirit of the Designated Hitter rule allows one man to play the field and not hit. It is not written in blood that each team must go out and hire a man whose sole function is to bat. The smartest seem to use it as a means of resting a regular player. Why this isn’t in both leagues is ridiculous. It isn’t saying that the pitcher is forbidden to bat. It’s providing the option of having someone else do it.
Interleague Play and the True Futility of Baseball Statistics and Standings| With a schedule of 162 games and 30 teams between both leagues, the math dictates that each team can face the other twenty-nine at least five times, with seventeen games left over. Those seventeen games can be used for further play against division rivalries. But, the schedule isn’t set up like that at all. Don’t tell me that one team is the national champion over another if they only play four World Series games against one another. I have trouble believing one pitcher is superior to another when they don’t face the same batters over the course of the season.
The Obscene Money| There is no salary cap in bseball. There are negative reinforcements that dissuade some owners from spending more money than others, but overall, a team with a $40 million payroll is at a severe disadvantage to one with a $200 million + payroll. Players should make $500,000 max and not dare complain, as they are playing a children’s game. They aren’t in charge of keeping our nation and its people safe. They aren’t rebuilding the country’s crumbling, overworked infrastructure. They aren’t searching for new ways to satisy our energy demands, or providing services to the marginalized in times of desperate need; they aren’t coaching minds young and old to reach their full potential. They are paid truckloads of money to throw a ball at an area slightly larger than a clipboard, whack the hell out of said ball, and put life and limb in the path of ball before the man who hit it reaches a designated safe area. They whine like children and throw their gear when they fail.
This man did not. Galarraga earned the highest achievements of his profession, and the equivalent of a clerical error is standing between him and his earned place of excellent performance attained by a select few in his line of work. As long as this sport denies him justice and is mired in the misguided ways of tradition and greed, I have no problem changing the channel to something else, or better yet, finding out what the rest of Boston has to offer. I’m not a Tigers fan, but this is wrong, and Bud Selig lacks the courage to do what is necessary. There is no slippery slope. Replay should be standard on all controversial plays. Major League Baseball has no valid excuse anymore- they use the technology now on one kind of call, but not another. They can put forth whatever product they wish, but I’m no longer buying until they’ve got their act straightened out.