Career matters more than the moment

By Kevin Wilson

Armando Galaragga will not be perfect in the record book. And Jim Joyce was proven imperfect by video. And their fates crossing paths showed a lot of us are far from perfect ourselves.

Last Wednesday was an afternoon off for me, which meant e-mailing friends and using Netflix to catch up on a series I never watched when it aired. That’s when Galaragga, a Detroit Tigers pitcher, was just one out away from the a perfect game — 27 up, 27 down, no walks, no hits, no errors — and Joyce was the first-base umpire.

Cleveland’s Jason Donald legged out a grounder, and was called safe by Joyce to end the perfect game. Except that Donald should have been called out. The replays confirmed it.

The perfect game gone, we all started to show our flaws.

There was the Twit-fit that ensued: Before the game even ended, three of my Twitter friends had embarked on separate smear campaigns against Joyce. One joined in a trending topic called “JimJoyce

Facts,” blaming Joyce for anything from the Oakland Raiders’ ineptitude to the design of the Ford Pinto (because he hates Detroit, get it?).

Well, here’s a Jim Joyce fact that never made the trending topic: He didn’t avoid the media scrutiny, admitted he made a mistake, and did everything he could to apologize to Galaragga over the next two days.

There was the history that got ignored. That same Wednesday, somebody named Ken Griffey Jr. retired. He was only one of the greatest baseball players I had the pleasure of seeing, and there’s nothing to suggest that any of his 630 career homers are tainted by performance-enhancing drugs.

I dared to Tweet, “All respect to Armando Galaragga, but I care more about Ken Griffey Jr. retiring than a blown call at first.”

But, my friend said, it was a perfect game. Only 20 of them in major league history, and the umpire blew No. 21 with a bad call. I responded that perfect games are plentiful — two have already been thrown this season, including one less than a week before by Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay — and I’ll never see another Ken Griffey Jr., let alone 20 of them.

But, he said, Griffey was a non-factor for his final years. Well, so was Jerry Rice, but he meant a lot more to football fans than the “Tuck Rule” that cost Oakland a Super Bowl berth in 2001. And Mario Lemieux spent his final years fighting back problems, but he meant more to hockey fans than the time Brett Hull scored a Stanley-Cup winning goal when his skate was illegally in the crease. The career matters more than the moment. Too bad social networking has turned us into attention-craving narcissists who need to believe right now, and what I think about it, matters most.

In the days that followed, there was talk Commissioner Bud Selig should step in and award a perfect game. He didn’t, and got blasted by Curt Schilling. The former Red Sox pitcher wrote for ESPNBoston.com that Selig, “made a huge mistake” and failed in his job as a “protector” of the game.

Of course, Schilling conveniently forgot 2001, when Ben Davis of the San Diego Padres bunted in the eighth inning to break up Schilling’s perfect game. Schilling wasn’t much of a protector of Davis, who was simply trying to bring the tying run to the plate in a 2-0 game. Davis got grilled by Schilling’s manager, and Schilling sat idly by, apparently because his attempt to get into the baseball record books was more important than Davis trying to win a baseball game … hustling, just like Jason Donald nine years later.

For what it’s worth, the Tigers bought Galaragga a Corvette, and he and Joyce have formed a friendship. They found perfection in what was an imperfect moment.

I hope, someday, we all can too.