Philosophy and Jim Joyce

In looking at whether or not Commissioner Bud Selig should overturn Jim Joyce’s call and award Armando Galarraga a perfect game, I want to take a philosophical approach. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue surrounding the situation has been wrapped in cliche and hyperbole, so I believe thinking about it more logically could help everyone involved.

I’m a utilitarian, which means I belong to a moral philosophy that believes acts should be judged on the amount of utility (or happiness) they bring to people. If you’ve ever taken Philosophy 101 or read any of Mill, you understand my position. So what would a utilitarian have to say about this situation? Well, I think the burden of unhappiness or unrest sits most heavily with the people most closely involved with the situation. This would be Armando Galarraga and his family, Jim Joyce and his family, and the Detroit Tigers organization and fans. For everybody else involved, this will likely just be a news story that fades away and is eventually forgotten about. However, the people directly involved will not forget about this situation (meaning be at mental ease about it) for a long, long time. Without question, the decision to make Galarraga’s start a Perfect Game would bring them great amounts of happiness.

So if Selig’s decision could only bring happiness, where is the issue? Firstly, many people will not be thrilled with the decision, but as I said earlier, their small inconvenience will be outweighed by those intimately involved, along with the many people who will like the decision. Why do many people not like the potential decision? They are worried about the “precedent” it may set. There are other irrational worries out there, but the precedent argument seems to be the one most often put forth by intelligent analysts (such as Keith Law). Baseball columnist Phil Rogers states the case:

If Selig announces that Galarraga does in fact have a perfect game, he’ll also have to make a few other changes too. The St. Louis Cardinals will be awarded the 1985 World Series, which was changed forever by the Don Denkinger call. Milt Pappas will get his perfect game, because everyone knows Bruce Froemming squeezed him. Willie Keeler, Pete Rose or someone else will own the longest hitting streak, as favorable scoring calls helped Joe DiMaggio put together his streak of 56 games in a row.

There’s no precedence for Selig to issue an after-the-fact finding, no matter how badly Joyce would love to be let off the hook.

But this is as silly as a strawman as I have ever seen. Just because someone makes a decision in one specific situation does not mean people down the line need to act only according to the previous decision (or, as Rogers absurdly argues, retroactively change prior events with loosely related circumstances). Tom Boswell hits the nail on the head here:

I think Bud should reverse the call in the best interests of the game. Everybody screams, “But what about the precedent it would set!”

Yeah, what precedent? That the next time an umpire blows the 27th out of a perfect game by two feet (then the pitcher gets the 28th out on the next hitter so that the bad call has no effect on the outcome) the next commssioner will reversethat call, too? Oh, you mean that precedent?

Come on, just do the right thing.

Besides the fact that another situation happening like this one (perfect game blown on safe/out call on last play of the game) is extremely, extremely unlikely, if it does happen again, then change it in the future if you see fit! If not, don’t. Rational actors keep agency in future events. There’s a reason the “slippery slope” is an informal fallacy!

I hope this was at the least a unique perspective on the situation. Considering there will be more utility, and the fears of the relatively inconvenienced fans/sportwriters against it rest mostly on logical fallacies, I believe Bud Selig should rule Galarraga’s start a “Perfect Game” in the best interest of baseball.




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


109 Responses to “Philosophy and Jim Joyce”

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  1. mockcarr says:

    There’s more utility in doing nothing, which is what he did. Everyone seemed fine today.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Which shows that most people view it lightly. I’m sure that Joyce and Galarraga are still not “fine.”

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Why? Galarraga got his Corvette. He knows what he did. I’m sure he’s coping fine.

        Joyce is totally inconsequential. He screwed up, he needs to live with it. Selig overturning his call doesn’t retroactively make his screwup disappear. It only highlights it.

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      • JC says:

        Would Dallas Braden or Roy Halladay trade in their respective perfect game for a Corvette?

        If anything this sets the precedent that future perfect games require a five-figure prize the following day.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Again, the assumption is that Galarraga is currently lacking something that would be gained through Bud Selig decreeing the game ‘perfect.’

        The question should be, is there any difference in the games pitched by Braden, Halladay, and Galarraga? Or, in what ways would Bud Selig’s decree increase Galarraga’s happiness? Does the decree change Galarraga’s own perception of his performance? (doubtful) Does the decree change Joyce’s own perception of his call? (doubtful)

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  2. DavidCEisen says:

    Philosophically, what makes a perfect game a perfect game? Is it the actual performance, or the official recognition? In the end, Galarraga pitched well enough to get 27 consecutive outs. If a defensive player would have booted the should have been 27th out, Galarraga would have lost the perfect game as well. Would his performance have been any better or worse? ‘Perfect’ games are, like most of sports in general and especially baseball in particular, arbitrary. We reward certain acts but ignore others that are equally ‘difficult’ or ‘rare.’

    Everyone involved or interested in this story knows that Galarraga should have gotten the 27th out. I could care less if Selig overturned the call (you are right to point out the various fallacies of slippery-slope arguments, though). In the end, he pitched a hell of a game. Sure he’s not going to be in an official record book (as if anyone cares about this mythical book sitting on some hallowed shrine somewhere in, I guess, Bud Selig’s basement). But he’s in a much more interesting unofficial one.

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    • bowie says:

      I like this outlook.

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    • RonDom says:

      I agree with David Bowie. This philoshopical outlook is what I see the situation as.

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    • davidk says:

      I don’t think you have to argue “slippery slope” to argue against Selig overturning Joyce’s call. You see, you just have to look as far as another call ON THE SAME NIGHT. In the Twins-Mariners game, the Ms won the game on the last play, where the runner should have been called out at 2B to end the inning. Why should Selig overturn the call in the Tigers-Indians game, which DIDN’T AFFECT THE GAME’S OUTCOME, and not overturn a call that definitely affected the outcome of the game? What’s more important in the sport, an INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT or a team’s W-L record? What if this call, that cost the Twins one game in the standings, costs them a playoff spot? This is not a “what if” slippery slope, it’s based in ACTUAL REALITY. There’s no logic in changing one call and not the other.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        It is a slippery slope argument to say if you overturn this call you need to overturn this different call. You are arguing that one action leads to a slightly different, slightly more consequential action–or a slippery slope.

        Overturning calls that don’t affect the game’s outcome is different from overturning calls that do. And one does not have to lead to the other. You’re arguing that consequential calls should be overturned, not inconsequential ones, so you already recognize this difference.

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      • Jdub says:

        I think people are arguing for Selig to change it BECAUSE it didn’t affect the outcome. The argument is, “it didn’t affect the game, the Tigers still won, so just give him his perfect game.”

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  3. Ellis says:

    I don’t understand how you don’t think it won’t set a bad precedent; your argument here is basically just saying “Come on!” and “slippery slope? Thats ridiculous!”.

    It would definitely set the precedent that when a call is clearly missed and it affects the game, the commissioner can reverse the call after-the-fact. How is that not a huge precedent to set? I don’t see why you think it only sets the precedent for the 27th-out-perfect-game scenario; the whole point of precedent is that its meaning expands over time to cover slightly different cases.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Because there ceremonial nature of this reversal if obvious. It wouldn’t change a pennant race, or the outcome of the game, or even if a run scored.

      But then you say: but what if one day a commissioner looks back on this and uses it as precedent to change an actually meaningful game! This is what I meant about future agency. A commissioner can already do that under the rules, and it’s an extreme stretch to think this instance would actually be the tipping point in such a scenario.

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    • Bronnt says:

      This is a very unique case because it as the last out of a game and there’s not a series of events that rook place after the call as a result of the call.

      This is absolutely different from Don Denkinger, who made a bad call for a man reaching first at the beginning of an inning, when that man went on to score. We don’t know how events would have unfolded if Orta had been called out. Orta wasn’t even the man who ended up scoring the winning run. A sequence of events unfolded after the call including 2 singles and a passed ball. There was no guarantee the Cardinals would have won the game anyway. Not only that, but there was a full game played afterward that the Cardinals failed to win.

      This is completely dissimilar because there is certainty for how events unfold if you reverse the call. There’s no change in the standings. The man who was called safe was out, and the game would have ended in a perfect game. There are no resulting situations to consider. I don’t see why you think this opens the door for a bunch of other calls when this circumstance is exceedingly specific-the 27th out of one game that still resulted in a Tigers victory.

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    • Gomez says:

      “It would definitely set the precedent that when a call is clearly missed and it affects the game, the commissioner can reverse the call after-the-fact. How is that not a huge precedent to set?”

      Sure it’s a damning precedent, if baseball’s run by easily manipulated and unintelligent individuals who are mostly unable to understand context, would see such an action by Selig and say, “Oh hurf durf now we can change every blown call after the fact!”

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    • Garison says:

      Every missed call “affects the game”, but very few literally determine the outcome in a way that we can look back and say “if that call is made, the game is over.” That last-out-of-the-game scenario is crucial to the argument for the Galarraga call to be reversed, for a proper understanding of what precedent it should set, and for a proper handling of past blown calls.

      You raise an interesting point about the meaning of precedent expanding to cover other slightly different cases. But the definition of “slightly different cases” just needs to be clearly defined (by MLB) if the Galarraga call were to be overturned. The most logical slightly different case is a blown call on the LAST OUT of a game (not necessarily a perfecto). NOT JUST ANY MISSED CALL. As long as replay is not expanded it is just a non sequitur to say that if one call is reversed then many more should be reversed in the future.

      The caveat is that, of course, people could mistakenly use that logic and we might end up with people crying for post-game reversals of calls that occurred earlier than the last out. And for that, the counterargument is rather simple. Just realize that for any play in which there is a blown call on any out but the final one, if we hypothetically assume the call were made correctly it would then necessarily be followed by more events that could theoretically play out differently. In other words, it’s complex and unpredictable. (This directly applies to the Denkinger scenario and explains why the Cardinals will never be awarded a World Series that, strictly speaking, they didn’t earn.)

      That’s just not the case with the Galarraga scenario, which is simple and predictable. That’s what makes it essentially unique and why it would be reasonable for MLB to overturn the call, though that is looking increasingly less likely.

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  4. Circlechange11 says:

    I don’t have a big emotional investment whether it is or not a pefect game in the books, but I do agree that we would not have to retro fit all other events.

    If the exact scenario happens again, we’ll deal with it when it happens.

    I also agree that bad decisions made in the past does not mean we have to continue to make the same bad decision in the present … Just to be consistent.

    I’m a Cardinal fan and even I know Galarrag’s situation is different than the Worrell play (paticularly the numer of outs).

    Making the game a perfect game does
    not mean we would have to start a chain of events that extend through the course of MLB history. We can view the present situation as a unique event.

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  5. Toz says:

    Mills would recognize that utilitarian principles cannot apply here, as MLB’s system of governance is not one of liberty principle (power exercised over one’s will can only be exercised to prevent harm to the greater number). Selig has certainly demonstrated that time and time again.

    In the end, this comes down to the “integrity of the game” argument and this very simple question: Which of the following better preserves the integrity of the game: 1) Leaving stand a blown call which, should all 6,825,211,363
    people in the world have had an opportunity to see it, would agree that it is the wrong call; or 2) Reversing a call that is without question acknowledged by all parties to be wrong in order to make it right?

    I like to use the “how would I explain this to my kids” analysis when answering these questions. Explaining option two appears to be more logical, no? “Son, Bud Selig reversed this call because it was the right thing to do.” “Why is that, dad?” “Well, you see son, the umpire went back and looked at a replay and acknowledged that he made a mistake. Mistakes are okay, because we’re all human, but if we make a mistake, we should fix it and make it right.” “Dad, that makes a lot of sense, and that seems fair.”

    The other conversation is illogical. “Dad, why did he not reverse the call once he realized he made a mistake?” “The Commissioner wouldn’t let him.” “Well, why not? He made a mistake and he was sorry and everyone knows it was just a mistake.” “Tough noogies, son…life sucks that way.” “But, dad…” “Shut-up before I send you to your room.”

    Unfortunately, “integrity of the game” is linked inexorably linked to the integrity of those playing in it, managing in it, and governing it.

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    • Doug Lampert says:

      For your second conversation try:

      Because games are played by rules, and those rules are agreed to in advance, and in the case of baseball one of the rules is that in the case of judgment calls all calls by the umpire on the field are final. If you don’t have rules then the idea of a perfect game is meaningless, and by the rules this wasn’t a perfect game. That sucks, and it’s a reason to change the rules, but its not a reason to pretend the rules don’t apply because you don’t like them.

      That’s what “integrity of the game” means. It means playing by the rules that you agreed to when you stepped onto the field.

      Your strawman that there’s no argument against is nonsensical. There are good arguments on both sides, but the one with special pleading is the more suspect, and the special pleading is all the claims that this case is different from all other cases and will never come up again (hint: all cases are different, being different isn’t a reason to do something, its a reason to ask what you should do in this case, and for a game “what you should do” should normally come out “follow the rules”).

      You know, I started out thinking that Selig probably should change this call. I’ve changed my mind, and not because of claims about precedent, which really are nonsense, future commissioners retain free will. But simply because all the claims about how this case is “special” by those wanting a change are ultimately BS, everything is “special”. Is who gets “official” credit for a perfect game more important than who actually wins a game? Special pleading should be reserved for things that matter, and the “official” scoring for Galaraga’s game doesn’t matter at all. Everyone will know what he did for far longer than they would if there’d been no blown call.

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      • Bronnt says:

        I’m pretty sure the rules also say that (Rule 6.05j) “A batter is ‘out’ when….after hitting a fair ball, he or first base is tagged before he touches first base.” Which is undoubtedly what happened.

        Why give one rule precedence over another when you have clear license to change it, and no one except for a few “purists” whom are completely unaffected by the ruling would be offended?

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      • Gomez says:

        Like anything governed by rules, those rules can be overriden or changed when it becomes clearly evident that they cause an easily correctible problem.

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      • Rich says:

        “and in the case of baseball one of the rules is that in the case of judgment calls all calls by the umpire on the field are final. ”
        Yes, and just as the “all calls by the umpire are final” overrules the actual safe/out rules, the rule stating the commissioner can do whatever the hell he wants for the good of the game, overrules the “calls by the umps are final” rule.

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      • ingeindahouse says:

        you try explaining that to a 7 year old

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      • davidk says:

        “But simply because all the claims about how this case is “special” by those wanting a change are ultimately BS, everything is “special”. Is who gets “official” credit for a perfect game more important than who actually wins a game? Special pleading should be reserved for things that matter, and the “official” scoring for Galaraga’s game doesn’t matter at all. Everyone will know what he did for far longer than they would if there’d been no blown call.”

        Yes, you nailed it on this one, and I can’t understand for the life of me how anyone can think otherwise. I’m not a “black-and-white” kind of guy in general, but I know this one is obvious that it should be left alone.

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      • wobatus says:

        Bronnt, yes, that’s the rule, and the rule also is that the ump on the field at the time of the play makes the call as to whether rule 6.05 was satisfied. I actually agree with you, but just saying.

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  6. Ryan says:

    Best opinion on this topic that I’ve seen so far.

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  7. I’ve written this in many places, but as a Tiger fan I’m unconcerned about it being called an official perfect game because I lost out the moment Joyce blew the call. Unless another Tiger pitcher in the future/my lifetime throws a perfect game, I’ll never get to experience the euphoria of the 27th out and all that comes with it. I won’t get to hear my team’s announcer as the bumper in and out of MLB radio commercials and my team as the bumper in and out of MLB Network commercials. I didn’t get to hear the announcer that I listen to make one of the classic calls for the ages. So I already lost, and Bud Selig can’t make a decree that rewinds the hands of time.

    Therefore, I lean on “I know what really happened that night” and that’s all. Whether or not he reverses the call isn’t consequential to me.

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  8. Mason says:

    First, I completely agree with Pat.

    Second, the precedent for changing a game after the fact has already been
    set: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Tar_Incident

    Basically this is what happened: George Brett hit a go ahead homerun in the top of the 9th with two outs. The opposing manager (after he crossed home plate) asked the ump to check the pine tar on the bat. The umpire ruled the pine tar extended too far up the bat and ruled George Brett out and the game over. The next day the league president overruled the decision, and a few weeks later they continued the game as if the homerun had counted.

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    • Stephen says:

      Yes, but that was a rules call, not a judgment call by an ump. There is no precedence for this situation.

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      • Mason says:

        I just wanted to point out that the precedent has been set to change the outcome of a game after the fact.

        Additionally all calls are rules calls. If you look at the rules, Donald was out. The umpire isn’t there to judge the outcome of the play, he’s there to ensure the rules are followed.

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      • Anon21 says:

        I don’t understand why people misuse this word all the time. Is it just because it looks kind of similar to “precedent”? That seems like a pretty weak explanation, when you see professional writers screw it up constantly too.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Well, Anon, they also have kind of similar definitions. It’s rather understandable for people to confuse two very similar words which have related definitions because they come from the same root word.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Mason: No, not all calls are rules calls in the sense that they require an actual interpretation of the rules. The rule applied by Joyce in this situation is well-known and uncontroversial: if a fielder holding the ball steps on first base before the batter-runner reaches first base, then the batter-runner is out. All that Joyce did was make a judgment call, as to whether the conditions of the rule were satisfied.

        In contrast, in the pine tar game a new interpretation of the rule was required. The rules specified no penalty for having excessive pine tar on the bat; McClelland made up his own remedy (calling the batter out AFTER the home run had already been hit). And that interpretation of the rules was then reversed. Say what you like about the appropriateness of overturning that call or this one, but there is a category difference between the two calls which needs to be recognized if you’re going to accurately describe the precedents that have been set and which would be set by overturning this call.

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  9. Peter says:

    Imagine a hypothetical in which there is a close call that will decide Game 7 of a World Series between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. The call is so close it could go either way. Deciding the call in the Cubs favor would award the Cubs their first World Series win since 1908. If we measure the decision by amount of utility awarded, the call should certainly be decided for the Cubs, since by the theory of diminishing marginal utility, the Cubs organization and fans will gain more utility than the Yankees. But, in this case I think we’d all want the right call to be made not the call that would create the most utility. Just something to think about when applying utilitarianism to events like sports, in this case we’re back to square one over whether the right thing to do would be to award the perfect game.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      This is circular. You are assuming in your last sentence that your position actually is the “right thing,” which is nothing more than a conclusion from your own moral philosophy. A sadist may disagree with you on what the “right thing” is. A utilitarian likewise.

      But this also assumes that we don’t gain utility from getting the call right. We do. This is why you say that getting the call right is the “right thing” to do. It’s not because of some objective morality (in my opinion). It is because getting calls right (and especially one in this instance) is also an added utility, so just changing the call willy nilly would cause a great amount of dis-utility by ignoring the rules of the game.

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      • Standard Deviance says:

        Actually, Pat, your reasoning here and in your actual article begs the question (ie, implicitly assumes what you’re arguing for): you’re assuming that we make (or should make) ethical decisions on the basis of their utility. I just don’t accept that as a philosophical given and most philosophers don’t either. It might be interesting to examine the Galarraga game from a Utilitarian p.o.v. as a thought exercise, but to pretend like Utilitarianism can provide the final moral word on the situation is absurd.

        Peter’s not being circular at all. In his hypothetical example, there *is* a morally correct way to act: to get the call right. He’s not begging the question, or reasoning circularly, because clear guidelines exist regarding what moral correctness looks like here. And as his example demonstrates, if you took a strict Utilitarian approach in that situation, you’d arrive in the awkward, unsatisfying position of having to argue that the morally correct course of action entails breaking the game’s rules (because Cubs fans, and the general populace, and the game itself, benefit more than if the Yankees win and the correct call is made). That’s a fundamental flaw in the logic of Utilitarian ethics, not in Peter’s logic. You can disagree with Peter’s (and mine) premise that greater utility would accrue from the Cubs winning on a wrong call (as opposed to getting the call right and Yankees winning), and we could have a looong back forth about what constitutes the greater good, on balance, but that only points up another deep problem with Utilitarianism, which is: how to measure and weigh these qualitative, competing claims to the good?

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  10. Phillies Red says:

    Though I’m not a utilitarian and I’m still divided about whether or not the call should be reversed, I am thankful you took the time to point out that the precedent and retroactive-game-changing arguments don’t make sense when thinking about this issue. It would see that baseball, and many of it’s fans, are so inured to irrationality within the management of baseball that they can’t comprehend the possibility that “rational actors keep agency in future events.”

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  11. baka says:

    I like the analysis, even though I disagree with the moral philosophy on which the analysis is based (though that’s a discussion for some other time :). You’re completely correct in stating that the slippery slope argument against overturning the call is completely fallacious. Being a rational agent, any future commisioner who has to deal with a similar situation is free to use his own judgement and reason to make a decision. That decision does not, by necessity, have to be the same or follow the “precedent.” After all, it’s not like anyone is asking to have the rulebook rewritten to automatically overturn questionable calls.

    What I would primarily disagree with in the analysis is the premise that Joyce, Galarraga and Galarraga’s family will have their happiness increased by reversing the call. It is possible that this will be the case. But according to Galarraga, he already considers himself to have pitched a perfect game. Therefore a reversal will only “put it in the books.” In other words, it will officially give him something that he already believes he has.

    In the end, though, nothing can ever really undo the call. I have a hard time believing that his game being number 21 will really remove the heartache of that call. I also think that there being an asterisk next to his name in “the book” due to the fact that the call was overturned will serve as a constant reminder of what happened, thus diminishing the happiness to be had as a result.

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    • dave says:

      Baka wrote:

      Therefore a reversal will only “put it in the books.” In other words, it will officially give him something that he already believes he has. In the end, though, nothing can ever really undo the call. I have a hard time believing that his game being number 21 will really remove the heartache of that call.

      Baka,

      it seems like you’re pitting the perfect against the good. Although it is true that heartache cannot be undone, that is an impossible standard. By that standard no compensation for any wrong would ever be awarded. “Compensation” (for lack of a better word) in repayment for wrong by definition cannot *undo* the wrong or the injury associated with it. But that is not the reason we compensate the injured. We do so to put the injured party (and the game for that matter) back as close to “right” as possible.

      MLB practice is to award a “perfect game” to any pitcher that records 27 consecutive outs–and to mark those games as special. In that sense there’s really no “only” to putting a no hitter in the books. The book is really all there is to a no-hitter. That Gallaraga recorded 27 consecutive outs is entirely undisputed by any party. Yet, he has not been awarded the perfect game primarily because MLB has chosen to be held hostage by what has to be a textbook example of “a foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds.”

      The case for making an exception to the policy of allowing umpires to have the last say on judgment calls cannot possibly be clearer. The mistake was a) immaterial to the game’s outcome, b) immediately acknowledged to be a mistake by the official (consequently bringing all parties into agreement), and c) in a stroke of great fortune, the mistake occurred on what should have been the game’s final play. This confluence of circumstances is not only highly unlikely to be repeated, it also reduces the “shockwaves” from overturning the call to essentially nothing.

      Change any one factor, and this is a much more difficult case for granting an exception. But, as it happens, the circumstances played out so perfectly that literally nothing bad could come from granting an exception in this instance. Not only would no one else be bound by this exception, if the commissioner implements a replay system the exception constitute the end of an era and not even a precedent.

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      • baka says:

        it seems like you’re pitting the perfect against the good. Although it is true that heartache cannot be undone, that is an impossible standard. By that standard no compensation for any wrong would ever be awarded. “Compensation” (for lack of a better word) in repayment for wrong by definition cannot *undo* the wrong or the injury associated with it. But that is not the reason we compensate the injured. We do so to put the injured party (and the game for that matter) back as close to “right” as possible.
        —————————————–

        Dave,

        I have no argument against the purpose of compensation. My point was primarily a criticism of using utilitarianism as an argument for action. To act on the basis of increasing happiness requires knowledge that doing so will actually increase happiness. This knowledge should be based on evidence, and the evidence seems to dictate that for the parties involved, it will not make a huge difference.

        I’m not opposed to providing compensation when one is wronged. But that’s more a question of justice, not necessarily of ethics. Would it be just to overturn the call and provide Galarraga the perfect game? Probably. But in doing so, it would therefore become unjust to the other teams and players who have suffered from blown calls.

        It’s far better to adjust the rules and use this as a learning experience than to plead special cases from philosophical standpoints.

        I could equally argue from the point of view of Kant’s categorical imperative that changing the call is morally impermissible.

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  12. daiheide says:

    I can’t tell whether your point is either: a) baseball ought to apply the act utilitarian standard to this single incident, regardless of which standard it deems appropriate in other, more general contexts; or b) baseball ought to apply the act utilitarian standard as its formal decision and rule-making procedure in general.

    If (a), it’s hard to see why Bud Selig might be justified in implementing a new decision procedure for a single event. It seems ad hoc that act utilitarianism ought to be used to make this decision, but that the standard ought *not* be used in general.

    Alternatively, perhaps you think that baseball already makes its decisions in accordance with the principles of act utilitarianism. That’s akin to affirming (b), in which case your point might be construed as an admonition to implement here the principle MLB already endorses.

    But I don’t think baseball makes its decisions this way: surely baseball was more titillating to the many before the full implementation of the 2001 anti-drug policy. Nor do I think MLB *should* adopt an act utilitarian policy standard. Among the many well-known objections to act utilitarianism is the criticism that act utilitarianism seems to justify intuitively unfair or wrong acts, e.g., the torture of the few for the benefit of the many. Perhaps you want to bite that bullet, but I think we can think of similar baseball cases that, while in keeping with the act utilitarian standard, would strike many serious fans as corrupting the game to some degree. Wouldn’t the act utilitarian standard justify all sorts of intentional competitive imbalances for the sake of TV viewership and merchandise sales?

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    • Gomez says:

      “it’s hard to see why Bud Selig might be justified in implementing a new decision procedure for a single event”

      It should be noted that Selig would be implementing nothing new in reversing this call. He already has the authority of Special Action to reverse injust calls and make other game-related decisions on games played as he deems fit. He would be implementing nothing in reversing the call… simply utilizing a power he already has as Commissioner of MLB.

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  13. mockcarr says:

    Just because it’s easier to fix this one event than almost all others, doesn’t mean you should. Messing around with umpire judgment calls after the fact does affect the integrity of the game. What if Detroit had only one run scored through a worse judgment call by an umpire? Wouldn’t the other team have the right to say, if he has a perfect game, we should still be playing since their run shouldn’t count. How do we know a bunch of records aren’t tainted by umpire judgment? Are we sure about strikeout records if the plate umpire called a huge zone as the game progressed, for instance?

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    • Bronnt says:

      Mockcarr, the flaw in your statement is that you’re building up this prop of what we “don’t know.” There is this singular, exceeding specific instance where everyone absolutely does know that this call is incorrect and a single action taken by the Commisioner, within his power, can correct the error.

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      • dave says:

        And not only does everyone know every detail about this specific instance, all parties are in agreement.

        To reverse the call would literally adversely impact no one.

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  14. Alex says:

    I respectfully disagree with you, Pat. I think more interest is stirred in Gallaraga’s game, and his achievement, with the bad call standing. The fact of the matter is, nothing Selig could have done would make that game a perfect game. It will always have that mistake. The question was whether the asterisk would say “*Gallaraga allowed a hit but it was widely considered a bad call” or whether the asterisk would say “*Ruled a perfect game after Bud Selig changed a bad call.” Either way something rare and somewhat unfortunate happened.

    Slippery slopes are not fallacious when actions taken now will have an effect on the decision calculus later. You can’t deny that something weighing on Selig’s mind was the decision made by previous commissioners. If that is true, how can you say that it won’t matter for future commissioners in making decisions like this? The fact of the matter is that people in positions of authority like Selig need to consider the *means* as well as the *ends* that they are attempting to achieve. This is a failure of utilitarianism – it treats those means as irrelevant. But the means in this case could set up a bad standard for the future.

    Would the fans, Joyce, Gallaraga, etc be much more happy if it was ruled a Perfect Game? I don’t think so. I think only marginally. Either way this game won’t be forgotten, and I would argue that either way this game will be more memorable than most Perfect Games that *actually* go off without a hitch.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Alex, I agree in part. You are right that future commissioners may look to past precedent as a way to justify future changes. But as I said in a response earlier, I can’t ever see this change, which is clearly ceremonial, ever being a meaningful tipping point in the decision-making process of a future commissioner looking to change a significant on-field event.

      Besides the fact that a scenario like this is just unlikely, that no commissioner would ever consider a massive title/game reversal seriously, and that this wouldn’t be the tipping point, we are also more likely to have instant replay in the future which should mitigate any potential for this (i.e. if someone messes up we can use replay, and if the team that got screwed is “out of challenges” or whatnot then there is nobody to blame).

      I also think you are underestimating the utility to Joyce, Galarraga, and Tigers fans, but I guess as third parties we can never really know.

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      • joe says:

        I keep hearing unlikely… but there was an event on the same night where the final play of the game was ruled incorrectly (SEA-MIN) and this happens a lot more frequently than folks indicate.

        If the logic is: the call can be reversed on a final play where the ‘true’ outcome (for lack of better words) is known, shouldn’t every instance of it be fixed? Or do we limit to ceremonial events?

        What if the event is fairly meaningless event at the time but becomes a component of a long hit streak or a long scoreless streak (which makes it ceremonial in nature like a perfect game).

        And what if it does change the outcome of the game – should we not fix it, because the outcome is changed?

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  15. fg says:

    Fact is, he faced 28 batters, not 27. Blown call sucks, but the scorebook records 28 batters faced.

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    • Youtube says:

      Good thing we live in an age where the boxscore is no longer only a section in the newspaper. We now link the boxscore with replays and highlights. Everyone knows and will see what happened.

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  16. Colin says:

    While in general I agree that the call should be reversed, and I agree that the precedent set is a once in a millennium issue, your final statement is a bit counter intuitive to your main argument. If the purpose of reversing the call is for the utility of Galaragga, Joyce, and the Tigers fans than changing the call would not be for the good of the game, but for the good of those specific participants. If everyone else is going to forget anyways, than ‘the good of the game’ won’t change for the majority of the participants in the game.

    Nevertheless, I’m curious to see, whether the call is changed or not, how history will remember this game. In 50 years will we say, there have been 35 perfect games including the Galaragga game (assuming of course there are 14 more perfect games arbitrarily); I think I will. While I think that the conversation will fade from the forefront of peoples minds, I think in the long run people will still judge it against other perfect games, whether or not it’s officially called one.

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  17. wobatus says:

    Well, to take a Rawlsian view, what should Selig’s ruling be if you didn’t know but that you might end up being in Galarraga’s shoes, or Joyce’s? I dunno, been a long time since I read Rawls.

    Not a big deal to me. He piched a perfect game in my mind. I think Selig might as well have just given it to him. It doesn’t change anything but “the record book.”

    But give Milt Pappas his strike 3 to Larry Stahl. :)

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    • John says:

      Funny, I was just going to post that I thought a Rawlsian position is the superior way to look at this (and almost any) issue. What answer is most just if we position ourselves behind the veil of ignorance? Personally, I think that you leave things as they are, going back and adjusting things will give neither players nor fans the moment of pure joy they would have had if the call had been made correctly. In the end I don’t think either pitcher or umpire will suffer from this blown call, both have shown themselves to be men of dignity and class. The umpire has my respect in a way he never would have had if he hadn’t blown the call and handled it the way he did. If he was calling a game I attended, I most certainly would cheer him when he was announced. As for Galarraga, he now has more fans than he ever would have had for pitching a perfect game. He will likely make more money related to the memorabilia associated with this game than he ever would have from the perfect game. Yes he would have pitched the 21st perfect game, but instead his game was one of a kind.

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  18. TJ says:

    Saying another incident like this is “extremely, extemely unlikely” seems undercut by the fact a judgment call on batter #27 has ended a run at a perfect game before.

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  19. adohaj says:

    I don’t think it should be overturned. Not getting a perfect game because of a blown call is a lot more memorable/interesting than getting a perfect game even though it may not be the happy ending everyone wants.

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  20. Evan says:

    This is the simplest scenario for Selig to overturn a call long after the game has ended. It was the last out of the entire game, and it was clearly a blown call. The end result remains the same and there is no butterfly effect for the rest of the game. The only change is awarding Galarraga the 21st perfect game ever, whic is the right thing to do.

    If it isn’t changed I think Galarraga will be acknowledged every time someone talks about a perfect game as a footnote rather than as a pitcher who earned a perfect game. Not overturning the call somehow diminishes what he did, when 20 other guys have accomplished the same feat and received a different level of recognition.

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  21. Anon21 says:

    I don’t see the evidence that Galarraga and his family are reaping a lot of disutility from the mistake which could be rectified by overturning the call. Galarraga took it very much in stride, and as he said in a post-game interview, he knows that he did throw a perfect game, and he plans to show the tape to his kids one day. All of baseball knows that he did it, too. No need to open up a Pandora’s box when the primary beneficiary of the extraordinary remedy doesn’t seem to want it. Nor do I see any evidence that Joyce’s guilt would be assuaged by overturning his decision. He will forever be known as the man who blew the biggest call of the last few decades, and overturning that call will not change that.

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  22. Standard Deviance says:

    Ha ha, after typing my comment, then re-reading the new comments in the thread, it’s fun to see so many readers don their philosopher’s hats (much more articulately than I did). Of course, I also like that the result is that Utilitarianism is getting a bit of a comeuppance.

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    • Gomez says:

      There is an interesting note w/r/t utilitarianism… its biggest flaw is that the definition of ‘greatest good’ is typically subjective and based on whoever’s opinion holds the greatest sway over the population in question. What may be considered ‘the greatest good’ may not be in fact what’s best for the population. But again, it’s a subjective matter depending on who’s making the judgment.

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  23. DanielRC says:

    But the best thing to come out of this event is the call for expanded replay. I would much rather Selig take the position of “let’s make sure this never happens again,” not “we ended up with the right call here, so let’s carry on as is.” Expanded replay, to my mind, would be exponentially better for the greater good than slightly tweaking the scorecard in a single game.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      I agree, and I hope those two things wouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

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      • DanielRC says:

        True. How awesome would it be if Selig overturned the call and used it as justification to introduce more replay in a single press conference?

        Hey, we can dream…

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  24. Pat Andriola says:

    By the way, I want to thank everyone for engaging me in this discussion. I don’t plan to talk about philosophy all too often, but I appreciate the fruitful and interesting dialogue. Thank you.

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  25. Greg Rybarczyk says:

    I have to disagree with you, Pat, and I don’t have to go back very far in time to find an example to support this.

    Selig overturning the Galarraga call will not only bring happiness. It will greatly anger the Minnesota Twins, who lost their game Wed. night to Seattle on a bad call at 2nd base that turned a fielder’s choice third out in a tie game into a walkoff single for the Mariners.

    If you support overturning the Galarraga call, you ought to understand how this would be viewed as a precedent, and a 100% valid precedent, for overturning the Twins-Mariners call. The Twins call, unlike the Galarraga call, affected wins and losses, the supreme currency in baseball.

    If fixing a bad call after the fact is in your opinion “in the best interests of baseball”, then convince me that if I’m a member of the Twins, that fixing my game is NOT “in the best interests of baseball”.

    Or, if you think both of these should be “fixed”, tell me how you would draw the line where you stop fixing bad calls.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Greg,

      I disagree, and I’ve stated this a few times now. Just look at this comment from Gomez for a humorous version of my argument (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/philosophy-and-jim-joyce/#comment-178701).

      Basically, just because you overturned one thing ceremoniously does not at all mean you have to do anything else. At all. It means zilch.

      I think the commissioner can say something along the lines of:

      “We have changed the rule because of a ceremonious personal achievement that should be officially celebrated. However, we should not and will not take wins/losses into account based on on-field calls.”

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      • Greg Rybarczyk says:

        Pat,

        I am surprised that you feel Selig should step in for something ceremonial, but not something that affects the standings, and therefore potentially the awarding of the WS championship later in the season.

        Now let me keep going with this. Your position right now is, “tough luck, Twins.” But suppose the pitcher of record for the Twins had been sitting on 299 wins, and could have gotten #300, but because of the bad call, he didn’t. Do you fix it now?

        If not (maybe figuring, he can always get #300 next time), what if said pitcher blew out his elbow, and looked likely to never pitch again? Now do you step in so he gets win #300? Now it’s ceremonial AND wins/losses, should Selig intervene?

        I don’t accept the idea that Selig can step in just once, and deny all other similar situations (or in my example, more important situations) in the future if he wants to. To employ his power as commissioner in that way would constitute caprice, and would ignite a firestorm of protest (rightfully so)…

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      • dave says:

        That is, in fact, the distinction between granting an exception and creating a new rule or new decision making process.

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      • Coby DuBose says:

        You’ve failed to assess to crux of his question. If I’m a Twins fan/player/coach, this angers me to no end. So the commissioner would issue a statement saying that he’s using his supreme power to overturn something that doesn’t impact the actual outcome of the season/playoff race, while admitting that he has no desire to use his supreme power to correct things that actually matter (i.e. wins/losses)?

        How does this make sense?

        Commissioner Selig:

        “We would like to announce that we have used our powers to award Armando Gallaraga with a perfect game in light of the poor call made by umpire Jim Joyce. We regret to inform Twins players and management that they could lose the AL Central by one game, costing the organization millions of dollars, as we won’t be using that same power to effect the outcome of that particular game.”

        “We feel that Armando Gallaraga is a deserving young man, and that his perfect game, however unlikely and lucky it may have been, is much more important than an actual win/loss for one of our 30 franchises.

        Thanks for your time.”

        Love, Bud.

        -1 for you.

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      • Rex Manning Day says:

        For a post ostensibly about approaching this issue logically and rationally, this has shown surprisingly irrational, emotional thinking.

        First off, I seriously do not understand the argument that it’s ok to change a call when it does not affect wins/losses, but it’s not ok when the call does affect wins/losses. Why would we value accuracy for ceremonial matters but not matters of actual, non-ceremonial impact?

        Ceremonial matters are more practically convenient to alter after the fact, but that’s it. Overturning the Twins/Mariners call would require the two teams to play a make-up conclusion of that game, which is pretty impractical and unlikely. But that’s really the only reasonable argument you can make to differentiate the two.

        Second, you’ve set up quite a straw man of what precedents are. A precedent is not an iron-clad requirement that future situations be adjudicated in the exact same way as the precedent situation was. All a precedent does is provide evidence for a certain decision to be made. In the future, when a bad call was revealed after the game ended, people could reasonably say, “Well, they changed that call last time, why not this time?” That’s all a precedent is.

        Maybe further analysis reveals that the precedent doesn’t apply, or maybe other evidence overrules the precedent, but it doesn’t mean the precedent isn’t there.

        If you want to make this a rational, logical, philosophical analysis of this issue, then make it about accuracy. That is, to what degree is accuracy valued in baseball? To what degree do we expect a baseball game to accurately reveal which team performed best? Is the “human element”, which is simply a romantic term for the potential inaccuracies introduced by human referees, valuable enough to counteract our desire for accuracy?

        If we expect the outcome of a baseball game to be an accurate representation of the performance of each team, then we must value the accuracy of each call above the romanticized “human element”. In which case, we should overturn this particular call not because it would make Galarraga happy, but because the original call was inaccurate and misrepresents the outcome of the game. And in the future, we should allow greater replay usage, and greater accountability measures for umpires in general, to ensure that the game is as accurate as possible (within reason).

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Greg,

      These hypotheticals are pretty absurd.

      300 games isn’t any objective officially recorded special event. It’s just a round number hall of fame voters like. Perfect Games are different.

      If Jason Donald got a hit to win/tie the game, then I wouldn’t change it. But it didn’t. It was meaningless.

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      • Coby DuBose says:

        Why are perfect games different? You’re stating your opinion on the matter as if it’s fact, when it is far from fact in this case.

        “Perfect games are different from 300th wins…because I said so!”

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      • Greg Rybarczyk says:

        OK, Pat, I get that for you, the reason this is possible is because it is not something that affects the standings, and therefore it ought to be possible to do this without upsetting anyone.

        However, I think you underestimate the significance of the event if Selig were to intervene. In all the history of baseball, 100+ years, such a thing has never happened, not for ceremonial purposes or win/loss purposes (and let’s all agree that the Brett pine-tar incident was about an umpire applying the incorrect penalty to a rule that was clearly broken – sort of like if an infielder threw the ball into the stands on a grounder, the umpire wrongly awarded the hitter home plate instead of second base, and the game consequently ended.)

        To retroactively overturn the result of a play (the bad call play) and eradicate the Indians’ 28th plate appearance entirely, has never before happened. How could it not establish a precedent that would survive for the next 100+ years?

        I think lots of people would expect that once Selig had unleashed this awesome power, he would consider using it again – and consequently, those people would demand to know what guidelines Selig intended to follow for its employment…

        If you ever have kids, try letting one of them stay up late, but “only tonight, and never again.” And oh, by the way, child #2, you don’t get to stay up late. That bedtime waiver was just for your brother…

        :)

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      • joe says:

        Strongly disagree with this as well… perfect games are purely ceremonial, just like the 500HR club, 3000hit club, 300win club are ceremonial. Isn’t a perfect game 81 straight strikes with 27 strikeouts?

        Now another hypothetical – what if that incorrectly ruled hit resulted in a 57 game hit streak (and a perfect game was not involved, and again no outcome change was involved). And what it matter if the event occurred early in the streak or at the end of it?

        Should Selig ‘fix’ it? Should he wait to see if it will be meaningful (from a ceremonial perspective)?

        When folks argue this would be rare or an exception… is the logic only perfect games? Only ceremonial impacts? Or anything where the true outcome could be known (final play of a game or what should have been a final play of the game)?

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  26. MikeS says:

    Luck is a part of baseball. If a player in an indoor stadium is camped out under a popup and it hits a support or hanging speaker, it’s a double not an out. The game was not perfect. The game is not perfect.

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    • Gomez says:

      There’s a point behind this point… however, a pop fly hitting a speaker isn’t an umpire calling a batter who was out by 5 feet safe at 1st. One scenario is more within everyone’s control than the other.

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      • Captain says:

        while i agree with you, lets just dispel the notion that Donald was out by 5 feet. the play in real time was a bit closer than most people are making it out to be.

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      • Standard Deviance says:

        +1 to Captain… I’d even go so far as to say that it wasn’t an easy call, because, when he caught the ball, it looked like Galarraga was about to bobble it (though he didn’t).

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      • Gomez says:

        Okay, 4 feet. Donald had another full step to take once the ball hit Galarraga’s glove.

        And no one is ever “about to bobble” a ball because a bobble is an absolute action: You either bobble a ball or you don’t. If Joyce anticipated a bobble before the ball hit his glove, it’s still a bad mistake on his part.

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      • NotAboutABobble says:

        Joyce said he thought Donald beat Galarraga to the bag. It was not a bobble that made him miss the call.

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  27. bowie says:

    One aspect of this even that I have come to appreciate is that some very beautiful examples were set for how to handle unfair and unfortunate events by the people involved in them, which to me is more important and lasting than whether the record book will have a 21st perfect game or not.

    An honest mistake was made, one that happens quite often actually. Only this time it happened at a moment of huge consequence for one man in particular. The man who suffered directly from the mistake, Galarraga, handled the situation with great dignity and did not vilify the umpire or attack him in any way. Instead, he showed empathy for Jim Joyce. And Joyce has taken the high road too, admitting the mistake, not hiding from it or offering b.s. excuses. He owned up to it immediately, apologized–he CRIED about it–he was as contrite as can be. The whole thing makes me want to cry too!

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  28. SF_Matt says:

    If he was safe by a foot and the umpire called him out, thereby giving Galarraga a perfect game, should the commissioner step in and reverse the call thereby taking away the undeserved perfect game?

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  29. jimnvox says:

    whoa. the guy didn’t pitch a perfect game. a runner was called safe at first base. whether rightfully or wrongfully, the call was made and it would be silly to reverse it after the fact. silly. there’s no point. but then again, some of us are deontologists and think john stuart mill was mostly full of crap.

    i don’t care who’s happy and who isn’t. i don’t care who takes this lightly. i don’t even care about precedent. because the consequences shouldn’t matter. what happened happened and it wasn’t a perfect game. it doesn’t matter to me that a retroactive change of the call might cause “a slippery slope”. It does matter to me that it is untrue to what actually occurred, and that the basic principles by which the game is organized would be violated by such a ruling change. just leave it be.

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  30. Heather says:

    If you want to argue this from a strictly utilitarian perspective, I would still have to disagree with you. Why? Because plenty of other hideous calls have been made in baseball, and those folks have had to have the consolation that it is a human game and calls made by umps are not able to be reversed. I would argue that part of the peace that they have gained is knowing that NOBODY is special and this crap happens. If we reverse this specific call, it might please Gallaraga and his family, but I think it would have the effect of spreading unhappiness to every other person who has been victimized by a bad call. “They were special enough to rate an overturn, but I wasn’t!”

    You can’t easily ignore the fact that you might be re-victimizing all these folks again and making the collective unhappiness worse rather than better.

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    • joe says:

      Interesting point which gets back to the main issue with the whole philosophy – how do you define utility (or happiness) and who defines it?

      On a side note I though the article was interesting… well except for the part that listed Keith Law as an example of an intelligent analyst.

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      • philosofool says:

        Mill defines happiness as the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain, i.e., you are happy to the degree that you feel pleasure and don’t feel pain. With respect to pleasure and pain, utilitarians are typically subjectivists, i.e., what’s pleasurable will be relative to the individual having the experience. If baseball is pleasurable for you, then it’s good when you watch baseball; if it’s painful for you, then it’s bad. Same for me, and if we disagree, the theory just tells us to promote baseball watching only for those who like it. (Mill complicates his picture with “higher” and “lower” pleasures, but that’s presently an aside.)

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  31. philosofool says:

    On the list of things more controversial than Jim Joyce’s call, I’d list utilitarianism. I’m not sure you’ll solve the controversy, even if you add logic and reduce emotion, by appealing to a highly controversial ethical theory.

    By the way, I think your argument ends up being very close to a sort that its opponents use to show that utilitarianism is bunk. The issue is that utlitarianism requires us to aggregate everyone’s utility and sum it all up. The standard version of this is the angry mob who wants to lynch someone that they falsely believe committed a crime or harmed them. If the mob is large enough and their fervor great enough, according to utilitarianism, the fact that the person is innocent is irrelevant because the large amount of pleasure he gets from continuing to live is swamped by the sum of thousands of small pleasures seeing him at the end of a rope. Same with Joyce and Gallaraga: what’s of concern to them is swamped by the millions of tiny interests of those who don’t want the call over turned or whatever. Ultimately, it’s a factual and empirical question what will produce the greatest happiness, so maybe you’re right that it lies with Gallaraga and Joyce, but the fact that they are *most* affected could potentially be irrelevant.

    (There are better objections to utilitarianism. Suppose that a pedophile has a big stash of ruffies and takes them to the parks, feeds them to children so they can’t remember it and mollests them. His happiness is bad happiness. It’s certainly not morally relevant to our considerations. But it’s easy to see that given the right kind of secrecy and the effectiveness of ruffies, he could *according to act utilitarianism* successfully make the world a better place by molesting kids. Since it molesting kids isn’t the right thing to do, we can see that utilitariansim gets it wrong and is therefore a false doctrine.)

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  32. Rex Manning Day says:

    Are you in college? You must be in college (or, at the very least, graduated no more than 5 years ago). Nobody but college students/recent graduates would seriously describe themselves as “utilitarians”.

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  33. MGL says:

    You want to take a utilitarian approach, fine…

    You are speculating as to the positive ramifications of a reversal. It is far from being certain that you are correct. Maybe Joyce and Galarraga’s lives are enhanced in some way from this mistake and no reversal. Maybe MLB needs to “learn a lesson” which leads to more replay and the lesson would be diminished by a reversal. Maybe fans need to appreciate how two persons can react so well in the face of adversity, and that would be diminished by a reversal. Maybe just as many fans would be angered by a reversal than would welcome it.

    And what about if we not only speculate on Joyce’s and Galarraga’s and the fan’s happiness, but we speculate about other repercussions if a reversal is done. That is utilitarian, right? The next time any bad call is made that changes the result of an important game (which happens all the time of course – probably at least once per post-season), won’t there be a large controversy and much “unhappiness” (by the team that is short-changed and their fans)? This is a utilitarian perspective, isn’t it?

    And is “happiness” the end-all for utilitarian arguments? I think not. If I give my son candy before dinner, he is going to be happy, but from a “utilitarian” perspective, happiness is not the proper utility. His present and future health and well-being is.

    Just as you are speculating that Joyce and Galarraga and the fans would be happier upon a reversal, I can also speculate that their happiness (assuming that your assumption is even true) is not the proper utility.

    There are many holes in your argument, Pat.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      MGL, I understand my approach isn’t perfect, and I’m not suggesting this is definitely the right answer. Just my opinion.

      Anyway, I think you actually answer your own question. Yes, future events are important for utilitarians, so repercussions would be bad. However, I don’t think that people will actually attempt to get games overruled on bad calls.

      Why? Because the only examples of this ever really happening are Denkinger and Jeffrey Maier, both of which weren’t with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. Neither team that got short changed was guaranteed a victory. Galarraga was guaranteed a perfect game if the correct call was made. So I don’t think there will be future problems:

      1) Because it is extremely rare
      2) Because fans won’t expect it to actually get changed
      3) Even if fans wanted change, the presence of this change would be no serious tipping point in their goal.
      4) Instant replay will probably be instituted by the time this tragic future event with a small likelihood transpires

      I mean, c’mon now. We’re going to deny this because some people may get mad in the future about something that is extremely rare and may look back at this to get even madder, and then this disutility would have to outweigh all the potential utility from the original change? Not buying it.

      Besides all this, most of the benefits you’ve said (idea of reconciliation, human side of game, mlb learns a lesson, etc) have already transpired! Even if happy fans = unhappy fans (which I really, really doubt), I already said that the ones closest to the situation will be happiest. And let’s be honest, they will be. Galarraga would love a PG, Joyce would love his mistake fixed, and the fans have been begging for it.

      People are really frightened changing the call would lead to some absurd Pandora’s Box being opened, and I think those fears are silly.

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  34. Steve says:

    Yes, it is indeed correct that this call had no impact on the actual outcome of the game. But changing it could conceivably lead to a problem in the future.

    Consider this extraordinarily unlikely (yet still possible) situation. Pitcher has a perfect game through 26 outs, and has a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th. The last batter reaches on a blown call. Fans/players begin to think, “That’s OK, they’ll just reverse the call afterwards.” The next batter hits a walk-off home run, taking away the pitcher’s perfect game and the win.

    Granted, that’s very different from Galarraga – he recorded the “28th out” to successfully win the game. But the pitcher in the above situation, if the ‘Galarraga precedent’ were set, should have his perfect game. It’s unfortunate, but history can’t be changed, it can only be used as a lesson for how best to impact the future. Replay is most likely on the way in some capacity, and this situation also helps us see that umpires are human, and they care about the game and its history just as much as we do.

    And in regards to Galarraga – I think he’s making out just fine from this situation. Nobody can ever take away the game he pitched – for all intents and purposes, he pitched a perfect game, but some won’t recognize it as such. The new Corvette and added fame are also nice. Strangely, I feel that the circumstances surrounding the game have made Galarraga more widely known in baseball circles than he would have been had he recorded the 27th out. Lots of fans know who Harvey Haddix is and why he’s famous. Fewer know that Len Barker and Mike Witt actually completed perfect games.

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  35. Charles says:

    Major League Baseball is not a vehicle for social justice. Bad calls happen all the time, it is understood that they are accepted and everyone moves on. Stop imposing morality and ethics onto this situation as if we were discussing jumping into a time machine to go kill Hitler (no real argument misses out on including a Hitler reference).

    Baseball is a game based more on mistakes than success. Nobody was wronged in some nefarious or malicious way. In fact, except the guy who actually made the mistake – everyone involved is, or will shortly be, a millionaire. And I don’t know, maybe Joyce is too.

    This doesn’t need to be changed because there simply isn’t really a problem. But if you are dead set on righting wrongs, we live in a world full of them. And they have consequences more dire than whether or not some fellow has his name in some magical book.

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  36. Colin says:

    Pat,

    I threw up a little in my mouth at the sight of even some praise being given to Keith Law. I think if you are going to describe him as “intelligent” you should disclaim that he is also a pompous horses behind who talks to other intelligent adults as if they were children. Go read his most recent chat on this subject on ESPN and look at some of his responses to questions if you need confirmation.

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  37. Klaus says:

    Precedents apply not only to future cases in which the facts are more or less the same but to cases whose resolution proceeds by the same principle. That is, if utility provides a sufficient justification for reversing a call and restoring the happiness of but two people, why doesn’t the principle apply also in say, the case of a playoff game, in which a wrong call adversely affects the happiness of not merely an umpire and a single player, but of a whole team and an entire fan-base, composed of millions? The precedent established by the former wouldn’t absolutely obligate the commissioner to correct the latter (I think (actually I’m not sure)), but the arguments against his doing so would be seriously weakened. Therefore it seems to me that any precedent set in the case of Galaragga/Joyce would have real-world ramifications going well beyond incidents involving simply blown calls of the 27th out of a perfect game–ramifications which can’t be dismissed with the mere wave of the hand.

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  38. Mike says:

    I’ll start by saying it is strange to declare yourself a utilitarian, Pat. Do you mean you’re literally a utilitarian (e.g. you attempt to make all moral decisions according to utilitarian reasons?) or do you just think that, while utilitarianism isn’t the ultimate moral principle, it’s the best ‘tie-breaker’ we have in difficult moral or other normative situations?

    No one seems to buy the first (besides Peter Singer perhaps), but I think the second is plausible. I take the greatest objection to Utilitarianism to be Bernard Williams’ ‘integrity’ objection. It is absurd to ask people to set aside their reasons for action for the ‘perspective of the universe’. The utilitarian can respond by saying ‘Well, that just shows we’re very immoral. Not that utilitarianism is wrong’, but I think it shows that Utilitarianism misunderstands the nature of belief, reasons for action and actual decision making. The best we can do is adopt a Utilitarian outline and not the position itself.

    Anyway, onto baseball. This is a case where a decision can be overturned without setting worrying precedent. Overturning the decision doesn’t alter any significant feature of the game and it would rightly put Armando in the record books and alleviate some of Joyce’s displeasure. Why can’t the Commissioner set a guideline where a decision can be overturned if it occurs sufficiently late in games, doesn’t affect the status of the game and has some immediate cultural/record related significance?

    Whether you think it is right to overturn games for these reasons and not more significant reasons (e.g. wins/losses) is a separate question to whether this would actually set a ‘dangerous’ precedent. As Pat has said, to assume it would is a rather large step.

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  39. nartin says:

    If the pitcher was Josh Beckett or John Lester, the change would have been made for sure.

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  40. Charles says:

    I doubt that, but I’d say there’s a good chance that the call wouldn’t have been missed like that for a higher profile big market pitcher.

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  41. I think you have noted some very interesting points , thanks for the post. comments by Tod Kilian @ This blog post is mentioned in the email from Cierra Sehorn @ <a href=??ttp://www.tablettribe.com/??tablet user club

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