By Brandon Greife, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball in his mitt. His right foot touched first base. He had done it. The Detroit pitcher had made history--the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Until umpire Jim Joyce yelled, "Safe!" his hands making an emphatic sweeping motion away from his body.
It was an unbelievable call. So bad that Galarraga could do nothing but smile as history was swept out from under him. It was a surprising response in a sport known for tirades. Throw a glove, punch a water-cooler, kick dirt over home plate. Nope. None of that. It was the perfect response to the imperfect game, trumped only by Jim Joyce’s humbling apology.
After the game Joyce watched the replay. He then walked into the Tiger’s locker room and apologized to Galarraga. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “It was the biggest call of my career and I kicked the [stuffing] out of it.” The next game Joyce was back, shedding tears in the pre-game and patting Galarraga on the back, before taking his place behind the plate.
Washington should be quick to study each of those men’s responses. An awful call, a quick apology, and even quicker forgiveness. Politicians seem to have forgotten such candor.
Instead, hiding behind press secretaries, creating scapegoats, and making straw man arguments is the name of the Washington game. After all, when was the last time you heard a politician, from either party, apologize for anything other than a clear-cut ethics violation? Nobody ever says, “yea, maybe that piece of legislation was a bad idea after all.”
Bud Selig, Major League Baseball's commissioner, is known for his detached, analytical style. While he has done a lot to improve the game, from the introduction of the wild card to the creation of interleague play, his shortcomings often overshadow his accomplishments.
Selig’s response to the perfect game flap was typical. He seemed to realize that overturning the call might create a troublesome precedent. Rather than overturn the call and award Galarraga the perfect game, he issued a statement saying,
I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which consists of field managers, general managers, club owners and presidents.
Diplomatic, yes. The right thing to do, no. Galarraga earned his spot in the record books. Saving face and saying “we’ll look into it” smacks of a typical Washington response where creating a commission or cobbling together a new agency is the panacea for every problem.
Just take a look at recent events. President Obama and congressional Democrats were happy to pass fundamental healthcare reform. They accomplished what 10 years ago seemed impossible. Since its passage a number of studies and reports have begun to peel back some of the façade. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its final cost projections for the bill, finding that the legislation will increase national health spending by $311 billion. The Congressional Budget Office released new estimates that the bill would cost $115 billion more than its original projections. Nobody had the guts to pull a Jim Joyce and say “sorry, we blew that call.”
Or take the recent revelations about the jobs offered by the White House to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff if they stayed out of the primary. Regardless of their legality, this is exactly the business-as-usual spoils system that President Obama promised would change. I don’t remember hearing a sorry. In fact the president didn’t say anything on the story. Instead, we were left with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs assuring us that they looked into the matter and “nothing inappropriate happened.” That’s akin to saying that human error is part of baseball. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to say that it sometimes leads to poor results.
People understand that politicians make mistakes. We get that President Obama can’t be perfect all the time. But frankly, we’ve seen all too much Selig-style governing coming out of Washington recently. Don’t hide behind some obtuse statement in an effort to skirt controversy. Take a page from Jim Joyce and admit when you screw up. If you do, it will be much easier for me to act like Armando Galarraga and forgive you.