Perfect pitch

The time for mere words has passed.

When a crisis is upon us, lamentations about mistakes made, commiseration for all the human suffering and cries for justice are not enough.

The President must act. He needs to weigh in on the disaster and put the full force of his administration and the public will behind righting this wrong. He needs to own it. He needs to go before the American people and compel the forces of evil to do the right thing.

Or else the baseball umpire’s call that robbed Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game will forever be a blemish on his administration’s record.

Major league baseball has long claimed that adequate safety measures are already in place and there is no need for the prying eyes of instant replay cameras. The men in black who call ’em as they see ’em, they aver, are highly skilled professionals with proven track records and unimpeachable integrity. Another bureaucratic layer of decision-making will certainly slow the game, dull the senses and imperil the institution.

Yes, over the years, the occasional corked bat, sign stealing and steroid use have tarnished baseball. But, the game’s defenders argue that our great national past-time still represents the very essence of America. It encapsulates the inventiveness, the toughness, the can-do spirit upon which our country was built. And few can argue otherwise.

When Americans streamed off the farms and into our cities a hundred years ago, we turned to baseball to power the engine of our imagination. When corruption and the chaos of competition threatened to hobble the game, the nation responded by protecting it with an anti-trust exemption. And when the most unruly of our masses attempted to weaken the institution, we came together as a people to protect the purity of our mission. At least until 1947.

But times change. And little by little some have begun to wonder if perhaps there is a better way to represent the American ethos than the enrichment of a small cadre of greedy individualists. Especially when there are much larger cadres of greedy individualists clamoring to participate. Occasionally the cry goes up that Bobblehead Night is insufficient compensation for overpriced inclusion in the game. Man does not live by Cheese Whiz nachos alone.

This is not to say that some day we may be compelled to ween ourselves off the need for ball and bat diversion. There are arguably cheaper and more efficient alternative recreational sources, like soccer, being championed by a distinct minority. But they are out of the mainstream of American life and, while some day we may have no choice but to explore those alternative paths, for now baseball is a critical part of what makes America the great international leader it is.

Questions are asked about how far we want to go subsidizing large private enterprises with public money and polluting our landscapes. Privatizing our gains and socializing our losses. And though these questions are, from time to time, asked by powerful public representatives in Congress, the representatives of baseball are not always forthcoming:

July 8, 1958, Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee Hearing

Senator Estes Kefauver: Mr. Stengel, are you prepared to answer particularly why baseball wants this bill passed?

Manager Casey Stengel: Well, I would have to say at the present time, I think that baseball has advanced in this respect for the player help. That is an amazing statement for me to make, because you can retire with an annuity at fifty and what organization in America allows you to retire at fifty and receive money?

I want to further state that I am not a ballplayer, that is, put into that pension fund committee. At my age, and I have been in baseball, well, I say I am possibly the oldest man who is working in baseball. I would say that when they start an annuity for the ballplayers to better their conditions, it should have been done, and I think it has been done. I think it should be the way they have done it, which is a very good thing.

Now the second thing about baseball that I think is very interesting to the public or to all of us that it is the owner’s fault if he does not improve his club, along with the officials in the ball club and the players.

Now what causes that? If I am going to go on the road and we are a travelling ball club and you know the cost of transportation now — we travel sometimes with three pullman coaches, the New York Yankees and remember I am just a salaried man and do not own stock in the New York Yankees, I found out that in travelling with the New York Yankees on the road and all, that it is the best, and we have broken records in Washington this year, we have broken them in every city but New York and we have lost two clubs that have gone out of the city of New York.

Of course, we have had some bad weather, I would say that they are mad at us in Chicago, we fill the parks. They have come out to see good material. I will say they are mad at us in Kansas City, but we broke their attendance record.

Now on the road we only get possibly 27ยข. I am not positive of these figures, as I am not an official. If you go back fifteen years or if I owned stock in the club I would give them to you.

Senator Kefauver: Mr. Stengel, I am not sure that I made my question clear. (Laughter).

Mr. Stengel: Yes, sir. Well that is all right. I am not sure I am going to answer yours perfectly either.

For now, Major League Baseball stands firm. Rules are rules. What kind of a world would we have if honor trumped order. If justice trumped profit. If men were made to answer for their actions and stand judged by their peers.

While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed. Given last night’s call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig

The tone may be perfect, but Selig’s pitch is wide of the mark. It’s time for action. It’s time to think outside the batter’s box and reverse this call. Or we shall forever be tarred by these scandalous proceedings.