It was one of the most famous newspaper leads in sports history.
It came the day after Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
“The imperfect man,” New York columnist Dick Young wrote, “pitched the perfect game.”
It was true, for sure; Larsen was an average pitcher who had the day of his life.
But so was it true for many of the pitchers in MLB history who, for one game, were unblemished.
The roster of men who’ve pitched perfect games would not bowl you over with its largesse for talent. Few of them were anything remotely close to stars.
Armando Galarraga is not on that roster. But we know better, of course.
Yet Galarraga’s status, that of the Imperfect Man Who Met the Imperfect Umpire, doesn’t change the fact that Armando, too, is a blind squirrel who (almost) found his nut.
Galarraga, after his unofficial perfect game last June 2, went the next 21 starts for the Tigers garnering only two wins.
That, more than anything, is why he’s no longer a Tiger.
Galarraga has been dispatched to the Arizona Diamondbacks, safely out of the American League and in one of the farthest reaches of the country, where he can do the Tigers little harm.
Let’s see what AZ manager Kirk Gibson does with Armando.
Replacing Galarraga in the Tigers’ rotation is veteran righty Brad Penny, whose body has been imperfect. If Penny can stay healthy, the Tigers have made an excellent swap in their starting five.
Galarraga has been a frustrating, confusing pitcher for the Tigers since 2008, when he exploded onto the scene in Detroit and went 13-7 with a 3.73 ERA. He was, as a rookie, one of the few bright spots on a Tigers team that was a huge disappointment.
But since then, Galarraga has, alternately, pitched himself out of and back into the rotation—several times. He’s shown those flashes of his ’08 brilliance—and then some—but has withered back into just another mediocre pitcher. And he’s sometimes done this from start to start.
The last nail in the coffin for him in Detroit, I believe, was that 21-start streak last summer that lasted through the remainder of the season, when he produced just the two wins.
I highly doubt you’d throw Penny out there for 21 starts and get two wins in return.
Yeah, you can crab about run support and all that, but two wins in 21 starts is what it is. Somewhere in there a pitcher has to suck it up and pitch so good he can’t help but win the game.
Galarraga never got his footing back since his rookie year. Until the Penny signing, Galarraga was penciled in to be the fifth starter. But it was hardly a guarantee. You always had the feeling that if the Tigers could find someone better, Galarraga would be usurped. You also got the feeling that the team was shopping for an upgrade, even as they spoke of him as the no. 5 starter.
The Tigers found their upgrade in Penny, a Cy Young candidate several years ago and someone with post-season experience. If he stays off the DL, of course.
Galarraga is gone, and he leaves behind memories that this baseball town will never forget. He was thrown into a blender with umpire Jim Joyce and the two of them have been pureed ever since, combining to form an inseparable mixture of triumph over tragedy.
Another imperfect man who, for one game, was perfect—almost.