BOSTON – Theo Epstein should have known that he wouldn’t leave the room without being asked about The Call.

The general manager of the Boston Red Sox and his amateur scouting director, Amiel Sawdaye, spoke about next week’s draft before Thursday’s Sox game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park.

Once they finished discussing what types of players may eventually make their way to the Portland Sea Dogs, the talk turned to the happenings in Detroit on Wednesday.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning — 26 batters up, 26 batters out.

Cleveland’s Jason Donald then hit a grounder that first baseman Miguel Cabrera moved well to his right to field. Cabrera threw the ball to Galarraga, who touched first base well before Donald.

And umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe.

Later, Joyce uttered the quote of the season: “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

Joyce, who has received widespread praise for his skill and integrity as an umpire, met with Galarraga after the game and apologized. Galarraga’s reaction? He hugged the umpire.

“He feels really bad,” Galarraga told ESPN. “I know nobody’s perfect. I understand.”

When asked about the not-so-perfect ending, Epstein focused on the pitcher’s reaction.

“I thought the way Galarraga handled it was incredibly admirable,” he said. “I agree with what he said. Everyone’s human. People make mistakes. It’s unfortunate. Joyce is a great umpire and a really good guy.

“There’s something to be taken from it,” Epstein said. “When adversity happens, if we could all handle it the way Galarraga did, we’d be in good shape as an industry. It was pretty graceful.”

The classy reaction continued Thursday when Detroit’s manager, Jim Leyland, sent Galarraga to home plate with the lineup card before the game — and Galarraga shook hands with Joyce.

“This is a day for Detroit to shine,” Leyland said.

Now that everyone is taking the high road in response to the terrible call, what will the result be?

Commissioner Bud Selig will not reverse the call, but he did issue this statement: “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. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties.”

Epstein believes baseball is getting closer to an expanded use of instant replay.

“It’s something we talk about every year, and you can certainly make a strong case for it,” Epstein said. “I’m sure that it will be brought up again, and there will be even stronger cases for it.”

Epstein won’t reveal how he would vote.

He said he didn’t think Selig would reverse the call.

“I don’t see how baseball can let that happen,” he said. “Every time a team loses a game on a blown call, there’s going to be no good reason why that can’t be overturned as well. It’s a slippery slope and would fundamentally change the nature of the game.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona is concerned about how instant replay would affect the game, although he likes its use now for confirming home run calls.

“You can’t take it to everything,” Francona said. “We’d be out there all night.

“We’ve got pretty good umpires. Everybody makes mistakes,” Francona said. “That’s just the way the game is.”

But the way the game is now is flawed.

It will never be perfect, especially in the calling of balls and strikes, but Major League Baseball can do something about the really big calls that affect an outcome or a pitcher’s pitch for perfection.

There are options for instant replay. I can think of two:

One, allow each manager to challenge one play, which must be reviewed.

Or two, use a “fifth umpire,” who has immediate access to instant replay and can overturn calls that are obviously wrong.

Fix the really bad calls and improve the game.

And no umpire will ever again cost a kid a perfect game.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

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