Thursday, June 3, 2010

By David Saltzer - Senior Writer

My wife makes chocolate chip cookies. Damned good cookies. I love them. Looking in the mirror, I probably love them just a bit too much.

Honestly, they aren’t always the greatest looking cookies. Some of them are broken. Some have lots of chocolate chips in them. Some have few. Sometimes they come out just a bit too floury, and other times a bit burned. No matter what, I love them.

At the mall, I can get a Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie. That cookie is a gourmet cookie. It should be better than my wife’s cookie. After all, it’s been developed by professionals who have studied chocolate chip cookies. They have taste tested their product to supposedly match my palate. They have premade each cookie to make sure that they are all identical with uniform ingredients. They designed special ovens to guarantee that each one is not burned. In short, they have created the ideal cookie. But, even with all that perfection, I’d rather eat my wife’s cookies.

For the longest time, whenever I would walk by a Mrs. Fields shop in a mall, I wondered why in spite of all the perfection that I could easily resist buying a Mrs. Fields cookie but always had great difficulty resisting one of my wife’s cookies. Both cookies basically have the same ingredients. Both cookies are made in more or less the same fashion. So, why would it be easier to resist one cookie over the other? And, between the two cookies, why would the one that’s less than ideal be preferable?

To figure out this question, my wife and I did an experiment. My wife bought some premade cookie dough. She then used the same ingredients and a similar recipe to make some cookies from scratch. I then compared the two to see which one I preferred. Consistently, I could identify which ones were made from scratch and which ones were premade—even when blindfolded. This realization led me to understand why I preferred one cookie over the other.

The reason why I prefer my wife’s cookies over the premade ones has everything to do with the process of making them. My wife is not a machine. She is a wonderful, loving individual. But, sometimes she makes mistakes—even when baking her cookies. Sometimes she adds too many chocolate chips into the mix. When she does, the cookies are a special treat. Sometimes the cookies have too much flour, and the cookies are a bit dry, so I grab some milk to go with them. But no matter what, each of her cookies has its own unique identity.

The premade ones, though, consistently were bland and boring. Although they were identical in every way, they lacked the character and charm that my wife’s cookies had. Although they all looked perfect, there was no joy in getting a bigger cookie or a broken cookie. Since they all had the same ideal ingredients in them none of them required a glass of milk to help them go down.

Right now, there are a lot of calls to institute instant replay in baseball. Some calls go further and seek to replace all umpires with machines to make all of the calls on the field. I am utterly opposed to any form of instant replay or any form of technology-based umpiring during any baseball game for exactly the same reason why I prefer my wife’s cookies to Mrs. Fields’ cookies: instant replay would make the game bland and boring and ultimately, less satisfying.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why some fans want it. Blown calls can ruin the outcome of a game. It can cost a player or players a moment of glory, a series, a season, a post season, etc. I was there when Doug Eddings blew it for the Angels and was angry beyond belief. And I watched the replay of the blown call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game—one of the rarest feats in all of baseball—something that only 20 pitchers in the history of the game have done.

But, at the same time, I also know that blown calls add to the charm of the game. When Doug Eddings blew the call in 2005, I was yelling and screaming along with everyone else in the stadium. And, to this day, whenever I see him on the field, I still remind him of that blown call. I will forever boo A.J. Pierzynski whenever he comes to town as a reminder of that game five years ago.

Deep down, though, there is a part of me that somewhat enjoys the fact that Doug Eddings blew that call. Sure, at the moment it stung. But, with hindsight, a part of me is glad that it happened. I will never know if the Angels would have gone all the way that year. What I do know is that that day two villains were created. And for the five years since that day, I’ve enjoyed heckling for that incident from years ago. In fact, I look forward to seeing them on the field just to give them an extra bit of my ire. It has kindles a part of my passion for the sport.

Like most fans, I enjoy being able to heckle the umpires when the Angels are losing—especially when it seems like they are losing on close plays. It allows me as a fan to have someone to vent my frustration at while at the ballpark. It provides an instant release similar to that experienced by Shakespearean fans at the Globe Theater when they threw rotten fruit at the villains in the plays. If cameras and computers were the ultimate authorities on balls, strikes and outs, who or what would I have to heckle?

Baseball is a game that needs heroes and villains in order to let the drama unfold. Machines, by their very nature, are not dramatic. Who can honestly say that the Angels would have won that game in 2005? And if they did, can anyone say with absolute certainty that the Angels would have won the next game or the series? What about the series after that?

At the same time, who can honestly say that Galarraga would have come so close to pitching a perfect game if a machine had been calling balls and strikes all night long? Who can say that if the umpires took a few minutes to watch an instant replay of the blown call at first base if Galarraga would have been able to retire the next batter to get the next and final batter out? With so many variables in baseball, it’s not like we can immediately substitute the next play to determine an unknown outcome.

I had a high school baseball coach who used to tell my team that if we had to win solely based on the umpire’s calls then we weren’t playing the game the way that it should be played. We weren’t supposed to leave a win solely in the hands of an umpire.

Frankly, I’m happy that Galarraga did not call out umpire Jim Joyce for the blown call. Joyce admitted he blew the call. Galarraga said he also wasn’t sure that the call was blown until he saw the replay—meaning it was a close call—one that was tolerable within the limits of human error. That showed a tremendous amount of class on Galarraga’s part—an amount that will get me out of my seat the next time he pitches against the Angles to applaud him.

While I’m sure that had I been so close to pitching a perfect game, I would have been beyond frustrated at the moment, I am also sure that had the same event happened to me that I would realize that years from now that my feat would still be remembered by the fans. Much like how Angels fans remember Weaver’s almost no-hitter, Tigers fans will forever remember the game that Galarraga threw. Thousands who weren’t in attendance will claim to have been there, and the game will become part of their lore.

As I write this column, the baseball pundits are arguing the merits of instituting instant replay. Most seem to be in favor of some sort of technology resolution. I think I’ll go grab one of my wife’s floury chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk.

Love to hear what you think!

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