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Imperfect Perfection

Few feats in sports compare to baseball’s perfect game. It is, by definition, flawless. Every little kid envisions retiring the 27th batter in a row and being mobbed by gleeful teammates. Every pitcher gets on the mound with a little part of them imagining that today is the day. Every fan hopes they will witness perfection when arriving at the ballpark. Yet, only 25* have ever accomplished the impossible. The list of men who have gone 27 up, 27 down is not simply a who’s who of Hall of Famers. For every Randy Johnson and Felix Hernandez, there’s a Dallas Braden and Philip Humber. And on Wednesday night, a new name was added to this list: Domingo Germán. But Germán’s nine innings will always have a shadow cast over them. (*Justice for Armando Galarraga).

In 2019 and 2020, Domingo Germán served an 81-game suspension for domestic violence. He faced accusations of slapping his then-girlfriend at an MLB event, followed by another instance of violence at his home later that night before a teammate intervened to stop him. Although police were not called and charges not filed, there was enough evidence to impose an 81-game suspension.

I’ve never been faced with so many mixed emotions while watching a baseball game as I was on Wednesday night. Growing up, I would go through the box score of every game when I woke up, searching for the hits column to see if history was made the night before. Perfect games and no-hitters are two of my favorite events in sports, and baseball hasn’t seen the former in over a decade. 

Every time a pitcher has made it through six innings of perfection (unless they were playing the Yankees), I’ve hoped they would get the final nine outs. So, when I turned on Wednesday’s game after I got home and heard Ryan Ruocco declare that fans who are up should stay up, I got excited. I didn’t realize who was on the mound until they came back from commercial, and my heart sank. 

Whenever I see Germán in a Yankee jersey, I cringe. I hate that they employed Aroldis Chapman for years, and I feel the same for Germán. The first association that comes to mind is the cloud of domestic violence accusations surrounding him. He is on a short list of athletes that I truly despise. Yet, in my gut, I knew I wanted him to retire nine more A’s. 

I wanted to watch a perfect game. I wanted to hear Ruocco’s call. I wanted to see my favorite team make history. But every time they zoomed in on Germán’s face or talked about how he “bounced back so well” from allowing 10 in his last start, I second-guessed my rooting interest. It felt wrong to root for this man to have his name in the stars, yet I couldn’t help myself. And I’m sure a lot of baseball fans (especially Yankee fans) felt similarly.

The aura of brilliance surrounding a perfect game is truly unmatched. Everyone is clicking on all cylinders, from pitcher to catcher to fielders. No mistakes are going to be made. In a game of inches, every inch will be accounted for. It is an unbelievable experience, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed for hoping to witness it. It is where we go now–how we talk about Germán and his newly formed legacy–that is important.

He will always be associated with June 28, 2023. He showed up to work–with his rotation spot likely on the line–and did everything right. On that day, Domingo Germán, the baseball player, was perfect. But, Domingo Germán, the baseball player, and Domingo Germán, the person, are not two separate entities. They are one. So, when we talk about his nine innings of brilliance, we must also question whether or not he should’ve even been on the mound in the first place. We must question baseball’s domestic violence policy and challenge the prevailing culture in the sport of simply “moving on” from heinous actions so long as someone can still throw a baseball 96-mph. 

Over those nine innings, I was lost in the moment. I didn’t think of who was on the mound, only the box score. I rooted for a Yankee to make history. Many fans rooted against Germán, and they had every right to do so. He doesn’t deserve the glory. I wish it could’ve been anyone else, and I will hope every day that someone throws the next perfect game as soon as possible so Germán’s name will be uttered just a few times less. But, in the meantime, we must use this moment to create a new dialogue about domestic violence and other crimes in sports and how we move forward with the perpetrators.

The beauty of baseball is anyone can make history on any given day, no matter who they are. The failure of baseball is anyone can make history on any given day, no matter who they are. Things need to change in the sport’s culture soon. We should be able to celebrate accomplishments without questioning our own morals. In the meantime, it is okay to celebrate an amazing feat. It is also okay to feel sorrow at the name associated with said feat. Domingo Germán’s name will be forever etched in baseball history, but it should be spelled in red ink.

Featured Photo: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Koplik

Rudy said my bio was too long. Hamilton College '25 Yankees writer, fluent in nerd. Follow me @adamkoplik on Twitter.

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