Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Armando Galarraga is a better person than I

Screen grab of Galarraga's reaction to the botched call

Screen grab of Galarraga's reaction to the botched call

I can’t remember the last time something in baseball made me as mad and sad as Jim Joyce’s botched call last night.  After messing with baseball history and Armando Galarraga’s place in it, Joyce has defenders all across baseball because he’s a good guy and, after seeing the replay, admitted he was wrong.

Here’s the thing.  Being a good guy is wonderful.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be reprimanded or you shouldn’t have it painfully pointed out when you screw up as tremendously as Joyce did last night.  And while I realize that most umpires seem loath to ever admit they’re wrong, I don’t give someone all that much credit for doing just that when faced with video evidence that makes it clear, with absolutely no uncertainty, that he was wrong.  Terribly, ridiculously wrong.  Joyce gets credit for facing the music so quickly after the game (something a lot of umps NEVER do) but the fact is he still ruined it.  He destroyed what should have been an amazing moment in baseball history.  And why?  Because he couldn’t handle the pressure?  Watch the replay and it really looks like he’s about to call him out but gives the safe sign instead.  Did he just have a brain freeze?  He claims he really believed Jason Donald was safe.  His body language, to me, indicates otherwise.  Regardless, I’m not in the camp of “It’s all good because Joyce feels terrible and he’s a good guy”.  I’m not.  It’s not all good and I think MLB should review it, change the call and give Joyce some kind of reprimand.  Of course none of this will happen because MLB never does anything publicly to acknowledge when umpires mess up so the best I can hope for is this God-awful season of umpiring is held up to the Umpires union as a reason for changing the way the umpires are handled.  I am done, done with the “human” element in umpiring.  Don’t tell me it messes with the tradition of the game.  Screwing up calls this severely is what messes with the game.   In this era of technology, there is no reason for something like last night to ever happen.

I should point out that the man wronged, the man who had history snatched away from him in a moment, the man who’s greatest achievement in his career went up in smoke because of the “human element” is truly the amazing person in this situation.  Give Joyce credit for admitting he blew it (which, as I wrote, I really don’t all that much) but the remarkable person here is Armando Galarraga.  Not because he is only the 21st pitcher to throw a perfect game in MLB history, but because of the way he handled the entire situation.  It was his glove that caught what should have been the final out.  His foot on first base.  He’s the one who made the out.  He knew he made the out.  He knew the game was over and he was perfect.  But when Joyce called Donald safe, he smiled at Joyce with the knowledge he was wrong.  He shook his head.  Then he walked back to the pitcher’s mound and finished the game.  After the game he did something even more amazing than that…he told the media that nobody is perfect and that he and Joyce hugged it out after Joyce apologized to him.  I think it goes without saying that Galarraga is a bigger person than most of us.

I don’t want Jim Joyce set on fire.  I don’t even want  him mercilessly hassled by the fans (although you know that’s coming if he is, as scheduled, behind the plate tonight).   I want Jim Joyce to be responsible for his actions and “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough. (Also, Jim, I’m pretty damn sure, regardless of how cool he’s being, Armando feels worse than you, sir.)  Keith Olbermann wrote a wonderful blog entry about exactly what Joyce could do to make this better.

Joyce’s recognition of his miss – and the degree to which he missed it (“from here to the wall”) is another reason for the Commissioner to intervene. Who would be hurt by him doing so? The Indians? The Tigers? The integrity of the game? The Umpires, or this Umpire? Listen to this and tell me “this umpire”.

And if you say no safe or out call has ever been appealed, or overturned, that’s patently false. There were rules interpretations involved that do not apply here, but in both the 1908 Merkle Game and the 1983 Pine Tar Game, game-ending “out” calls by prominent, gifted umpires were reviewed in agonizing detail by League Presidents. And in the case of the Pine Tar Game, the “out” call that ended the game was reversed and the game replayed from the point of the umpire’s mistake.

MLB, hell let’s call it like it is, BUD SELIG, needs to step up here.  And if Jim Joyce feels so damn terrible about what he did, he should stand up to and, as Olbermann suggests, contact the league himself.  Your apology rings hollow if all you’re going with is, “I messed it up and I feel terrible”.  Do something more, Jim Joyce, and at least TRY to make things right.

Last night Galarraga proved that not only could he pitch the hell out of a game but that he has class and grace beyond the expectations of just about everyone.  MLB needs to reward this by doing the right thing and reversing the damn call.

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June 3, 2010 - Posted by | 2010 | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. You raise a really important issue here, Cyn. If I were Commissioner I would not reprimand Jim Joyce for making a mistake on that call. But I sure would create the mechanism necessary to change the call.

    The following is very lame, because my experience is very lame, but the point is worth raising. I umpired for a while in a context hilariously less professional than Joyce’s, but in ump school they teach the same stuff to you regardless of where you’re going to use it: those bang-bang calls at first are made with two senses–sight and hearing. You listen for the ball hitting the glove and you watch for the foot hitting the bag. You have the whole picture in peripheral vision and the INSTANT you see the foot hit, you look up to confirm the catch, but as you establish the order of the events–runner’s foot, receiver’s catch–you’re LISTENING for the catch. On a soft toss or on a “snow-cone” catch like this one (in which the receiver catches the ball in the outer webbing rather than the palm of the glove), that sound may be muffled.

    So I can totally “get” why Mr. Joyce messed up that call. It was not an irresponsible, unprofessional, or even incompetent act: it was just a mistake, and in context, an understanable one. But also a wretched one, given the situation. Which Joyce has, like a true professional, acknowledged publicly. All good.

    What’s NOT good, as you point out, is that the pitcher–and his team–are stuck with the consequences of that mistake. And that’s just wrong, given present technology. The problem is that the league has no consistent provision for redressing an error like this. They do in the case of home-run-or-off-the-wall calls, but not for ball-or-strike or safe-or-out calls. No reason not to, given the precision of modern broadcast photography–and other technologies that could be brought into play (look at tennis, for heaven’s sake: they have a mechanical means of detecting whether a ball is in or out, and at the players’ option, they use it). NFL does replay work. MLB should also. Would take a whole lot of heat and crap off the shoulders of the umpires, at least 75% of whom are outstanding at what they do and still, inevitably, MISS SOME CALLS.

    Comment by Elaine Apthorp | June 3, 2010 | Reply


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