I feel bad for Jim Joyce. I really do. Umpires make mistakes, and when they do, everybody forgets the hundreds of other split-second decisions they get right during the course of a game. They’re also consistent, for the most part. If an umpire doesn’t call that pitch three inches off the black once, he’s probably not going to call it all day long.
Lately, Major League Baseball umpires have been put under a microscope, through nobody’s fault but their own. Joe West lost his mind in the balkfest in Chicago last week; Angel Hernandez apparently had a dinner reservation somewhere in Toronto Tuesday night, and now Jim Joyce trumps them both with a call that even Don Denkinger can’t believe. Judging by the Indians’ players who were in the frame on that replay, they couldn’t believe it either.
This morning the attitude among reporters and fans alike here in The D is “What can you do?” People are talking about this being a prime opportunity for Major League Baseball to implement some sort of Instant Replay to use similar to how they use it for questionable home runs. Some are saying that “in the best interests of baseball” and “to strengthen the integrity of the game,” commissioner Bud Selig should officially overturn the call and give Galarraga the perfect game. But this is baseball.
It’s the sweet swing of the Splendid Splinter, the Babe and The Shot Heard ‘Round the World. It’s Griffey scoring from second and a 250-foot seed from the arm of Ichiro to the plate in Yankee Stadium. It’s Ty Cobb’s spikes and Phil Niekro’s nail file. Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson and “let’s play two.”
But like any other sport it also has Tim McClelland calling Robinson Cano safe, or Doug Eddings and the phantom dropped third strike. Or Denkinger.
And now, Jim Joyce.
Despite some emotion-filled postgame actions by various Tiger players, I don’t think anybody involved could’ve handled the situation better. Galarraga had to be dying inside, but he was gracious and understanding. Jim Leyland looked like he was going to cry during his postgame presser. And here was Jim Joyce, who worked Nolan Ryan’s 5000th strikeout and Robin Yount’s 3000th hit, and who is generally thought of as a stand-up guy and a good umpire – the kind of guy whose name you don’t know, which is how it should be with sports officials. Joyce was at the center of it all, and he blew it, and he knew it, and he owned up to it and apologized.
Joyce is scheduled to work the plate in today’s matinee between the Indians and Tigers, and Gerald Laird, who had the night off and was one of the first players in Joyce’s face after the game, will be the starting catcher for Detroit. I’d imagine the fallout from this will be that Joyce is reprimanded for the call and that baseball will again spend some time in the offseason rules meetings discussing Instant Replay, which will again be taken to a vote, and will be soundly defeated by something like 28-2 in favor of no changes, and that’s the way it should be.
2010 is the first season in modern baseball history that two perfect games have been thrown in the same season, and there have been just 20 perfect games overall. To be perfect, a pitcher needs everyone around him to be perfect as well. Unfortunately for Armando Galarraga, everybody was except for one guy.
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