MOST OF THE TIME, THE UMP GETS IT RIGHT…THEN THERE ARE THOSE OTHER TIMES…

I found a wayback machine archive of a post I’d made on an old version of this site – I had shared server space and was using some prepacked ASP with an Access database backend. Looked super slick and I was really proud of what I’d put together…until it got hacked and the data was completely corrupted. Lesson learned about backups.

At any rate, I’ll try to post as many rediscovered posts as I can. To give some context to the following post, you may want to read this article from Fox Sports on June 3, 2010.

This post originally appeared on June 4, 2010 on a previous incarnation of Morrisseyweb.

We’ve now all had some 24 or more hours to digest the catastrophe that should have been baseball’s 21st perfect game.  We’ve heard the calls for instant replay grow louder.  We’ve heard   umpire Jim Joyce apologize for having blown the call.  We’ve seen the two proverbially kiss and make up on Thursday night. Bud Selig announced that he would not overturn the call and so, despite the human error involved, the record books will forever record a one-hitter. There are so many points to be made on the back of Mssrs. Joyce, Galarraga, and Selig, I don’t even have to come up with a silly theme to knit disparate stories together.  I am here to accept the mantle of arguing the unpopular position on a more than one count, and defending the largely unpopular people.

The basic premise of my argument is that we all know the rules before the game starts.  An OUT is one of the three required retirements of an offensive team during its time at bat.  It is the discretion of the umpire as to whether a batter or runner is deemed “out.”  And according to baseball’s rule 9.02:   Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to…whether a runner is safe or out, is final.[my emphasis added] No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.  


Umpire Don Denkinger notes that while he has publicly acknowledged that he blew the essentially same call in the 1985 World Series (and some argue that robbed a team of a World Series), he has never apologized for blowing the call.  Nor should he have.  The umpire is a professional and is charged with representing Major League Baseball in his professional capacities.  As the representative of my organization, I can admit having made a mistake, but to “apologize” for having made a mistake accepts regret for having made it and therefore the consequences of it.  To apologize for having made this mistake is unprofessional.  It’s fine to apologize for failing to do your job – but whether or not he blew it on the first play of the game or on batter 27, it doesn’t matter.  He didn’t fail to do his job, he just did his job poorly on that one play.  He should be held to account, but not held to account for costing Galarraga a perfect game – he should be held to account for blowing a call.

Joyce by apologizing for his call compounds the issue for me.  He’s a professional.  He made a mistake, as people will oft do.  His biggest mistake for me was not in making the call as he did.  If he is to be sorry for something, it should be for failing to ask a colleague for another opinion.  Buck up, man, and admit to the mistake – and a big one it was, to be sure – but it was his discretion not to ask.  We all know the umpire’s ruling on the field of play in terms of judgment is final.  And we know the umpire is human and prone to the same mistakes humans make.  He used poor judgement in failing to ask for a second opinion.  Sometimes poor judgment is part of the human experience, but we accept that as part of the game.

Sure, we can eliminate almost all mistakes with the technology of the day.  We can add microchips to the balls and to the field to determine whether or not a ball is fair or not.  We can submit to QuesTec calling balls and strikes, and high resolution cameras to capture the plays on the field to determine safe/out.  While we’re at it, why not simply impose a pitch clock, like the one in basketball clicking to make sure a player doesn’t hold onto the ball for more than 5-seconds?  Instant replay would not supplement the umpire.  It usurps his authority on the field.

By the time the 1985 World Series was played, there had been some 82 series.  By design, there’s a series every year…more or less.  Of the hundreds of world series games, Denkinger’s blown call is the one that sticks out.  Maybe because it happened only some 25 years ago and we have footage.  Maybe it was the worst call in world series history.  It may be the worst call in over 100 years of World Series baseball.  Consider this for a moment – it arguably changed the history of baseball.  The Kansas City Royals won their only title as a result of having a bite of the apple they might not deserved.  Granted, the Cardinals had their chances to demonstrate they should have won before that, and they allowed their emotions – completely unprofessional – to guide them in their smack down loss in Game 7.  But Denkinger never apologized.  There was no reason to – he is a professional adjudicating a game played by professionals.  He shouldn’t have to.

Joyce made an error of judgement.  It cost a perfect game for a young pitcher because it was on batter #27.  Galarraga came as close to a perfect game as you can without doing it and there was nothing more he could have done to demonstrate he should have accomplished it.  There was no next play you could make.  There was no earlier play that could’ve been made.  There was no “tomorrow.”  I respect this man for his grace in accepting that Joyce blew it.  He didn’t pout and throw things.  He went back to the mound and finished the game.  He immediately retired batter #28.  That’s a cold, calculating professional.  In a way, I respect Joyce for calling the runner safe when he thought he was safe – he knew that if he made the wrong call, he would be vilified…as he has been.  And he made it anyway.  All of that is out the window with an apology.
Would you be as pissed about it if he had blown the call on batter #1?  Would he apologize then?

I hate that I defend Bud Selig’s decision that he cannot overrule the umpire – presumably on the basis of “the best interests of baseball.”  I think Bud is one of the biggest tools in sports.  He can’t over turn it.  Can’t.  It sets such a dangerous precedent: would you retroactively overturn the call in 1985’s game 6?  I do feel so much better about myself and my world view when I can tear open a new one even when I agree with a Selig decision.  “There is no dispute that last night’s game should have ended differently,” he says (damn, I hate agreeing with him – even if he spouts a truism), but then he says baseball will “examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features”  Why?  There is no difference between this call and any other botched call.  I also like criticizing Selig inadvertently as it may be, because he praised Joyce’s handling of the situation.  

I hate the DH.  I hate interleague play.  I hate instant replay on home runs.  So I’m an antique.  BUT, the game is not perfect unless the umpire says it’s perfect.  And he didn’t say it was.  Even though he says he made a mistake.  Galarraga was robbed, but the rules in play at the moment that call was made were the same rules that were in play at the beginning of the game.  It was a possibility, however remote, but it was a possibility.  Sometimes things like this happen.

Author: Mo

I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. I like old school sneakers, baggy jeans, and oversized sweatshirts. I believe there is no such thing as a short sleeve dress shirt. I like neckties. I do not understand camping, car racing, or algebra – but I can camp and have been known to go a little faster than the speed limit. I have NEVER been known to do a quadratic equation.

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