Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Motor City Badman

History was in the making tonight in Detroit. Two outs, top of the 9th. Tigers right-hander Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians. That's right, a would be third perfect game this season.

Tigers' centerfielder Austin Jackson had kept the perfecto intact with a remarkable over the shoulder basket, catch to rob Mark Grudzielanek of an extra base hit to start the 9th. Mike Redmond grounded out routinely for the second out. That left everything up to rookie Jason Donald. As it turned out not everything was up to the Indians' shortstop.

Donald hit a grounder to the right side. First baseman Miguel Cabrera speared it and threw to Galarraga covering. The pitcher caught the ball and stepped on the bag in one motion. He then raised his arms to begin the celebration. There was just one problem. First base umpire Jim Joyce had called Donald safe.

Cabrera and Galarraga were both stunned. The crowd booed. Tigers manager Jim Leyland came out, but didn't argue with his usual gusto. He seemed stunned too. A bang bang play would generally go to the pitcher with the great game going. But this wasn't even a bang bang play. It wasn't even close.

Galarraga retired Trevor Crowe to complete the one-hitter. And then the booing really began. Leyland came out and this time really lit into Joyce as did some of Galarraga's teammates. After the game Joyce lit into himself.
“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

“I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.

“I don’t blame them a bit or anything that was said,” Joyce said. “I would’ve said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would’ve been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me.”
Galarraga later accepted Joyce's apology and the two embraced. While Joyce gets major points for owning up to his mistake, the mis-call continued the trend of umpires making really bad calls in really big spots.

One only needs to think back to last year's playoffs when Phil Cuzzi erroneously called a Joe Mauer potential extra base hit foul when it was clearly fair. Major League Baseball needs to step up and do a better job of reviewing/correcting and yes, reprimanding umpires who do a poor job of either play calling or mishandling of situations (attention Joe West).

Joyce is said to be one of the best umpires in the game, so perhaps with time this will blow over. (It certainly hasn't for Don Deckinger who made a huge error in the 1985 World Series and is often referred to in these situations.) But the problem of MLB umpiring will continue to be a hot topic until Bud Selig and company get off their behinds and actually do something productive.

As you've noticed I have stuck to correcting/massaging the human error. I am completely against the use of instant replay for judgement calls. But what do you think? Take the new poll at the top of the page and let me know what you think.

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