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Jim Joyce will be living with this call forever

Jun 2, 2010, 10:30 PM EDT

Jim Joyce.jpgJim Joyce screwed up, no question.  But because there is no replay in Major League Baseball outside of home run calls, he is unable to have the benefit of a second set of eyes or a second chance that just about all of us have in our jobs.  He’s in the worst place possible, really. Armando Galarraga got screwed out of his perfect game, but at least he has everyone’s sympathy. Joyce gets the scorn and there’s not a hell of a lot he can do about it.

In the coming days he will be an object of derision by fans and the media which will blow things totally out-of-proportion.  Within an hour of the blown call Joyce’s Wikipedia page was edited to include anti-Semitic comments and even a “date of death” of June 2, 2010.  Such things would be shocking if they weren’t so typical.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more direct death threats than that one. Making me uneasy right now: Joyce is from Toledo and played ball at Bowling
Green State University. He still lives in Bowling Green, actually. Lots of Tigers fans up that
way.

The first person I thought of as this story was breaking a couple of hours ago was Don Denkinger.  He was the ump that called the Kansas City Royals’ Jorge Orta safe in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series when he clearly was out. The Royals were down 1-0 at the time and if that held up the Cardinals would have won the Series. They rallied, though, won the game 2-1 and went on to win Game 7.

A bit of a different situation here tonight as this game (a) was not as important as the World Series — in fact, it didn’t affect the outcome of the game one iota; and (b) it was the last out, so there wasn’t the same uncertainty that holds for how Game 6 would have unfolded.

But that’s not a big difference for Joyce. Like Denkinger, he’s going to have to live with this forever.  Indeed, as Joe Posnanski noted recently, Denkinger still, nearly 25 years later, gets boos and jeers over the call. Joyce will probably experience much the same.

Based on his comments after the game — and the fact that, according to
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick
, he went to the Tigers’ locker room and
apologized
to Armando Galarraga and Jim Leyland personally — he’s feeling it
already. He could have taken a defiant stance like we’ve seen so many
umpires take over the years. He could have said that the ball was
bobbled. He could have just bullheadedly insist that he saw what he saw
and that was that. But he didn’t. He has owned up to his mistake in the
only limited way he can.

But it really doesn’t matter, does it? Emotions will rule for the short term and the obvious narrative — Joyce screwed some young guy out of a perfect game — will set in for posterity.  I get that.

But I also feel pretty bad for Jim Joyce tonight. A man who made a mistake he can do nothing to fix and for which no apology will truly be accepted.

  1. MVD - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:41 AM

    At least he apologized. He’s not a stubborn prick like most umpires. Its time to forgive. But lets not use a mugshot when discussing him.
    Oh, and ditto on Griffey. Shoulda said something about the greatest player of all time.

  2. Brian - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:10 AM

    When an umpire screws up this big they should have only two choices. Either step down and retire or get demoted to Single A. That’s it. It wasn’t a hard call. He was right there. He could see the ball. He could see Galarraga touch first. He could see the runner. He was set up perfect to make the right call. He blew it! he should pay for it. Go down and let someone in Triple A have a chance.

  3. sjp - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    First, there are already multiple posts on Griffey’s retirement. Really, what is there to say about it that hasn’t already been said? It was overdue.
    Second, the fans need some perspective. Everyone makes mistakes, few readily admit to them even in light of incontrovertible evidence. Honest mistakes are no reason to punish an umpire.
    Third, Joyce mistake really wasn’t that important to baseball, only to Galarraga. It did not affect the outcome of the game, which, BTW, is the most important thing. Yeah, perfect games are cool and all…but, “you play to win the game”.
    I understand the venom/frustration directed at arrogant showboating umpires. All Joyce did was screw up, everyone does that, but few react as well to such situations as Galarraga and Joyce did.

  4. Nate - Jun 3, 2010 at 7:48 AM

    Bad calls are made all the time. Fixing this would open Pandora’s box.

  5. Jimmy - Jun 3, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    Single A? Where’s the precedent? Only two choices? What are you talking about? As I’ve said above: To claim that because it was the last out of a perfect game he MUST get the call right is to assume that he isn’t doing his best to make the correct call on every other play of the game. Joyce made the call he thought appropriate, and I’d like to think he would have called him safe had it been in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, or any other inning in the game. He made the call, it was wrong, and the fact that it was on the final out of a perfect game is unfortunate and heartbreaking, but not malicious. Give me a break people, think before you speak.

  6. Ross - Jun 3, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    Craig, sit down, get comfortable. Try not to sprain anything when I tell you…Curt Schilling agrees with you. http://espn.go.com/mlb/notebook/_/page/bbtn100603/baseball-tonight-clubhouse

  7. andy - Jun 3, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    It is worth noting that he also made a bad call in the bottom of the 8th that gave the Tigers 2 more runs.
    I think this type of call is probably pretty difficult for umps. Normally on a throw to first they can watch the bag and listen for the ball to hit the mitt (or vice versa). In this case he has to simultaneously look at whether he has control of the ball and the foot is on the base before the runner gets there. This seems practically impossible to get right all of the time. But I’m sure most of us expected him to err on the side of the perfect game in that situation.

  8. Chris W - Jun 3, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    ” The Royals were down 1-0 at the time and if that held up the Cardinals would have won the Series.”
    That’s a completely irresponsible thing to write. Orta was “safe” with NO ONE OUT in the 9th. For you to say that if that call held up “the Cardinals would have won the series” shows a misunderstanding of the game of baseball completely uncharacteristic of you Craig. If you want to argue for replay, try not to get into Fox News histrionics

  9. Craig Calcaterra - Jun 3, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    I meant if the lead held up. If the call held up things still would have been as it was. For me to be talking about the call, I would have had to say “if that didn’t happen” or “if that was reversed.”

  10. MARQUI - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    he is a MLB umpire, that was a easy and clear call, i don’t care, he will get what he deserve.

  11. Tom - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Everyday people must suffer the consequences of bad decisions made on their jobs every day. Umpires should be no different. While the apology is nice, it is not enough. Joyce should be fined or suspended. What about the second base umpire. He had to have seen the play. Why didnt he assist in making sure the right call was made. Saying I am sorry doesnt always cut it. Run a red light at 3:00 in the morning with nobody on the road and no harm done. What if another car is coming and you cause an accident. Consequences matter.

  12. Ben - Jun 5, 2010 at 1:14 AM

    I agree that Joyce should be held accountable for his actions. Should he be fired? I wouldn’t go that far but he does deserve some type of demotion. Now before some of you start telling me that I should let it go because he apologized or it was one mistake and he should be given a break – listen … these umpires are paid fairly well. Nothing like what the players make but they are compensated fairly for the skills that enable them to be MLB umpires. And just like in any profession, you must be do you job correctly if you want to keep it. If you dont, you are held accountable for you’re short comings. I know this is quite the stretch, but a doctor is not supposed to make certain mistakes and if he does he can cost someone their life. If a doctor, in fact, costs someone their life then they will lose their license and never be able to practice again. On the other hand there is an umpire – held to certain codes of ethics and professionalism and expected to perform at a high level of excellence. If he messes up a call, he can drastically impact the outcome of a game where highly paid and highly skilled athletes are competing. Its not life altering, but it surely isnt your local little league game. I guess what I’m saying is – it is a big deal. People should be upset and he should face consequences for blowing this call. An apology is not good enough. Not for fans, not for players and not even for himself – otherwise, why would he be so upset? He knows he messed up and the level of his own remorse reflects just how serious this issue is. If baseball is going to be a unique sport where video playback is not always used, then players and fans need to be able to trust those who make the calls. This guy changed history tonight by stripping a pitcher of a historical accomplishment and for that he should be demoted. And just because the pitcher handled the situation with grace and first class sportsmanship, doesnt mean the ump should be excused. Armando acted how a professional athlete should act – with class.

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