Baseball Jeremiad

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A Curiously Intelligent Baseball blog

Further reflection on Galarraga and Joyce and The Call

After the game Joyce reportedly went to the Tigers locker room and apologized to Galarraga and Leyland, having seen the replay and determining that yes, he missed the call.

So now Joyce, Leyland, and Galarraga are all being classy.  Does that make it harder for the fans, because there’s no real enemy? Apparently not, because Joyce is being skewered online at every turn; he is being made the enemy.  That is not the right thing to do.  That is not going to change the call.

As Jersey Matt put it:

To begin: if this call was made in the third inning, would it be as big of a deal?

Sure, Joyce blew the call.  We all get that.

However, we do have the benefit of slowing down the picture to split-second.

Ah yes: I can hear them now, the calls for replay.

But guys and gals, baseball is different.  There’s a beautiful human element involved in it.  Ball and strikes aren’t standardized.  The multitude of variables in baseball (umpires and field dimensions to name two) are what make it beautiful.

Sure it’s an indelicate argument I’m making, but poor calls, borderline calls, great calls, 50/50 calls are what make baseball a hell of a lot more entertaining and engrossing than any of the other “major” sports.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains and sometimes the umpire (just as you and I do in life) plain miss the call.

From other corners of the interwebs: ESPN has begun some polls on its SportsNation page about the game and the call.  As of 11:35 pm eastern, here are the poll results.

Should safe/out calls at the bag be reviewable by instant replay?

Yes      80%

No       20%

How upset are you by Jim Joyce’s safe call that ended Armando Galarraga’s perfect game with two outs in the ninth?

Extremely upset          80%

Moderately upset        16%

Not upset                    4%

Should Jim Joyce be reprimanded by MLB?

Yes, a fine                   16%

Yes, a suspension        40%

No action                    44%

Even if Jim Joyce thought the play at first was tie, should he have called out to preserve the perfect game?

Yes      61%

No       39%

In every one of these results with a majority response, the majority is just wrong.  In the only one without a majority, the one about reprimanding Joyce, the plurality is correct that no action should be taken, but the crowd that wants Joyce suspended is dangerously close behind.

I want to give the misguided people who voted with the majorities in these polls the benefit of the doubt that they are just reacting to what happened tonight, but I know it’s not that simple.  The proof is that 80% of voters think that had Joyce thought the play was a tie he should have punched the runner out anyway to preserve the perfect game.  That is just insane.  If people believe he should have done that, they must believe that it is common practice or at least an accepted one.  If that were true, similar accomplishments lose their integrity.  If I believed that I was watching a game wherein umps consciously gave calls away, I would not watch anymore.  You might as well watch WWE.

Here’s the important thing to remember.  In any other game wherein an ump blows a call, judgment is usually held in reserve until it is clear whether the blown call affected the outcome of the game.  If Joyce misses that same call in the fourth inning, then the next guy homers, and then the Indians win by one run, the call becomes relevant.  If the next guy grounds out and that run never scores, the call doesn’t matter.  Sure, the pitcher threw some extra pitches, etc., but it really didn’t change the game dramatically.  It’s like earned and unearned runs, but for umpires.

Joyce did not change the outcome of the game.  The point of the game is for your team to win the game.  The Tigers won the game.  Joyce’s error did not lead to an unearned run.  It’s okay.  Really.

A different angle: baseball fans will remember this for a long, long time.  I don’t think I am exaggerating when I predict I will remember that play always.  Fans will remember this like they remember Mussina and Holman, the almost-perfect games, even though, as I pointed out earlier, this one is a little different because it “should” have been perfect.

So let’s just allow that supposition for the sake of this argument, that we will remember this one differently because it “should” have been, as opposed to it simply “almost was.”  As in: “Remember the Mussina game, with Everett? He was so close!” vs. “Remember Galarraga and Joyce? That should have been a perfect game.”  We will forever classify it as “shoulda.”  It shoulda been.  Shoulda but wasn’t.  Argh, so close.

And why will we do that? Because in the box score tomorrow Galarraga’s line will say he surrendered a hit.  And that’s that.  Once it’s in the box score, that’s it.  We baseball fans are slaves to stats, box scores, and history.  If Galarraga’s name is not on that list with Halladay and Braden and the 18 other guys, then the call ultimately doesn’t matter.  I think there is something really great about that.  I’m not sure what it is, or why, especially because I feel so bad for Galarraga, but it makes me love baseball even more.  I think it’s about respecting the game and all the players in it, including the umps, and the human element that makes the game unique.

A little follow-up on Joyce: I just heard a clip of him on a Detroit radio station talking about the call.  Going on Detroit radio to face the music is something to be commended in and of itself, but what he said is telling.  He kept repeating “I blew it, I blew it, I kicked the call.”  He obviously feels terrible and is taking full responsibility for it.  He acknowledged the historical impact, and without mincing words or merely alluding.  He said it outright.  As a fan you can’t ask for a better response from the guy.

Upstanding responses from the pitcher robbed of a perfect game and the umpire who did the robbing.  I think this is the kind of thing we occasionally yearn for when we are consumed with meaningless spats, overblown rivalries, umpires complaining about the length of games, and jerk players.  We cry “Where have all the gentlemen gone? Where have the pride and the love of the game gone?” Well, here they are.

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