Imperfect Joyce

How Bud Selig’s Frank Dismissal Affects Everything

Originally published in the now defunct: Two On One Out | 04 June 2010

First, let’s send a memo out to those who are, or who will be, thrust into the negative national spotlight in the near future.

It contains two simple words.

Man-up.

Act like Jim Joyce.

When you screw up, look at the evidence, admit that you are wrong, and apologize. Of course, a few tears don’t hurt.

Sincerity goes a long way, folks, and Jim Joyce’s simple sincerity has quite possibly saved his future as an umpire.
Ken Burns said it best when he was interviewed by Kieth Olbermann on Thursday. “This is an amazing story, and that’s what I’m interested in. The magnanimity of Galarraga, the sort of honesty and courage of Joyce, everybody sort of coming together, makes it one of those classic human baseball stories.”

This is a fantastic story because of the immediate reactions; the disbelief of the players and fans, the resilience of Joyce, the emotion shown by Armando Galarraga, Jim Leyland, and Miguel Cabrera just after the play—and as the game continued, Cabrera seen jawing at Joyce between every pitch—and finally the pure, honest admittance by Joyce as soon as he saw the replay.

This is a fantastic story because of the immediate aftermath; the media was all over the story, it was headlined by nearly every major news site all through the next night and into Thursday, and still is on MLB.com, ESPN.com, and YAHOO.com Friday morning.

This is a fantastic story because of how it was handled by those directly involved; Jim Joyce seen crying as he accepted the Detroit Tiger’s lineup card from Armando Galarraga, who received a new Corvette courtesy of GM, was recognized by Michigan’s Governor for pitching a perfect game, and through everything has shown no anger or ill will.

Sure, Joyce screwed up.

Big time.

In fact, looking at all of this information over the last day; the blogs, photos, video, and constant headlined coverage over the Internet, I think his decision might have been the biggest blown call of all-time, thanks to the circumstance and the direct impact of the play.

But, if you listen to his comments after the game, how can you blame him? How can you look at him with anger?

You feel his pain and regret just as you feel for Armando Galarraga, a beleaguered pitcher who has never really figured the big leagues out, until Wednesday night, that is.

You feel for the Detroit Tigers, who played their hearts out for their pitcher, and you feel bad for the Detroit fans (hey, I’m one of them) who live in the most troubled city in America; who have battled through company failures (Ford, Chrysler, GM), unemployment spikes (nearly 30 percent in many places and still growing), horrifying crimes (Aiyana Jones ) , corrupt politicians (Kwame Kilpatrick), and national criticism, for the last several years.

When this happened, how could you not think; well, it’s Detroit, Mich. what luck do they have?

We don’t. We have no luck.

I watched the game live on FSN Detroit from the start, and then, began ignoring everything else in my life after the seventh inning. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Literally. Could. Not. Believe. It.

Here we had a pitcher who really was the last pitcher anyone thought would ever throw a no-hitter, much less a perfect game; we had a team that had lost eight of their last 10 games; we had a game where only 17,738 people showed up on a Wednesday night, after a day of horribly, muggy, rainy weather.

This was not Mother’s Day. This was not a game started by Roy Halladay. In fact, this was not a game that was started by a member of Detroit’s opening day roster.

This was not supposed to happen.

But roughly an hour and a half after the first pitch, Joyce blew the perfect call and what followed is simply going to be etched into sports, and really, American history.

To hear the emotion of Tiger’s color commentator, Rod Allen cry out, “Why is he safe? Oh, my goodness, Jim Joyce, Nooooo, why is he safe?” still sends a shiver down my spine.

To hear Jim Joyce, after he saw the replay, “No I did not get the call correct. I kicked the shit out of it…There’s nobody that feels worse than I do…I just missed the damn call…I took a perfect game away from that kid.”

I want to tell him that it’s okay, I understand. I do.

So do you.

To hear Armando Galarraga, in his broken English, “Nobody’s perfect.” I have to shake my head and wonder how he can act so stoic, with such class, when I, a mere fan who wasn’t even at the ballpark, am seething, when I am so mad at the injustice of human error, at the lack of instant replay, that I can barely form the frustrated words in my head.

Since Jim Joyce isn’t the bad guy, who is?

There has to be one, right? This can’t possibly turn out well for everyone, can it?

No.

And we have Bud Selig to thank for that.

Selig, who in acting in the way he always has, has become the laughing stock of the baseball world because he will not overturn the call.

Yet.

Unlike the NFL and NBA, Major League Baseball and their Big Wigs still use quill pens, work via candlelight, and wear grey wigs as they polish their single-bullet muskets (a.k.a. baseball bats).

In short, baseball doesn’t change very quickly, if it all.

Selig merely promised that they (those quill pen users) will look at expanding instant replay as well as the umpiring crews, going forward.

He thus leaves Jim Joyce as the big-hearted umpire who blew the call in the perfect game, as Major League Baseball’s goat for this whole debacle.

Listen, I understand that in baseball you will rarely change an umpire’s call, if you do that once you are grabbing hold of that piece of thread on a poorly made t-shirt. When you pull, where does it end? At what point do you stop overturning calls that have been blown by human error?

But, it has happened , and in far less direct circumstances, on a far bigger stage. Even if it was 27 years ago.

In this situation, Joyce’s call came on the last play of the game, the final play of a perfect game, and the very next batter bounced out to end the game.

If you award Galarraga the perfect game, nothing really changes; Galarraga would officially throw 83 pitches instead of 88, Trevor Crowe would not be charged with the final at-bat, and Jason Donald would not be awarded the hit (hey, even he admitted: “Yeah, I was out.”).

That’s it, that’s all that changes, and while there would be no on-field celebration, the jubilation would still be there, Galarraga would go down in the record books as the 21st pitcher to throw a perfect game, and dare I say it, justice would be served.

It would be served because this situation is just different than other blown calls in baseball.

This situation reeks of plausible deniability.

When a murderer confesses to his crime, do we shrug it off and say, “Nah, what happened, happened, you can’t change it now, can you? You can’t take what you did back. Fuggetaboutit.”  No, of course we don’t.

We serve justice.

And in Wednesday night’s case, justice would be served for Jim Joyce.

For Armando Galarraga.

For the Tigers.

For the city of Detroit.

Don’t we, at least, deserve something perfect?

Doesn’t Galarraga?

The Day After Reactions:

Official Game Wrap

Official MLB Statement

Yahoo.com

Kevin Kaduk

MLB.com

ESPN.com

Jerry Crasnick

Don Denkinger’s Reaction

Rob Neyer

R.N. Again

Mr. Bloody Sock himself

Jason Stark – Possibly one of the better idea’s out there

Ian O’Conner

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