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As promised, my vitriolic rage towards Jim Joyce, all economically poured into one post. (Going green!)


DETROIT -- Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball in his mitt, stepped on first base with his right foot and was ready to celebrate.

What happened next will be the talk of baseball for the rest of this season and likely a lot longer: the perfect game that wasn't.Umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe, the Detroit Tigers argued and a chorus of groans and boos echoed in Comerica Park.

Then Joyce emphatically said he was wrong and later, in tears, hugged Galarraga and apologized.

"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."
The baseball viewing world is crying outrage. I concur.

But, I don't think it's a matter of "instant replay."

There's a lot to take in with this story, the question of whether it should be ruled a 28-out perfecto, what should happen to Jim Joyce, and what should be done to improve the officiating protocols in the future.

As my mom nonchalantly pointed out tonight, "They just should get rid of umpires altogether."

I disagreed, but applauded her faith that the baseball diamond wouldn't become some kind of platform for Lord of the Rings behavior.

"Nooo, I didn't mean it like that. I mean, they should get rid of umpires altogether because there's nothing they can do that a computer can't already do. I mean, they should balls and strikes and speeds and everything on tv and computer monitors.

Why can't they do that during the game? And why can't there be a motion sensor type of thing on the bases? I don't know exactly what it'd be, but I know that if they want to eliminate this type of human error, then they should eliminate the human part of it."

I get what my mom's saying, but I disagree just as much as I disagreed when I thought she wanted the teams to operate like pick-up games, with self-governing.

Yeah, we could do that. We could have--for all intents and purposes--robots umpires. I mean we should be okay, right?

Well, we could also make the bats lighter, the balls bouncier. We could have the players hologramed onto the field to save money on away games. We could check Accuscore before the game even started and just assume that's how the game would play out, and leave it at that. We spot the underdogs a few runs, we could get rid of rotations altogether and just have pitching machines.

All of those solutions would solve one problem or another.

But it would invariably detract from the fundamental beauty of the game.

People blow calls. It happens. Mo blows saves. Jeter strikes out. CC gets shelled. No one's perfect. And no one expects them to be. I know a call's gonna have be throwing things at the tv countless times over the course of the season. But for every toe I break kicking something in anger, there's another call made that goes the way of the Yanks. In other words, it evens out in the end.

Putting instant replay into the picture, while pragmatic, takes something away from the inherent innocence of our pasttime. A sport that's constantly punctuated by heroes and goats, a game that's very essence is built on its character. Baseball isn't basketball (thank God). You can't run out the clock. And one player can't win it for you. More than any other sport, baseball celebrates raw mortality.

Yeah, you get screwed sometimes, but life's not fair. From my 8/17/09 recap:

My dad used to tell me and my sisters whenever we dropped the "no fair!" whine:

"It's not fair? Well, lemme ask you this: If you add an even number and an even number, what do you get?"

"Um, an even number?"

"But if you add an odd number and an odd number, what do you get?"

" even number.."

"Yeah, and is THAT fair? Ok, then."

Whether he actually found this to be a logical rebuttal, or whether its purpose was to stymie us with its sheer absurdity, it worked. And stuck with me.

Ok, having said ALL that, I don't think what Jim Joyce did what a little pecadillo of human error. Missing a 3rd strike in the 4th inning of a 5-0 game is human error. Calling even a MARGINALLY close play "safe" when that out would have meant history...well, that's just wrong.

Am I saying that he should have called it an out no matter what? No. I'm not saying he should've cheated, because then we'd have the reverse situation on our hands, and Galarraga would have to listen to everyone say he didn't REALLY pitch the perfect game he's getting credit for.

Everyone knows he was out by a foot, and you didn't need crazy camera angles and zoom in techniques to see this. But let's ASSUME that it was a close play that DID need all those bells and whistles. One of those situations where the announcers show and reshow it 100 times without ever coming to any kind of conclusion.

If that call is even remotely splitting hairs, THEN YOU CALL IT A FUCKING OUT.

I know everyone's starting to feel all sorts of sympathy for Jim Joyce now. He apologized "teary eyed" and feels terrible and he's "normally a great umpire with hawk eyes." I have zero compassion for him.

Why? Not because he screwed up the call, but because he WANTED to call him safe.

He wasn't looking at the bag. He says he thought he had beat the throw but how can you know this if you're not looking at the bag? What Jim Joyce basically did was rashly make a controversial play in the same way in which people sometimes say random complaints not because they actually subscribe to them, but in the unconscious desire to have someone else say, "Oh, I know. Me too."

Jim Joyce thought he was being brave and iconoclastic and saying, "I'm the boss here, I know what's what. And I'm going to assert myself in the pecking order by showing everyone that I never just phone it in. When I come to the park, I just call em like I see em. And no better way to prove my impartiality by calling the last out of a perfecto SAFE."

Jim Joyce thought it was close play, but he didn't care who was out. He was banking on it being too close to call, and opted on calling it Safe. If the replays hadn't belied this, he wouldn't be facing this nation-wide ire. He'd be facing at least 50% of the world saying, "Well, he was just trying to make the right call. I appreciate his fairness and committment to rules."

Jim Joyce didn't give a shit about the perfect game at hand. Didn't care that this would have been the first one in the history of an extremely hapless city. Didn't care this would have been the first time in MLB history that 3 pitchers went 27 up/down in the span of 1 season. He didn't care the softspoken underdog Galaragga was looking at undoubtedly a once in a lifetime opportunity. He didn't care there were at Comerica or that Detroit was up by 3 with 2 outs.

Jim Joyce was thinking of himself. And how he wanted to be perceived. He WANTED to make that call. And he wanted to have a good chunk of the country nodding their head in approval, applauding him for doing the right thing in the face of unpopular opinion.

Well he got the last part, anyway.

My dad used to be a college professor. And sometimes students would be technically getting a failing grade, but if he was a senior, and if it was boderline, he'd give the kid just enough to pass. Because a diploma would be infinitely more to that student, than a professor's unwavering adherence to RULES.

When I was in 8th grade, we had a history test and one of there was a question that the entire class got wrong: "True/False. Colonists threw teabags overboard to rebel against the British government."

The correct answer was "False. There weren't teabags in colonial days. It was crates of tea."

Technically, my teacher was right. But was that what this was about? We all knew what the Boston Tea Party was. Who doesn't?? Docking the entire class points did nothing to further our education, even if it did abide by the strictest doctrines of the history textbook.

When I played basketball in high school, our first game my freshman year was against the NY School for the Deaf, and we were winning by a good amount. Our starters had long come out, and I distinctly remember at one point in the game, a guard for NYSftD coming in who may or may not have played basketball before. She didn't dribble at all, and just sort of half ran around the top of the key with it. And the refs didn't blow the whistle and the weird part was that instead of having the token asshole who's like, "WTF THAT'S A CARRY!" the whole gym was relieved.

A sport is a competition, but following the letter of the law doesn't always mean honoring the spirit of the game. And sometimes I think the latter trumps the former.

I wrote an article last year about the Role of Ethics in Sports. Here's some parts of it..

“Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.” –Arnold Horshak, Welcome Back, Kotter

Forget steroids. Forget asterisks. Forget gambling, sideline taping, dogfighting, DUIs, and firearm possession. While they all are the headlining stars of the dramatic Demise of Sports feature film, they are also eclipsing other infractions that may be technically legal, but are much more cancerous.

The most salacious sins and underhanded offenses occur squarely in the gray area, the insidious trap of loopholes and defendable vices. On the contrary, performance-enhancing substances and criminal misdemeanors stack up neatly in the black and white areas, the right and wrong silos.

As disgraceful as these wrongdoings may be, at least they uniformly recognized as unacceptable. But when it comes to things like basic humanistic integrity and moral fiber, there’s no irrefutable litmus test.


Sports don’t exist in a vacuum, so it’s unrealistic to hold them to impossible standards. The game will never be immaculate, it never was and never will be. Every legend has a transgression to his name, whether it’s Babe Ruth’s carousing and drinking, Michael Jordan’s gambling, Larry Bird’s absentee fatherhood, Ty Cobb’s existence, etc...I don’t ask for or expect sports to be unblemished, or even close to it.

What’s tarnishing the integrity of the game isn’t the rampant yet ambiguous drug use. It’s the general dereliction of fundamental class. Sports were born from the spirit of competition, but are morphing into a Lord of the Flies-esque cut-throat war.

The bottom line, the grey area of anything grants its inhabitants immunity from culpability. There are no rules delineating the right and wrong way to handle things. You can technically get away with passing on fourth down when up by 30. There’s no law against exposing your team’s dirty laundry. And no jury will convict you for humiliating someone.

I remember in my old neighborhood, there was a short little stone tunnel/overpass-type structure. I think it was more for aesthetic purposes, because nothing really went over it, per se. It was right in the middle of residential, two-way side street, but it was only narrow enough for one car to pass through. It was an exercise in chivalry and courtesy, almost, whenever you saw another car through the other side.

You just waited for it to go through, or vice versa. Then one day, they put a traffic light up on either side of it, and my mom hated it because whenever someone had let her go through the little breezeway, she considered it a mini-celebration of human decency.

I know, it’s a stretch, but I empathize. I get like that if someone gives up their subway seat. But the point is, the traffic light made the grey issue a black and white one. No one technically has the right of way in that type of situation, but it relied on an unwritten code.

A moral rubric will never be published, nor should it, as doing so will effectively transform “ethics” into “laws.” However, as it is, as nebulous as ethics may be, they still pull rank on whatever else is at stake, whether it’s a job, a game, or money.

Maybe time has eroded the honor of the game. Maybe it will never be played with the class it once had. Or maybe athletes back then knew the spirit of the game was a function of the players themselves.

Ted Williams knew. He played a double-header against the Philadelphia A’s in 1941, when he could have locked up his .400 by simply passing on the at-bats. But instead he went 6 for 8 and ended the year on .406.

He stood to gain nothing. But he knew how to play the game. He knew it wasn’t about what you can get away with, and what’s admissible by the official rulebook. Because when it came down to it, he was willing to risk losing a record before he’d risk losing his integrity.

And that's the way the game should played.

Yeah, Jim Joyce apologized. But he's like a boyfriend who's upset when his gf catches him cheating and breaks up with him. He's upset he got caught. I'm glad Joyce apologized to Galaragga for blowing the call, but he should also be apologizing to baseball fans for forgetting what the game is about.

Baseball gives us new measures of extraordinary triumphs nearly every day of the week. THAT'S what we root for. That's why we love the game. If we wanted the sterility of a contest devoid of errors, we'd spend our evenings clamoring around the bowling alley instead of the stadium.

The umpires need to remember what drew them to the game in the first place. More and more this year, we're seeing a lot of blues in need of a good "KNOW YOUR ROLE!" alert.

You're there to preserve the essence of the game, not destroy it with egoism. (Or, in Joe West's
case, destroy it with time constraints.)

A passage from my favorite book of all-time pretty much sums it up:

“….I don't know what they are around here, but where I come from, a section man's a person that takes over a class when the professor isn't there or is busy having a nervous breakdown or is at the dentist or something. He's usually a graduate student or something.

Anyway, if it's a course in Russian Literature, say, he comes in, in his little button-down-collar shirt and striped tie, and starts knocking Turgenev for about a half hour.

Then, when he's finished, when he's completely ruined Turgenev for you, he starts talking about Stendhal or somebody he wrote his thesis for his M.A. on.

Where I go, the English Department has about ten little section men running around ruining things for people.

I'm just so sick of pedants and conceited little tearer-downers I could scream.”

As for Galarraga, I don't think Selig should overturn anything. The story is enough. WE know you deserved it. Life's not fair. He pitched the game of his lifetime and maybe Joyce can take away the "perfecto" part from the box score, but no one can take this day away from our plucky and indelibly classy hero.

Maybe I'm assigning too much idealism to this, but if we add instant replay, if alter the past by giving it an asterisk, if remove nearly every pitfall in the quest for a flawlessly officiated game...well, then perfection won't really be much of a premium anymore.

And the perfect game will, paradoxically, be a thing of the past.


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