My latest article is up at Pajamas Media and I have to brag a little and say that it will be a record setter in the number of people who will disagree with me.
In it, I take to task pitcher Armando Galarraga, umpire Jim Joyce, and Commissioner Bud Selig for trying to damage the history and integrity of the game by contemplating overturning Joyce’s missed call that cost Galarraga a perfect game the other night:
Joyce’s reaction to all this has been unbelievable. He is being praised from one end of the country to the other for his “honesty” in admitting his mistake. He should be fined, suspended, and prevented from working either the postseason or the All-Star Game. Not for missing the call but for undermining his and every other umpire’s credibility by actually talking to the press about it in the first place, and then not having the courage to stand by his decision made in real time on the field. Instead, he blubbered like a two-year-old about being sorry for ruining Galarraga’s moment.
Jim Joyce, Armando Galarraga, and Bud Selig are not more important than the game itself. And each of those gentlemen has done a disservice to baseball by elevating themselves and a single play over the integrity of the game. Blown calls are a part of baseball. They are part of the history of the game, and will continue to be a part of baseball as long as human beings are used to make the judgments necessary to maintain a fair outcome — or as fair as it can be made given the limitations and lack of perfection in all of us.
If Joyce had to talk to the press, he could have said that he called it as he saw it and pretty much left it at that. It doesn’t matter if replays show a different outcome to the call. Umpires make their decisions and, right or wrong, that’s that. Rare is the umpire’s call that is overturned. If it is, the call is reversed by the crew chief usually after a huddle of all the umpires to determine if any of them saw the call another way.
Treating this one call any differently than the thousands of others he has made in his career is an error in judgment far worse than the missed call he made at first base. Rather than the focus being on the game, and the still-brilliant pitching performance of Galarraga (he pitched a 3-0 shutout), attention shifted to the umpire and his media mea culpa. Umpires should never be the the center of attention in baseball. That’s not their job, although some modern umpires don’t seem to understand that. In fact, Major League baseball just took the nearly unprecedented step of fining an umpire for bringing attention to himself in the aftermath of an incident in Chicago. Joyce should be fined for the same reason, regardless if he was “honest” or not.
Meanwhile, Galarraga is receiving kudos for his “sportsmanship” in not holding it against the umpire. Holy smokes, fella. Act like a human being (or at least a baseball player) rather than some Oprahfied dishrag of a professional athlete. In an age where parents discourage their kids from competing, where every kid who participates gets a reward, where there is less emphasis on winning and losing, Galarraga becomes a poster boy for modern American sports. I will take the attitude of a Vince Lombardi any day of the week over Galarraga and his milquetoast, touchy-feely sensibilities. I’d rather see him break his hand against the clubhouse wall by hitting it in frustration and anger following the game than smile like an idiotic gnome and play the role of national priest in forgiving Joyce his sin.
It is out of fashion today to love baseball - its history, it’s myths, and its former place in American society. I can’t believe that my take on this is that unique; that there are those who love the game as I do and view with alarm this breach of baseball etiquette, seeking to have a call made in good faith on the field overturned because the umpire got it wrong.
Are we now to retroactively award glory to those robbed of it because of a call that might have been incorrect? Are we to overturn the results of games because an umpire called a home run foul rather than fair, or a player safe at home with the winning run instead of calling him out? Where does it end?
It’s a can of worms - and that includes expanding the use of instant replay. Football, a game that doesn’t honor its past half as much as baseball, had no qualms about instituting a ridiculous “challenge” system for replay. That’s because football refs are amateurs compared to baseball umpires. They weren’t paid a decent wage for their work, necessitating second jobs to augment their meager salary. In a game that generates billions in revenue, football officials were a joke. The age of instant replay exposed the amateurish nature of football officials and thus, the almost desperate necessity to rectify their idiotic mistakes on the field.
Not so Major League umpires who have a grueling route to the top, spending years in the minors with no guarantee of a call up. They are still the best in pro sports, despite a significant drop in quality as a result of unionization that granted job protections to some who in the past, might have been sent back down for more seasoning or even relieved of their duties outright. As a group, their performance is head and shoulders above football, hockey, and basketball refs despite the fact that, during the course of a game, they must make many more judgments than their brethren in other sports. (International soccer refs are far and away, the absolute worst in sports as we shall see during the World Cup that begins next week.)
I did not make these criticisms lightly. Something important has been lost with this incident and I fear for the future integrity of baseball, and mourn the disrespect the aftermath of this incident has given to the history of the game.