Trying to bring a little common sense to the game of baseball. But considering many of the people who read baseball blogs, I'm probably just pissing into the wind.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jim Joyce made the right call and it's time for everyone to get over it

Yeah, I said it and I don’t care who agrees or disagrees. It’s the truth, and that’s the way it is. The biggest issue here isn’t even the call. Players, managers, and fans always have, and always will, argue any call that they feel they were wronged on. The problem here is the issue of perfection.

The issue was that the call would have been the last out of a perfect game, and that’s why everyone is upset. If the call had come in the third inning, people would have complained, but it would be a dead issue and over with. If it happened to ruin a no-hitter, there would have been complaints and arguments, but nothing more than normal day-to-day arguing about baseball. If it had ruined a shutout, it would be forgotten about today.

The issue is that it would have been a perfect game, and the call ‘ruined’ that. Because giving a pitcher a perfect game is much more important than actually having an umpire get the call right.

There were many commentaries and comments that the commissioner (I used lower case on purpose there) should have overturned the call, and “given” the perfect game to Galaraga. How’s that? Give it to him? That’s right? I don’t think so, not by a long shot. You don’t give ‘anything’ in baseball just because someone thinks it should be that way. If that’s true, the ’85 Cardinals get to be World Series champs, the ’91 Braves won their Series, and the ’69 Mets have to concede to the Orioles. Roger Maris has to give back his MVP trophy and 61 homeruns because it should have gone to Mantle instead.

Stupid, stupider and stupidest. We live in reality, not in what we want reality to be. There are no do-over’s in baseball, or in life. You get a second chance, but not a do-over. Just doesn’t work. Galaraga doesn’t deserve the perfect game because he didn’t pitch one.

We are, however, dealing with just my opinion right now, and even I don’t believe my opinion alone is strong enough to carry the day. So, as they say, let’s go to the video.

Let’s start with the basics. Jim Joyce was in the perfect position. He was exactly where he was supposed to be. He started the play in perfect position, he moved into the perfect position after the ball was hit, and he was in the perfect position to make the call. He was looking straight on at the bag, the runner, and Galaraga’s glove. No complaints about that one.

Second point everyone seems to forget. That was not a routine play. It was hit into the hole between first and second, and Cabrera had to go a long way to field it, and Galaraga had to get to the bag to make the play. This was not an easy tapper back to the mound or an infield pop-up. This was a difficult play and assuming the out just because it was a groundball is asinine.

Thirdly, Miguel Cabrera, who was one of the most vocal about the call, caused the call as much as anyone else. Cabrera should never have fielded that ball. He’s not a good defensive first baseman to start with, and he proved it. He was moving away from the bag, had to stop his momentum, turn, and try to hit Galaraga on the run. Granted, he made a good play on it, and the runner “could” have been out. Cabrera would have been better off letting the ball go through to the second baseman, who was moving towards the bag and had a better throw to make.

Now, those second and third points are not faults, and did not cause Galaraga to lose the perfect game. They contributed to what happened and different outcomes to either one of those could have definitively decided the issue one way or the other, without leaving us such a close play to call. I’m not blaming Cabrera. He made the play, and it was a good one, but it wasn’t good enough. Because his throw came from a different angle, and the angle of that throw, more than anything, enabled the batter to be safe.

Last point before we get to the heart of the matter. Jim Joyce and his call. Watch the video at the .10 second mark. Look at Joyce’s right hand. It appears to me that he starts to make a fist to call the out, and then immediately goes into the spread to make the safe call. Something happened to make Joyce go from the out call to the safe call immediately, and there was no hesitation. He was in perfect position to make the call, started to make what would have been a right call, and then went with what was the right call. Look again at the .33 second mark, and see what you think.

Now, the reason Joyce went from making a possible out call to a correct safe call? Easy. Galaraga never caught the ball until after the runner passed the bag. The ball hit his glove, but he did not make a clean catch and the runner was safe. Joyce started to call the runner out when he though Galaraga caught the ball, and then called him safe when he saw that he had not caught it cleanly. There is no fault here on Joyce for missing the call, because he didn’t. There is fault here to Galaraga for not making the play.

Start watching the video at the .09 second mark. After it appears that Galaraga has caught the ball, and after the runner has crossed the back, he jerks his left elbow up and bends his wrist into his body. Watch it again. Watch it again starting at the .33 second mark. You’ll see it ever more clearly. If you’ve ever played baseball, you know exactly why he did that.

For the most definitive look, start watching at the 1.26 mark. When his foot is on the bag and it appears he has caught the ball, he hasn’t. You can clearly see the entire ball (well, half of the ball, just like the moon) in the glove. That is not a catch. Just because the ball is hidden by the glove does make a catch. The ball has to be secured in the glove, not hidden from view from everyone but the umpire. That’s the point where Joyce starts to make a fist, because he’s assuming the ball will be secured in the glove.

But it isn’t. You can clearly see the ball loose in the glove, and Galaraga hitches his arm up and turns the glove into his body to snatch the ball and secure it. Again, if you’ve ever played baseball, you know exactly what I’m talking about. By the time he secures the ball, the runner has passed the base and is safe. Which is what Joyce called him, and it was an excellent call. And exactly the right call.

I’m going to make a guess here, and I’ll be honest it’s only that, but it sure looked to me as though Galaraga was doing his best to sell that call, knowing full well he didn’t catch the ball cleanly. Not that I blame him, I would have done the same. What I do blame Galaraga for is knowing he didn’t catch the ball cleanly, yet letting his teammates and manager continue to argue the call after the fact. It was completely unnecessary and uncalled for.

By the way, kudos to Jim Leyland for being a complete dick, as he usually is, after the game, and screaming at the umpires. Hey, Jim, you won the game. Isn’t that the point?

I know that after the game, Jim Joyce came out and said he blew the call. I don’t believe it. Mostly because MLB doesn’t allow it’s umpires to comment on issues like this and any controversy in the games, so the fact that he did it here is somewhat suspicious. I guessing again, but I’m putting it down to the heat of the moment. When you have 30,000 fans and a team screaming for your head, and the call’s been replayed several hundred thousand times, the stress can get to anyone. Most people want to automatically believe he screwed up the call, so that’s what they’ll do. No matter what he said at the time, no one was going to buy it.

Joyce was fighting a lost cause, but I don’t believe for a minute that he thinks he blew the call. He made it immediately and clearly, no hesitation at all. He did everything right. The only problem is that it wasn’t what everyone else wanted.

It would have been great if Galaraga had thrown a perfect game. I’m all for that. The fact is, he didn’t, and he has no one to blame but himself for not catching the ball correctly.

If you really want to be made at someone, be made at the official scorekeeper for giving Jason McDonald a hit on the play. Even though Galaraga and the throw beat the runner to the bag, the fact that he was called safe should have been evidence that it was an error and not a hit. Galaraga doesn’t have, and doesn’t deserve, a perfect game.

But he did lose out on a no-hitter. Don’t blame Jim Joyce for that one.


  1. I know you wrote this awhile ago, but I do agree. Joyce was thinking he got call wrong because in reality, he prob though afterwards he could have let it slide. By the book, on a force play, the player receiving the ball must demonstrate control of the ball. In this case, the on field call at the time was correct. The player receiving the ball was "juggling" the ball. and did not control it until after the runner hit the base, In my opinion, Joyce should have had bigger "balls" and explained the rule properly instead of being apologetic.

    1. HI Scott, sorry it took me so long to respond. It's nice to know someone else agrees. I think you are entirely right about Joyce. I think he either felt he needed to admit a mistake he didn't make or was forced to. He should have stood up for himself and stood by his call, regardless of what anyone said. It was the right one.