Thursday, June 3, 2010


We're not a third of the way through it, and this season has already seen two perfect games, one each by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay. There have only ever been 20 perfect games in baseball history, and never two in one season. Ubaldo Jimenez' regular old no-hitter is an afterthought by comparison.

But things got weirder last night. Armando Galarraga, freshly returned from the minors after a lousy season last year, was throwing what coulda/woulda/shoulda been the third perfect game of 2010. Only umpire Jim Joyce thought otherwise. With two out in the ninth inning, the first baseman went to his right to make a play on a ground ball, and threw back to Galarraga, who collected it and touched first with a grin to complete the perfect game!

Only not.

Jim Joyce called the runner safe, even though the replay clearly showed that he was out. The Tigers were horrified, the announcers were horrified, all of baseball was horrified, and every couch potato like me was horrified. An ump takes a perfect game away from a pitcher? How could he? How could he?

He could, and he did. The only guy who wasn't horrified was Galarraga himself, who remained calm while the rest of his team was losing it. He proceeded to get the next hitter to complete the now one-hit shutout.

Joyce actually apologized to Galaragga for blowing the call (which never happens between umpire and player). Everybody tried to rationalize Joyce's human imperfection, but they certainly haven't let go of it. What not a single announcer has said is that Joyce actually made a perfectly reasonable call. From one angle the result seemed obvious. But from the other, there was room for reasonable doubt. While the replay from the second angle still showed the runner was out, Galaragga had snow-coned the ball (holding it out at the end of his glove), and then snatched it into the middle of his glove after the runner went by. In real time, in which Joyce made the call, it had to look like he had never controlled the ball. In which case Joyce did exactly the right thing. But that doesn't make as good a story.

People are talking about the incident today, and will continue to talk about it for a very long time. But not a peep about the apparent bobble. The press seems content to leave Joyce hanging out to dry. Everyone seems to agree that Jim Joyce is a fine umpire, but this is what he will be remembered for. It will haunt him and cast a shadow over his time in baseball.

Pretty good call, Jim. It's just a damn shame for Armando, and a bigger shame for you that it turned out not to be right.

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