Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Perfect Game

Yes, it happened nearly a week ago, but there's an aspect of the blown call on the perfect game that I haven't heard mentioned.

Maybe I haven't been paying attention. Or maybe I have but just missed it. But what James A. Joyce (the umpire, not the author/poet) did was inexcusable.

No, not the blown call. That happens. It's not a good thing, but it's excusable: he's human.

The call, according to the rules, should stand, according to the Rules of Baseball, Rule 9.02 (a):
Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
Rule 9.02 (c) says, in part:
No umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire’s decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it.

But there's another rule that could have come into play that could have fixed it. At the conclusion of Rule 9.05, there is a section called "General Instructions To Umpires" that says, in part:
Each umpire team should work out a simple set of signals, so the proper umpire can always right a manifestly wrong decision when convinced he has made an error. If sure you got the play correctly, do not be stampeded by players' appeals to "ask the other man." If not sure, ask one of your associates. Do not carry this to extremes, be alert and get your own plays. But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don’t hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."
And that's where Joyce screwed up. He was willing, after the fact, to admit his mistake. And that's the right thing. But the really right thing would have been to have followed the General Instructions that allowed for signals between the crew to allow for getting a blown call right.

Unless they did that, and the others signaled that he got the call right. If so, the other umps are chicken-sh*t for not stepping up and taking the heat with Joyce. But I suspect that no signals were exchanged, and that Joyce simply compounded his error with another error.

It's a shame that Armando Galarraga won't be credited with a perfect game. He did everything he was supposed to do. The other players did everything they were supposed to do. The umpire blew the call. But he's human, and that's forgivable.

But this whole controversy could have been avoided if the umpires in the game had simply taken the General Instructions To Umpires seriously.


  1. As an occasional amateur ump, and as a person who quit watching TV in part because of the endless replays let me say I think you are wrong.

    For some plays there is at most one official who can clearly see the play.

    The other officials often have assignments, and are often blocked out or are not in a position to see.

    I think Joyce was probably the only one who thought he was in position to make the call.

    As I understand it, he didn't think he had made a mistake until he saw a replay after the game.

  2. I'm not so sure the other umps were not in a position to see the play. There were no other base-runners, what with it being 26 up/26 down prior to that play.

  3. The issue here is not whether they were in position or not, the issue is whether they thought they were or not.

    I'm guessing (assuming no ulterior motives) that they didn't think they saw anything so outrageous (like the replays did) that they had tomcall for a conference.

  4. I can't believe the only 6 people in the stadium that didn't see the play clearly were the umpires. I think it's a situation of "umpire dignity," as the rules call it, overriding the need to get it right.

    Sure, you can't second-guess yourself every play. And, the fact that it was the 27th out isn't what's important. But, the fact that it was the 27th consecutive out underscores that it's important for the umpires to get the calls right.

    Joyce is human, and will make mistakesan as we all do. But I've not seen anyone bringing up the fact that umpires should. Be there to ofer corrections if the need arises. I'd like to see what the other umps answer to the question of whether they saw the play, and if they had a mechanism in place for correcting a bad call, as the rules state.

  5. If I were the umpire at such a crucial point in a game, I would mentally say to myself, "Give this pitcher a 5% edge on any call I am going to make. Calling a batter safe when there is even a small chance he is out will be 100 times worse than calling him out when the other team has almost no chance of winning." A call that may kill a perfect game needs to be very, very carefully weighted.

    The ump was wrong - not because he called it wrong, but because he didn't properly weigh the value of a perfect game in the situation.

    Perhaps it is time for baseball to adopt the same instant replay rules as in basketball and football.

  6. I'll confess that there is one rule that I wondered about--does MLB have a "ties go to the runner"m rule?

  7. No, there is no such rule. The rule simply states that the runner is out when he "fails to reach the next base before a fielder tags him or the base, after he has been forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner." There is no "tie goes to the runner" rule mentioned in any part of the official rules of baseball.


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