Selig blows the call worse than umpire on ‘imperfect’ game

Umpire Jim JJoyce was still in tears when Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga (right) and Cleveland coach Tim Tolman brought out the lineup cards Thursday. (Detroit Free Press)

Umpire Jim Joyce was still in tears Thursday when Detroit's Armando Galarraga and Cleveland coach Tim Tolman brought out the lineup cards. (Detroit Free Press)

Let’s start with this: Umpires and referees make mistakes all the time that affect the outcomes of games, even championships.

We saw it when Don Denkinger blew a call at first base in the 1985 World Series. We saw it when Colorado scored a touchdown on its “fifth down” of a game against Missouri in 1990, leading to a split the national championship that season with Georgia Tech. We saw it when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup finals over Buffalo on a triple overtime goal by Brett Hull (who was standing in the  goal crease at the time, a goal that similarly was disallowed all during that season).

Unfortunately, it’s just not feasible to reverse bad calls that impact who wins and who loses.

Never count on this man to do the right thing.

Never count on this man to do the right thing.

But what happened Wednesday night is different. An umpire, Jim Joyce, blew a call at first base that prevented Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga from throwing a perfect game against Cleveland. That is not in dispute. This is one case where commissioner Bud Selig could have done the right thing and reversed a mistake. He could have done this without affecting the outcome of the game because the Tigers were going to win anyway.

We’re talking about one out. Selig can’t change one out?

Or was it that important for the Indians’ Jason Donald — who has spent most of his five seasons in the minor leagues — to go 1-for-3 instead of 0-3? Because, Bud, dude, did you see the look on Donald’s face after the play? He was embarrassed himself about being called safe by Joyce.

Selig just blew the call. He blew the call worse than Joyce blew the call. Joyce made a spur-of-the-moment decision that he later admitted was wrong. Selig had a day to think about this. He could have changed the final out call and nobody — NOBODY — would have had a dispute.

Fact is, it probably would have given Jim Joyce, who was still in tears Thursday, some peace of mind.

Selig’s statement was accurate: “While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed. Given last night’s call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features.”

But what he left out was a rational explanation as to why that single play could not have been overturned. The reason is obvious: There is none.

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187 comments Add your comment

Adam

June 3rd, 2010
3:49 pm

Herschel Talker

June 3rd, 2010
3:55 pm

Indeed Schultzie. Well said. Mazel Tov. The big difference here is that it’s the last call of the game. Hence why you’re right and Mark Bradley is wrong.

Adam

June 3rd, 2010
3:58 pm

Jeff, you are exactly right. If the outcome of the game would have been effected, maybe then I could see not changing the call. Most of the ‘Horrible Calls’ referenced changed the outcome of the game. This was a personal achievement that will not effect whether or not he ever plays again, granted, but the achievement that he made is one that has rarely been accomplished. I believe Selig could have garnered some better publicity for MLB had he reversed the call. It’s sad, but most times in professional sports, common sense doesn’t prevail…

Keith

June 3rd, 2010
3:59 pm

***Given last night’s call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which consists of field managers, general managers, club owners and presidents.***

That is the last part of Bud’s statement.

Cutty

June 3rd, 2010
4:00 pm

3rd…. This is why baseball is lagging behind Football, Basketball, Golf, Soccer, and Texas Hold ‘Em Poker in national interest. That and there are no cheerleaders.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 3rd, 2010
4:00 pm

It would have been a perfect game w/ the astrick. Selig made the correct call in this situation. The benefit of the doubt should have gone to the pitcher, but alas it was not.

How about an article reflecting on Griffey Jr. and his almost career as a Atlanta Brave?

Cutty

June 3rd, 2010
4:00 pm

GT 1990

June 3rd, 2010
4:04 pm

Does this mean we can go back to 1990 and take away Colorado’s 5th down and inappropriate share of the National title?

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DP

June 3rd, 2010
4:12 pm

This morning I thought Selig should have reversed the call but after seeing the play again in slow motion I’m not sure the umpire didn’t get the call right for the wrong reason. Galarraga’s foot clearly beat Donald’s foot to the bag, but when you see the play in slow motion from the camera near the first base dugout, you can see the ball in Galarraga’s glove, i.e. he snow-coned it a bit. Then he makes a little bit of a movement with his glove hand and the ball disappears from view into the pocket of the glove. I think it looks very likely that the ball was moving in Galarraga’s glove and he didn’t secure it before the batter touched first base.

Baseball Expert

June 3rd, 2010
4:18 pm

Here’s what should happen: MLB should implement a challenge system sometime during the season. The manager can challenge two questionable plays on the bases, or questionable fair/foul balls.

When the Tigers/Indians play again, before the actual game, let them resume the perfect game and allow them the opportunity to challenge the call. Umpires review, perfect game is rewarded, and they play their scheduled game.

The review system shouldn’t be that bad on time, it shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes. The manager spends more than 2 minutes arguing the call ANYWAY, why not use that 2 minutes to review the play and get it right?

Josh M

June 3rd, 2010
4:20 pm

To say nobody would have had a dispute is wildly off-base. Hell, count me as a member of the disputing class. I was physically sick last night watching it live – my stomach actually started hurting – but baseball is a game of rules. And the rule right now, right or wrong (I vote wrong), is that replay is NOT part of the game.

If Selig had overturned the call based on what he saw on replay, he would have been violating the game’s rules. As horrible as last night was, the bad call should stand. Let’s fix it, though, so it doesn’t happen next time.

Chop Chop

June 3rd, 2010
4:20 pm

You know, if the human element was involved in other sports, I think I’d have a problem with Selig’s decision. However, since robots play all other sports, I have to agree with Bud.

Vixzilla

June 3rd, 2010
4:22 pm

Jeff –
Right on brotha. Good read! Keep up the good work.

SportsPaige

June 3rd, 2010
4:22 pm

No Selig should not change the call. It was terrible, tragic call but thats the way the game is played. You KNOW that by doing so, every single call in MLB history that happened on last (or would-be last) out would come up in the media and by fans. Really awful that Joyce blew the call but it happened. Move on. The umpires usually do get it right.

wawel78

June 3rd, 2010
4:23 pm

no, I haven’t read Bradley but Selig got this one right. If it’s not in the rules, the call should not be reversed. Should we go back and reverse the error in the Mulholland no-hitter? it didn’t affect the outcome either. Where would the reversals end?

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:23 pm

Thanks Herschel.

Chop Chop

June 3rd, 2010
4:23 pm

The call wasn’t changed because Selig had $100 grand on Galarraga pitching a one-hitter. It was one of the craziest wagers he and Pete Rose ever made.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:24 pm

Adam — We draw the same distinction between game outcomes and personal achievements.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:24 pm

Keith, let me translate for you: Blah blah blah … blah blah blah.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:25 pm

Cutty — Is there replay in poker? (More importantly, is there replay for cheerleaders?)

Fleabit

June 3rd, 2010
4:25 pm

What does DP stand for? Dumb Person?

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:25 pm

Lowcountry — Asterisk or no asterisk, it’s a perfect game.

Tech Rules

June 3rd, 2010
4:26 pm

“He could have changed the final out call and nobody — NOBODY — would have had a dispute.”

Then I guess you need to read Mark Bradley’s column that was posted two minutes before this one.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:27 pm

DP — I understand what you’re saying but point is moot. And by the way, in the potential 27th out of a perfect game, if the call really is that close, then an umpire should err toward the side of the out.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:27 pm

Baseball Expert — I have no problem with that. I’m sure any replay system, if implemented, will be limited in scope.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:28 pm

Josh M — When I say anybody, I’m talking about subjects involved in the game. Not anybody as in, well, anybody. Maybe I should’ve been more specific.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:29 pm

Vixzilla — Thanks.

Vixzilla

June 3rd, 2010
4:29 pm

Your counterpart Mark Bradley BTW is off his rocker saying Selig got it right. Could we get another driven sensible sports writer to compliment yourself. I recommend Kim Nash. She is one of the best sports writers on earth and doing it as a Female blows me away. Are you familiar with her work? Bradley – If you read this, you’re sucking air bub. Get your crap together.

Jeff -You guys didn’t plan this good cop/bad cop approach did you?

You surely are kidding, right?

June 3rd, 2010
4:29 pm

I could not more vehemently disagree with this column. Talk about opening up a can of worms. Where would you draw the line, Mr. Schultz, in the future when this, or a similar situation, occurs? Human beings, umpires included, are imperfect. I hate that the pitcher will be denied his moment of glory on the field with his teammates, celebrating his “achievement”. However, for the commissioner to reverse the call of an umpire is illogical. I ask again, where would you draw the line? Inevitably, the very integrity of the game, at least what is left after all the steriods and HGH are taken into consideration, is called into question when a team seeks a reversal of an umpires decision which does affect the outcome of a game. Similarly, if you allow the commissioner to do the same, whether asked by a team or not, the fan can never know whether a game is final, whether the players have resolved the issue on the field of contest. Giving the authority to change what happens on the field to a “suit” is the end of sports. Like it or not, a horribly blown call by a baseball umpire, as the rules of baseball presently exist, is part of the game.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:29 pm

SportsPaige — We agree that the umpires usually do get it right.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:30 pm

Wawel78 — I can’t tell you where the reversals end, but I can tell you they should be included in 27th out of a perfect game.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:31 pm

Tech Rules — I’m aware of Mark’s position. As I commented above, by anybody I mean people on the field.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:32 pm

Vixzilla — I can assure you there was no planning of good cop/bad cop. And would I be the good or the bad … BTW, who’s Kim Nash?

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:33 pm

You sure are kidding, right? — No, not kidding. As for where draw the line, addressed it above. Don’t know. But I know where the line ISN’T.

DHD

June 3rd, 2010
4:33 pm

Jim Joyce blew a call that everyone of us could have blown. It happened, not on instant replay, but in a split second of time. Bud Selig had all night to think about it. Not a split second. He royally blew it by not reversing the call. I can’t think of one person that would have protested had he just reversed the call. It’s a game, not the US Senate deciding on war. Change the call!!!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 3rd, 2010
4:35 pm

Wow were was spell check when I needed it Jeff?

Vixzilla

June 3rd, 2010
4:35 pm

Jeff- you should follow this Gals work. Someone needs to hire her. She’s truly amazing:
http://theladysportswriter.blogspot.com/

Mr. Holmes

June 3rd, 2010
4:36 pm

Let me speak for Schultzie: Nobody would have had a *legitimate* dispute. Bradley’s entire argument is based on the fact that this has never been done before. Y’know, so what?

This situation is unique. It would have been the final out of the game–it WAS the final out of the game. There would be no woulda/shoulda/coulda on the Indians’ part. Let’s say instant replay had been in place and the call was reversed five minutes after the fact. How is reversing it 12 hours after the fact any different at all?

They should have reversed the call and then immediately announced a new review policy (you can’t tell me MLB doesn’t have some viable instant-reply policies sitting around waiting for implementation), then tweaked it either during this season or afterward.

You surely are kidding, right?

June 3rd, 2010
4:36 pm

Because no line presently exists, I do not believe you can retroactively reverse the call of this umpire, as horrible as it is. I would agree that if the rules are changed to permit review of calls, this is Exhibit A.

Mr. Holmes

June 3rd, 2010
4:37 pm

That’s instant replAy policies. :)

joseph pond

June 3rd, 2010
4:37 pm

There is NO good reason for Selig Not to change that call. It would be the right thing to do- The Umpire admitted his mistake- so should Selig!

Jeff's right

June 3rd, 2010
4:42 pm

In a game where we have players from noncontending teams deciding the location of the world series’ games, and non-official baseballs in home run derbys, I can’t see what the big deal is with changing it. I’m a baseball purist, but everyone should want to see the right thing done. In this situation, you’re not changing outcomes of games. You don’t even have to change the boxscore. But you add it to the record book, to acknowledge a great game by a classy pitcher. You add for the story of how to play the game, because it acknowledges Jim Joyce’s apology as well. Otherwise, baseball is only acknowledging a bad call, not a perfect moment in baseball history.

chief pitchanono

June 3rd, 2010
4:43 pm

I’m not a big fan of going back a changing things, because once you start doing that- then it opens up the bigger question of where do you stop? Hopefully he does the right thing and starts intstant replay right away. Baseball needs to come into the 21st century. This would keep this from ever happening again. There is no good reason they don’t have it already. They just need to have some simple rules for it and it should not slow the game down at all. #1 It cannot be used on balls and stikes. It is allowed for all other calls that are questionable. Whenever a manager comes out to argue, an extra ump upstairs reviews the play and by the time the manager is done screaming at the on field umps the guy calls down to the field and lets them know who was right. There no time wasted. Matter of fact it could save time, now that the arguement gets resolved the managers probably wont be on the field arguing for quite as long as they usually are. If a manager obviously tries to abuse the replay system then the umps still have the option to toss them when they have had enough – same as allways. Like anything else they will have to experiment with the rules for the first few years to see what works best, because you don’t wan’t to lose the fanastic showdowns between umps and managers – thats a huge part of baseball that must be protected. I certainly don’t want to see Bobby Cox on a bad call – slowly walking out of the dugout and quietly throwing down some sort of retarded replay card or anything like that. Its time for instant replay in baseball, I am sure that it can work.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:45 pm

Lowcountry — you mean “where” was, not were was? Right? (Couldn’t resist.)

Michael Scharff

June 3rd, 2010
4:45 pm

Jeff, I almost always agree with you, but not this time. I don’t know if you and Mark flipped a coin as to who would take which side, or if you both truly feel in disagreement. That being said, the call was a snap judgement, as are all baseball calls. The umpires are trained to make the judgements instantly in the heat of the moment. I remember several times when as a Little League coach, myself and the coach for the other team would have to call balls and strikes if the umpire did not show up. For me, it was a very uncomfortable position to be in, because your judgement will be questioned, no matter what. Usually, the Major League umps get the calls right, but occassionally, they blow one. The fact that the pitcher had a perfect game up to that point should not matter – it’s the nature of the game.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:46 pm

Vixzilla — I’ll check her out. I mean it out. I mean — never mind.

Jeff's right

June 3rd, 2010
4:46 pm

I hope down the road, the game will ultimately be acknowledged as a perfect game. It may be years, or decades from now, but hopefully so. Maybe that’s the correct way to change it. By then, there’s no kneejerk reaction to replay other games. Maybe MLB can appoint a board to consider these changes.

Jeff Schultz

June 3rd, 2010
4:47 pm

Thanks, Mr. Holmes. You have been approved as my spokesman.