Jim Joyce, the umpire whose missed call deprived Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game on June 2, is baseball’s best umpire nonetheless, according to an exclusive ESPN The Magazine Baseball Confidential poll of 100 major league players.
In general, however, baseball players think the umpires are pretty good. Overall, 29 percent of the players surveyed gave the umpires a “B” grade, with 20 percent giving them a “C” and 16 percent and “A.”
Players also were decidedly opposed to replay and overwhelmingly applauded commissioner Bud Selig for not overturning Joyce’s call that kept Galarraga from being the 21st pitcher in history to throw a perfect game.
Joyce was named in 53 percent of the surveys, which asked players for the three best and three worst umpires in the game, as well as questions about instant replay and whether Galarraga’s perfect game should stand. That beat runner-up Tim McClelland, who ironically was panned for his performance in Game 4 of last year’s American League Championship Series. McClelland was named on 34 percent of the ballots.
Joyce, in his 22nd year in the majors, was the clear choice of National League players, with Jim Wolf (18 percent) second. Joyce and McClelland, a 27-year veteran, tied for first among American League players (52 percent) — both were former AL umpires before baseball combined its umpires into one entity in 1999.
CB Bucknor was named on 42 percent of the ballots as worst umpire, leading that category. The total narrowly edged Joe West, who was named on 40 percent, and Angel Hernandez, who was named on 22 percent.
The survey was taken after Joyce’s call, which came on what would have been the final out of a perfect game for Galarraga. Joyce called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe at first on a ground ball hit to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who threw to Galarraga covering the bag. Replays showed Donald was clearly out.
Here are some of the results:
Grade the umps:
1. B: 29%
2. C: 20%
3. A: 16%
Average grade: B
Replay on the bases?
Replay on fair/foul calls?
Not sure: 2%
Overturn calls in Galarraga game?
Not sure: 1%
Interesting to say that least, and if the players don’t want instant replay then perhaps those clamoring for it need to stop and think for a bit.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said he would look at the game’s umpiring system and the expanded use of instant replay, but would not reverse the blown call that cost Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers a perfect game on Wednesday night.
“While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed,” Selig said in a statement. “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.”
Selig said he would consult with baseball’s labor unions and the game’s special committee for on-field matters before announcing any decisions.
Selig also praised umpire Jim Joyce, whose blown call in the bottom of the ninth cost Galarraga the perfect game, for his handling of the situation afterwards, as well as Galarraga and Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
“The dignity and class of the entire Detroit Tigers organization under such circumstances were truly admirable and embodied good sportsmanship of the highest order,” Selig said. “[Galarraga] and Detroit manager Jim Leyland are to be commended for their handling of a very difficult situation.
“I also applaud the courage of umpire Jim Joyce to address this unfortunate situation honestly and directly. Jim’s candor illustrates why he has earned the respect of on-field personnel throughout his accomplished career in the Major Leagues since 1989,” Selig said.
While the desire for justice in this situation is apparent, it would appear that Selig did not have many options in this situation. Rule 9.02 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball is pretty clear:
(a) Any umpireâ€™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.
There is no process for appealing such a judgment call, and no authority under the rules for an appeal of such a judgment call to the Commissioner, or any other authority. The only way Selig could have “fixed” this would have been to ignore the rules and manipulate the results of a baseball game after the fact; and that would have been just as wrong as Jim Joyce’s bad judgment call last night, if not worse.
No doubt this entire incident will lead to some re-examination of the rules and there will be discussion of allowing appeals, or instant replay. That’s a discussion worth having, but I’m glad that Selig didn’t pervert the Rules of Baseball just to make things “right.”
On ten occasions in Major League Baseball history, a perfect game has been spoiled when the batter representing what would have been the third and final out in the ninth inning reached base. Unless otherwise noted, the pitcher in question finished and won the game without allowing any more baserunners:
On July 4, 1908, Hooks Wiltse of the New York Giants hit Philadelphia Phillies pitcher George McQuillan on a 2â€“2 count in a scoreless gameâ€”the only time a 0â€“0 perfect game has been broken up by the 27th batter. Umpire Cy Rigler later admitted that he should have called the previous pitch strike 3. Wiltse pitched on, winning 1â€“0; his ten-inning no-hitter set a record for longest complete game no-hitter that has been tied twice but never broken.
On September 2, 1972, Milt Pappas of the Chicago Cubs walked San Diego Padres pinch hitter Larry Stahl on a borderline 3â€“2 pitch. Pappas finished with a no-hitter. The umpire, Bruce Froemming, was in his second year; he went on to a 37-year career in which he umpired a record 11 no-hitters. Pappas believed he had struck out Stahl, and years later continued to bear ill will toward Froemming.
On May 2, 1988, Ron Robinson of the Cincinnati Reds gave up a single to the Montreal Expos’ Wallace Johnson. Robinson then allowed a two-run homer to Tim Raines and was removed from the game. The final score was 3â€“2, with Robinson the winner. (Robinson’s teammate Tom Browning threw his perfect game later that season.)
DETROIT – Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers lost his bid for a perfect game Wednesday night with two outs in the ninth inning on a call that first base umpire Jim Joyce later admitted he blew.
First baseman Miguel Cabrera cleanly fielded Jason Donaldâ€™s grounder to his right and made an accurate throw to Galarraga covering the bag. The ball was there in time, and all of Comerica Park was ready to celebrate the 3-0 win over Cleveland, until Joyce emphatically signaled safe.
The veteran ump regretted it.’
â€œI just cost that kid a perfect game,â€ Joyce said. â€œI thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.â€
â€œIt was the biggest call of my career,â€ said Joyce, who became a full-time major league umpire in 1989.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately argued the call and was joined by several of his players after the final out. Galarraga was trying to pitch the third perfect game in the majors this season.
Something that professional baseball had never seen before. Instead, we’re left with a controversy that is likely to increase pressure for expansion of instant reply in Major League Baseball.
All I can say is that I watched that final out live on ESPN, watched it again several times thanks to TiVo, and then yet again from even more angles during the post-game show. It’s pretty clear that it was an out, and Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game.’
But don’t take my word for it, watch the video and decide for yourself:
Unfortunately, the rules of Major League Baseball do not seem to provide an opportunity for the call at First Base to be reversed.