Sports Outside the Beltway

MLB Players Like Jim Joyce, Don’t Like Instant Replay

0603-galarraga-joyce-story.h2A new survey of Major League Baseball players reveals that their favorite umpire is Jim Joyce, the man who blew a call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game, and that they don’t like instant replay:

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?
Yes: 22%
No: 77%
Maybe: 1%

Replay on fair/foul calls?
Yes: 36%
No: 62%
Not sure: 2%

Overturn calls in Galarraga game?
Yes: 13%
No: 86%
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.


Bud Selig Will Not Overturn Umpire’s Call In Blown Perfect Game

bildeBaseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced this afternoon that he would not overturn umpire Jim Joyce’s call that denied Armando Gallaraga a perfect game last night:

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 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.

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.”


Armando Galarraga’s Feat Even Rarer Than A Perfect Game

IMG_2399-thumb-550x412-2108221There’s news this afternoon that Major League Baseball is considering reviewing the blown call that ruined Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game last night. Assuming that it can be done without completely disregarding the rules of baseball, I think it would be  proper thing to do.

Until then, though, Armando Gallaraga can take some comfort in the fact that he currently is in a club even more exclusive than the one made up of pitchers who’ve pitcher perfect games:

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:[54]

  • On July 4, 1908, Hooks Wiltse of the New York Giants hit Philadelphia Phillies pitcher George McQuillan on a 2–2 count in a scoreless game—the only time a 0–0 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 1–0; his ten-inning no-hitter set a record for longest complete game no-hitter that has been tied twice but never broken.
  • On August 5, 1932, Tommy Bridges of the Detroit Tigers gave up a pinch-hit single to the Washington Senators’ Dave Harris.
  • On June 27, 1958, Billy Pierce of the Chicago White Sox gave up a double, which landed just inches in fair territory, on his first pitch to Senators pinch hitter Ed Fitz Gerald.
  • On September 2, 1972, Milt Pappas of the Chicago Cubs walked San Diego Padres pinch hitter Larry Stahl on a borderline 3–2 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 April 15, 1983, Milt Wilcox of the Tigers surrendered a pinch-hit single to the White Sox’ Jerry Hairston, Sr.
  • 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 3–2, with Robinson the winner. (Robinson’s teammate Tom Browning threw his perfect game later that season.)
  • On August 4, 1989, Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays gave up a double to the New York YankeesRoberto Kelly, followed by an RBI single by Steve Sax. Stieb finished with a 2–1 victory.
  • On April 20, 1990, Brian Holman of the Seattle Mariners gave up a home run to Ken Phelps of the Oakland Athletics.
  • On September 2, 2001, Mike Mussina of the Yankees gave up a two-strike single to Boston Red Sox pinch hitter Carl Everett

And then, of course, there’s Gallarga.

Small consolation, yes, but at least it’s something.


Ken Griffey, Jr. Retires After 22 Years In Baseball

ken_griffey_jrUnfortunately overshadowed by Armando Gallaraga’s blown perfect game was the announcement that one of the best baseball player’s of the last two decades was retiring:

SEATTLE (AP) — In his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. was considered the best player in baseball, on pace to rewrite the record books.

Injuries derailed his chance to become the home run king. His spot as one of the game’s all-time greats is without question.

Now relegated to part-time duty and with little pop left in that perfect swing, Griffey unexpectedly decided Wednesday night to retire after 22 mostly brilliant seasons.

The Kid that once saved baseball in the Pacific Northwest with his backward hat, giddy teenage smile and unrivaled talent, had become a shell of the player who dominated the 1990s.


A star from the time he was the overall No. 1 pick in the 1987 draft, Griffey also played with his hometown Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. He hit .284 with 1,836 RBIs.

But his greatest seasons, by far, came in Seattle.

Griffey played in 1,685 games with the Mariners and hit .292 with 417 homers, most coming in the homer-friendly Kingdome, and 1,216 RBIs. He won the AL MVP in 1997 and practically saved a franchise that was in danger of relocating when he first came up.

Griffey returned to the Mariners in 2009 and almost single-handedly transformed what had been a fractured, bickering clubhouse with his leadership, energy and constant pranks.

Griffey signed a one-year deal last November for one more season in Seattle after he was carried off the field by his teammates after the final game of 2009. He hit .214 last season with 19 homers as a part-time DH. He was limited by a swollen left knee that required an operation in the offseason.

But the bat never came alive in 2010. Griffey was hitting only .184 with no homers and seven RBIs and recently went a week without playing. There was a report earlier this season — which Griffey denied — that he’d fallen asleep in the clubhouse during a game.

The swing that hit as many as 56 homers in a season had lost its punch and Griffey seemed to understand his time was coming to a close.

Griffey ended his career with 630 home runs, placing him 5th on the all-time list behind Willie Mays, with only Alex Rodriguez (590) within range of surpassing him anytime soon. But for his injuries, though, it’s conceivable that Griffey would have ended his career challenging, if not surpassing, Barry Bonds’ record of 762 home runs.


Former MLB Pitcher Jose Lima Dies At 37

088293_dodgers_RCGJose Lima, a former pitcher for four different National League teams over his career, died today at the age of 37:

LOS ANGELES – Jose Lima, a right-hand pitcher who was a 20-game winner and an All-Star during a 13-year major league career, died Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers said. He was 37.

Lima, who won 13 games with the Dodgers in 2004, died of an apparent heart attack, according to the Aguilas Cibaenas, a winter ball team that Lima had played for in the Dominican Republic.

“Lima was an exceptional man. This is a great loss for Dominican baseball and the country,” Llenas said.

Referring to his often colorful outings as “Lima Time,” Lima posted his best season in 1999 when he was selected to the All-Star game as a Houston Astro. He went 21-10 in 35 starts with a 3.58 ERA for the NL Central champion Astros.

In 13 major league seasons, the native of the Dominican Republic was 89-102 with a 5.26 ERA. He hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since a four-game stop with the New York Mets in 2006.

“He was a man full of life, without apparent physical problems and with many plans and projects on the agenda,” Astacio said.

Lima went 46-42 with the Astros between 1997-2001, and he was a 20-game winner and an All-Star with the Houston team.

Lima’s last Major League appearance was on July 7, 2006 when he pitched the second of two games for the New York Mets before being reassigned to the Minor Leagues.


Mets’ Angel Pagan Hits Inside The Park HR, Turns Triple Play, In The Same Game

mets nationals baseball--2145404669.hmediumInside-the-park Home Runs are a rare occurrence in baseball, and so are triple plays. What’s even rarer is for a player to be involved in both in the same game, but that’s what happened tonight to the Mets’ Angel Pagan:

WASHINGTON – Angel Pagan hit an inside-the-park home run and started a triple play Wednesday night, but that wasn’t enough for the New York Mets in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Pagan became the first player in 55 years to take part in both feats in the same game. Despite his achievements, the Mets lost for the ninth time in 11 games.

Pagan hit the first inside-the-park home run in Nationals Park history in the fourth inning. An inning later, the center fielder’s shoestring catch led to the Mets’ first triple play since 2002.

Phillies shortstop Ted Kazanski was the last player to do both, on Sept. 25, 1955, for Philadelphia against the New York Giants, the Elias Sports Bureau said. That was also the last time a team pulled a triple play and hit an inside-the-parker in the same game, Elias said.

A thrilling sight, not doubt.

Although I’m sure Mets fans would have appreciated it if their team had won the game as well. Instead, they lost to the Nationals 5-3.

Incidentally, this is Pagan’s second inside-the-part home run. His last came in September of last year against the Phillies.


Walking The Batter Before A-Rod, Not Always A Good Idea

15yankees_CA0-popupLast night, the Minnesota Twins took a gamble, and lost:

NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez waited on deck, with runners at second and third and the Yankees trailing by a run in the seventh inning. Boy, did Ron Gardenhire have a tough decision to make.

Pitch to Mark Teixeira or intentionally walk him and bring in right-handed sinkerballer Matt Guerrier to replace Brian Duensing? Even though A-Rod was 4 for 6 against Guerrier with three home runs?

Yup, Guerrier came in.

And the ball went out.

Rodriguez hit his 19th career grand slam, moving past Frank Robinson into sole possession of seventh place with his 587th home run and powering the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 8-4 Friday night.

“That’s why I hit fourth,” A-Rod said. “My team is expecting me to get big hits in those type of situations.”

He was so excited as the ball went over the left-field wall that he nearly carried his bat all the way to first base. He then raised a fist in triumph after the drive gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead.

Part of the problem that the Twins faced, of course, is that the Yankee lineup is simply too strong to assume anyone is an easy out. Teixeira has had a hot bat all month, so walking him and bringing in the righthander to get Rodriguez isn’t necessarily a dumb call.

Except in retrospect as you’re watching that ball go over the wall and the bases clear.


Perfect Games Becoming More Common Than No-Hitters

20100510_braden_560x375The New York Times noted the other day a statistical oddity regarding two of baseball’s most difficult achievements, the perfect game and the no-hitter:

Dallas Braden’s perfect game for Oakland has generated plenty of press, and only partly because of his feud with Alex Rodriguez. A perfect game is celebrated with bold headlines because it is one of baseball’s rarest achievements. But somehow, without anyone noticing, the perfect game has started to become more common, while no-hitters over all have become harder to come by.

Before 1998, only 6 percent of no-hitters were perfect games, but from 1998 to 2003, 20 percent were, and since then 27 percent have been.

From 1900 through 1980, baseball witnessed only seven perfect games, including two in the dead-ball era and three during the glory days for pitchers in the mid-1960s. But in the 30 seasons beginning with 1981, nine pitchers have achieved perfection. And, oddly, regular no-hitters have decreased in frequency while becoming more erratic in their appearance.

“There is probably a fair amount of chance involved” in the jump in perfect games, said Rob Neyer, a baseball columnist with ESPN. He says the rise of free-swingers helps because strikeouts mean fewer balls in play and thus fewer possible hits and errors — although he noted that fewer balls in play should also mean more no-hitters. Improved fielding has probably helped as well, he said.

In the 20 years before Babe Ruth and the live ball era of 1920, no-hitters were far more common, with pitchers hurling 48 of them. In the two decades that followed — the most explosive offensive period before the steroids era — there were just 16 no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game. Baseball found an equilibrium in the 1940s and ’50s and that span yielded 30 no-hitters.

Not surprisingly, the swinging (and missing) ’60s produced an astonishing 30 no-hitters, along with three perfect games, but even after baseball lowered the pitching mound, pitchers churned out 31 no-hitters in the 1970s. In other words, from 1960-1979, baseball averaged more than three no-hitters per season yet only one perfect game about every seven years. Since then, the pattern has shifted: There have been 48 no-hitters over the past 30 years, meaning it now takes two seasons to produce three no-hitters. In the last decade, there were only 13 — none in 2000 and only one (a perfect game) from June 11, 2003, through Sept. 6, 2006.

That decline might make sense considering that the strike zone, the ballparks, the ball and steroids all conspired to boost offense, yet there have been 10 perfect games in that span, meaning they are now coming along every three seasons on average instead of every seven. In fact, perfect games before this year were fairly evenly spaced out, appearing in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

Perhaps it’s just a statistical oddity. Perhaps it’s the fact that, in the modern era, when someone does get on base, even if by a walk in what is otherwise a no-hitter, the odds of getting them out decrease. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the decline in fielding on some teams.

But if it means more perfect games, then I’m all for it.


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