For once, this Bud’s for integrity
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Thank you, Bud Selig, for finally using the three percent of your brain delegated for making rational decisions.
You didn’t screw the pooch on this one like you did at the All-Star Game eight years ago. Even with pressure from overzealous fans and radio hosts to overturn the blown call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday night, you stood your ground and did the right thing.
X-Rays show you actually do have a spine after all, despite what most of us have felt for years.
With Galarraga just one out away from a perfect game, Indians shortstop Jason Donald hit a soft grounder toward the hole between first and second base. Tigers’ first baseman Miguel Cabrera vacated the bag to field the ball and flipped to Galarraga covering first for what should’ve been the final out, but Joyce ruled that Donald’s foot hit the bag first.
Galarraga kept his composure and retired the next hitter to finish off a one-hit gem, but the replays showed he had clearly beaten Donald to the bag. Afterward, Joyce – with tears in his eyes – admitted he screwed up and even went as far as to seek out Galarraga before he left the ballpark to offer a face-to-face apology.
Aside from Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland’s brief confrontation with Joyce immediately following the game, all the parties involved handled this with as much class and sportsmanship as we’d expect from upstanding professional athletes. Galarraga showed more sympathy for Joyce than himself and even presented Joyce with the lineup card for Thursday’s series finale between the Tigers and Indians. Several of Galarraga’s teammates gave Joyce a pat on the chest before the first pitch, a moment Joyce admits brought tears to his eyes.
Others spoke out on his behalf, too. Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera called Joyce “the best umpire we have in our game.” Even Leyland relented a day later, calling Joyce “a class guy” while adding the entire situation is “a crying shame.”
Instead of demanding Selig overturn the call and give Galarraga his moment in the sun, we should be applauding Galarraga, Joyce, Leyland and everyone else involved for reminding us that integrity and honor still exist in professional sports despite what the Ben Roethlisbergers, Michael Vicks and Tigers Woods of the world have led us to believe. This is a bigger story now than it would’ve been if Joyce had made the right call, and the irony is it turned out to be a happy ending and a great lesson for the spoiled, self-indulgent athletes who parade through life with an undeserved sense of entitlement.
Furthermore, it’s nice to know that for every Joe West, who made an ass of himself this year by complaining about the length of games between Boston and New York, there’s a Jim Joyce who actually doesn’t want to be part of the story.
By not correcting Joyce’s mistake, Selig made it clear he won’t undermine the authority of his umpires. Joyce did nothing wrong other than make the incorrect call. Prior to Donald’s at-bat, he could’ve easily said to himself, “If there’s anything close down the line, I’m just going to call him out,” so he wouldn’t have to put himself in the position to make a difficult – and potentially controversial – call. Had he done that, there would’ve been no backlash whatsoever. Four years ago, Florida’s Anibal Sanchez completed a no-hitter against Arizona when he got Eric Byrnes to ground out to shortstop Hanley Ramirez on a play in which Byrnes was clearly safe. No one complained because they were too wrapped up in the euphoria of Sanchez making history.
On Wednesday, Joyce properly separated himself from the drama and suspense unfolding in front of him and made what he felt was the right call regardless of the situation. That’s how all umpires should do their job.
If you’re still not convinced and still want to go back in time to change history, then at least look at the entire game from start to finish, not just the final play. How do we know Galarraga didn’t benefit from a liberal strike zone by home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson? To suggest Galarraga “deserved” the perfect game without doing the proper research is entirely up for debate, not to mention completely irresponsible.
The last person I remember trying to go back in time to change history was Marty McFly in “Back To The Future Part II.” The result? A skewed 1985 that included Biff’s Pleasure Palace and a set of fake hooters strapped to his mother’s chest. Is this what you want? Start implementing more instant replay into baseball and I guarantee it will completely destroy the game’s credibility and set a dangerous precedent in which future teams will demand similar treatment.
Selig wasn’t put on this earth to turn water into wine, and I’m pretty sure he’d sink if he tried to walk across a swimming pool, so don’t ask him to play God. If that’s the case, at least ask him to solve world hunger and revive my sagging journalism career (and not necessarily in that order).
The pros and cons of human error in sports are what make the games so enjoyable. They add drama and suspense and help craft storylines. Bad calls are what made Jeffrey Maier a household name in New York and turned an otherwise mundane gold-medal basketball game between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972 into one of the most talked-about moments in Olympic history (look ‘em up if you don’t get the picture).
I’m not advocating umpires and officials botching calls to create news, but life sucks every now and then and you have to deal with the consequences. If a lousy call can’t be overturned, embrace it and make the best of it the way Galarraga and the Tigers did.
I feel terrible for Galarraga, but I’m proud of the way he handled himself in the aftermath of Joyce’s blown call, and I’m even more proud of Selig for not caving in to the ridiculous demands from the airheads who think history should be altered over a regular-season game in the first week of June.
Kudos, Bud. You finally got it right.
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