Last night, June 2, I was umpiring a baseball game. I watched two poorly played baseball games and saw one young man (the pitcher) take a line drive off the side of the head that left him hospitalized. It happened in the second inning of the game and there was never a good feeling the rest of the night. I told one of the coaches I would rather be anywhere else than on that field.
After the game I returned to my car to find text messages, twitter updates, facebook comments, etc.. about an apparent blown call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. I was aware there was a perfect game going on because between games I was able to get an update. Last I had heard, the pitcher was perfect through eight innings.
So now, after hearing of a “blown call”, I began the drive home that would take about an hour and a half. I thought about how it could be blown and if it was just another one of those calls that some people bicker about. When I got home I watched the replay over and over and I must say…..it was a true blown call.
I give credit to umpire Jim Joyce for admitting his wrong doing. I can tell you from personal experience that it is not the easiest thing to walk up and say “I’m sorry, I was wrong. I cost you.” Now I have never been a part of officiating something of this magnitude so it is a different scale, but you get my point.
Last week I was having a conversation with a buddy and colleague, Wade Tracy, about the recent situations with umpire Joe West. He said to me, “The best umpires go unknown.” That statement could not be more accurate. How many people could tell me before last night that Joyce has worked two All-Star Games, two World Series, numerous playoff games and was voted the best umpire in the league by the players in 2003 and 2006? That’s right, you couldn’t. His resume speaks for itself. Joyce is a fantastic umpire, but one call could change his life…..forever.
Can you imagine having a job that a split second decision could lead to days, months or years of hate mail and anguish? Most people have jobs that if they make a mistake they can fix it and move on…..this you cannot. Jim Joyce will feel terrible about this call for the rest of his life. It won’t matter if the call is reversed by Bud Selig, it will not change the fact it was a blown call.
You may recall the 2008 controversial call by NFL referee Ed Hochuli in a game between the Broncos and Chargers, that he later apologized for. The long time official admitted he was wrong and responded to a lot of hate mail from fans. We will never forget that situation, but have moved on….because of his apology. Even Hochuli was one of the best referees in the NFL when he made a split-second decision that cost him credibility.
The fact of the matter is officials are human. We make mistakes at all levels of officiating, some bigger than others. This was an unfortunate incident that some should be overturned and award Galarrage a perfect game. However, the game of baseball does NOT need to increase the use of replay. The game is about bang-bang calls and human effort against human split second decisions. It will change the magnitude of calls and will lengthen an already long game.
If we add replay, what’s the excitement of a speedster trying to beat out a throw to first for an infield hit, a runner trying to steal home that takes a great effort by the umpire to get it right or the double play that happens so quickly you have to be completely focused to get it right. Replay will change the game of baseball and not for the better.
Officials, especially at the professional level, take great pride in the work they do. They go through clinics, meetings, training, workouts, etc. to be prepared enough to do the job. Officiating is something I love to do, but there are times its a ‘hate’ thing when something goes wrong.
Going back to my story on the young man hit by a line drive….Even after all the stories and hatred to our now most famed umpire…….I would rather be in Jim Joyce’s shoes than see a kid injured like I did last night.