Jim Joyce will be living with this call forever
Jim Joyce screwed up, no question. But because there is no replay in Major League Baseball outside of home run calls, he is unable to have the benefit of a second set of eyes or a second chance that just about all of us have in our jobs. He’s in the worst place possible, really. Armando Galarraga got screwed out of his perfect game, but at least he has everyone’s sympathy. Joyce gets the scorn and there’s not a hell of a lot he can do about it.
In the coming days he will be an object of derision by fans and the media which will blow things totally out-of-proportion. Within an hour of the blown call Joyce’s Wikipedia page was edited to include anti-Semitic comments and even a “date of death” of June 2, 2010. Such things would be shocking if they weren’t so typical. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more direct death threats than that one. Making me uneasy right now: Joyce is from Toledo and played ball at Bowling Green State University. He still lives in Bowling Green, actually. Lots of Tigers fans up that way.
The first person I thought of as this story was breaking a couple of hours ago was Don Denkinger. He was the ump that called the Kansas City Royals’ Jorge Orta safe in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series when he clearly was out. The Royals were down 1-0 at the time and if that held up the Cardinals would have won the Series. They rallied, though, won the game 2-1 and went on to win Game 7.
A bit of a different situation here tonight as this game (a) was not as important as the World Series -- in fact, it didn’t affect the outcome of the game one iota; and (b) it was the last out, so there wasn’t the same uncertainty that holds for how Game 6 would have unfolded.
But that’s not a big difference for Joyce. Like Denkinger, he’s going to have to live with this forever. Indeed, as Joe Posnanski noted recently, Denkinger still, nearly 25 years later, gets boos and jeers over the call. Joyce will probably experience much the same.
Based on his comments after the game -- and the fact that, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, he went to the Tigers’ locker room and apologized to Armando Galarraga and Jim Leyland personally -- he’s feeling it already. He could have taken a defiant stance like we’ve seen so many umpires take over the years. He could have said that the ball was bobbled. He could have just bullheadedly insist that he saw what he saw and that was that. But he didn’t. He has owned up to his mistake in the only limited way he can.
But it really doesn’t matter, does it? Emotions will rule for the short term and the obvious narrative -- Joyce screwed some young guy out of a perfect game -- will set in for posterity. I get that.
But I also feel pretty bad for Jim Joyce tonight. A man who made a mistake he can do nothing to fix and for which no apology will truly be accepted.