Bang-bang at first base

Someway, somehow umpire Jim Joyce made a decision last night even before the final pitch of the spoiled perfect game by the Detroit Tigers pitcher, Armando Galarraga.  As a consequence, Joyce blew the call at first base that marred a terrific performance.

He had a mindset.

Knowing a perfect game was on the line and a close, bang-bang play at first base might be the deciding moment, Joyce like all umpires had to decide what kind of call to make.  Would he consider the situation, the perfect game?  Or would he try to make the perfect call, to be too fine? 

Most such calls at first base are easy.   And this one should have been. 

Mindset separates umpires no matter at what level they work.  You have the idealistic hardcore umpires on one side and the situational, more common sense kind on the other.   In political parlance, conservatives v. liberals. 

The hardcore believes the baseball rulebook is a Bible.  The common-sense umpires believe the rulebook is only a guide.   Those in the middle often come across as inconsistent and indecisive and are the bane of players and managers. 

In short, the umpire either tries to follow the letter of the rules or he fudges a bit.

It is my view that Jim Joyce’s mindset was hardcore.  Even had the play been closer he was going to try to make the perfect call.  He was going to clear his mind of the situation, that Galaragga was on the verge of a great moment.   Joyce admirably wanted to uphold the highest standards of the game, to make sure Galarraga earned his page in history.

So even though replay cameras show Joyce’s call should have been routine, an out, and a perfecto for Galarraga, you have to fault the umpire’s mindset.  For even if the play had been closer, a perceived tie even, why call Donald safe?

 Though the Indians were not out of the game, most umpires had to be thinking this.  Galarraga had pitched a great game and made a good pitch that induced Donald to hit a weak ball on the infield.  Galarraga deserved a perfect game unless Donald clearly beat the throw.  Why reward the baserunner on a play like that? 

Donald, through his own baseball experiences, knew the likely outcome at first base.  He was quoted as saying, “I don’t know if I beat the throw or not.  But given the circumstances, I thought for sure I’d be called out.”

His comments, I think, reveal the realities of Major League Baseball.  It is the liberal umpires that govern the game, that situations are important.  This is what players have come to expect.  Situations do make a difference. Donald in the minds of most umpires was was going to be out unless he was clearly, clearly safe.


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