The Devil's Advocate: Jim Joyce

Umpiring is a thankless job. You always hear about how the strike zone was off, or how that fair ball was really a foul, or how that runner actually avoided the tag. Rarely do you hear about “great calls” or a well officiated game. Perhaps players and managers acknowledge umpires after games — I wouldn’t know, since I am neither of those things — but fans certainly don’t, and the media is only eager to pounce on them when they have made a mistake. You’ve never seen an umpire interviewed after a game when they called things correctly, have you?

On Wednesday night Jim Joyce made what will be the most remembered call in his professional career when he deemed the Indians’ rookie shortstop Jason Donald safe on a groundball hit to the second baseman that clearly resulted in an out. The significance, if you weren’t aware, was that there were two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, and up until that point pitcher Armando Galarraga had pitched a perfect game.

The end result? The Tigers beat the Indians 3-0. That’s it, a perfectly uninteresting box score. And yet, it could’ve been much more interesting. Armando Galarraga, a slightly above average pitcher, would have gone in the record books as only the 22nd pitcher to have accomplished the feat of a perfect game. The Tigers, a team no one cares about outside of Detroit, would have garnered great positive media attention. And it would have been the second perfect game in four days and the third this season, an historic happening in and of itself.

Instead, all of the media attention went to Jim Joyce, a man who I’m sure is used to just walking out of a stadium after a game and heading back home or to his hotel and sleeping the rest of the night. A confused media and an enraged fanbase wanted to know what happened, why it happened, how could it have been allowed to happen?

Yes, umpiring is a thankless job. I mean, aren’t we all allowed to make mistakes sometimes?


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