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June 3, 2010 - Seth Staskey
Officiating sports is tough no matter what level you're working at. Whether it's 8-year old baseball to the NBA or NFL, it's tough. You're getting paid a decent sum of money to enforce the rules and make some snap judgement calls. However, when you make those calls, there's a very realistic chance that a certain percentage of the people in attendance won't agree or won't be pleased.
But, the great part about it is usually -- nine times out of 10 at least -- the officials get the calls correct no matter what the opposing team or fans believe. However, that one time is usually the most debated.
Such was the case during Wednesday's Tigers vs. Indians' game when Jim Joyce ruled Cleveland's Jason Donald had beaten out a play at first base to break up a perfect game on what would have been the 27th out. Television replays clearly showed that Gallaraga -- the Tigers' pitcher -- had beaten Donald to the bag by at least a stride-and-a-half. He was still called safe much to the dismay of not only the Tigers, but to the millions of fans watching the game on either ESPN or MLB Network.
It's a devastating call moreso for Joyce. The Toledo native is a veteran umpire who's worked two World Series and is well-respected and regarded amongst baseball people and the players. However, he flat out blew the biggest call of his life. There are plenty who argue that in that situation, unless he's totally beat out the throw, Joyce should have just called him out.
I have trouble with that school of thought because the umpire's job is to interpret the call the way he sees it and make a ruling. He adamently explained to the Tigers' players and manager Jim Leyland he thought Donald had beaten the play out. However, once he got into the clubhouse and watched the replay, he was the first guy to apologize to Gallaraga and then called himself out several times in media interviews.
Personally, I umpire softball -- which is a far cry from working big-league baseball games -- and I will admit I've missed a few calls. It's definitely an imperfect world and science, but in that situation, the call has made correctly and it wasn't, which is unfortunate.
But, like the players, Joyce will need to re-focus and go back to work. He's too good of an umpire to dwell on it, but something tells me every bang-bang call will be given a little better look and deeper thought. Maybe, some good will come from this, there will be replay in baseball used in certain situations, but never for balls and strikes.
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