Friday, June 4, 2010

Where Jim Joyce erred

You've all seen it. It has been the talk around the water cooler. First base umpire Jim Joyce made a call in the ninth inning of the Detroit-Cleveland game Wednesday night. He called the batter, Jason Donald, safe on what seemed to be a simple put-out. The fans booed, the players screamed, Twitter was ablaze.

So, what did Jim Joyce do that was so wrong?

When in doubt, look to the rules.

Official Rules of Major League Baseball

9.02 (b)
If there is reasonable doubt that any umpire’s decision may be in conflict with the rules, the manager may appeal the decision and ask that a correct ruling be made. Such appeal shall be made only to the umpire who made the protested decision.

The Tigers' manager, Jim Leyland, made such an appeal to Joyce. The way that I read the rules, the manager and the players have no more recourse. The call stands. The game continues.

Joyce did the right thing. He called it as he saw (or heard) it. At that moment. Without the help of video replay.

Let's review the timeline.

Two outs in the ninth inning. A perfect game is on the line. It has only been about an hour and forty minutes. A quick game. Things are moving along at a good clip. Joyce knows that there are two outs. Donald pokes the ball up between first and second. Cabrera shifts, handles the ball. Armando Galarraga moves toward first. Donald is running at full speed towards first. Joyce turns his attention from Cabrera to first base. The throw comes in to Galarraga. Donald's foot hits the bag. Did Galarraga's foot hit it as well? Did the pitcher have the ball securely in his glove? Which came first, Donald touching the bag, or the ball in to the glove? Joyce wondered for a split second and declared the runner safe. He made the call that he thought was correct.

But he had to have seen the look on Galarraga's face. He must have heard the crowd's reaction. Miguel Cabrera had to have started his tirade just after adjusting himself. And he listened to Leyland talk for a few seconds.

Then, from what I understand, the game continued.

Here's where Jim Joyce erred. He made another decision. He ignored rule 9.02 (c)...

9.02 (c)
If a decision is appealed, the umpire making the decision may ask another umpire for information before making a final decision. No umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire’s decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it.

He could have taken a few minutes to confer with the rest of the officiating crew.
Hey, Marvin. Jim. Derryl. Come over here. I got a question. Can we mill around a bit? The call I just made, the bang-bang one? I kicked the [beep] out of it. I take pride in this job, and I kicked the [beep] out of that and I took a perfect game away from that kid over there who worked his [beep] off all night. What do you say, guys? I made the wrong call, didn't I? I thought so. Thanks.
He walks back towards first, puts his thumb up and shouts, "Out!"

Game over. Joyce only loses face for a few moments. Players and fans forget it in the midst of celebration. There's a beer shower in the clubhouse. The ball is tagged and sent to Cooperstown.

But that's not the way it happened. You saw it. You talked about it. It didn't happen that way.

Postscript: Joyce and Galarraga hugged. Things are good between them. Galarraga got a Vette. In the grand scheme of things the call really doesn't matter.

Photo credit: Paul Sancya at


  1. It makes too much sense.

    I don't know why his colleagues did not rush to assist him in an obvious moment of need.

    Sure he had the best view but they no doubt saw the play as well.

  2. I don't think he thought he missed the call until he saw the replay. He certainly thought it was close. He almost certainly thought that he had the only good angle among the umps to make the call. I'm not surprised that he did not confer with the other umps. I am surprised that Leyland did not ask him to confer with the other umps.