Thursday, June 3, 2010

It Really Is A Mean Old World

Good morning Fackers. In Tuesday's preview, Jay lamented the state of Javy Vazquez' 2010 season, only to see the maligned pitcher take the hill and spin a gem over seven innings. Last night, Jay's choice of Chuck Berry's "Mean Old World" proved slightly more prophetic, but its meaning went far, far beyond the nagging injuries and vagaries of age that have impacted the Yankees at different points this season.

Vladimir Guerrero, enjoying a late career renaissance in his first season in Texas, took one of his own batted balls to the eye during batting practice, resulting in a trip to the hospital. Like half the Yankees' roster, he's day to day. And that doesn't even begin to tell to the terrible tales from last night around the Bigs.

Shortly after the Yankees' game got underway, Ken Griffey Jr announced his retirement, cutting short his 22nd Big League season hitting just .184/.250/.204 with only two extra base hits (both doubles) in 98 at bats. He suffered through his nap-gate controversy earlier this season, had been benched in recent weeks, and despite his statement to the contrary, was almost assuredly nudged towards the door.

I've had mixed feelings about Griffey over the course of his career, and I have mixed feelings about Griffey's retirement. It's near tragic to see him go out like this. At the same time, I suppose it's good that he didn't force Seattle to release the most iconic player in franchise history. And it's good that he didn't hang on longer to further tarnish his reputation. But I can't help but think he wouldn't have been better off just hanging them up after last year. Here's the farewell post we ran for Griffey eleven months ago. It was premature then; it's overdue now.

And yet the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Griffey's exit from the game don't even remotely approach what happened in Detroit last night. One out from an unprecedented third perfect game in the first third of the season, and second in four nights, Armando Galarraga coaxed a grounder to first. He raced to the bag, received the throw from Miguel Cabrera, and recorded what should have been the final out of the game. Instead first base umpire Jim Joyce called Jason Donald safe.

Armando Galarraga must feel terrible. Jim Joyce must feel even worse. And while the men in blue haven't been at all popular of late, and while many have made poor decisions that actively inserted themselves into the fabric of the game, Jim Joyce doesn't deserve what he has coming his way. It was a bang-bang play, not terribly close, but pretty close. And he made the wrong call. He didn't do it to make himself part of the storyline. He didn't do it to flex his muscles. He did it because he thought it was the right call. And he was wrong. And he's going to have to live with it for the rest of his life. And despite a 24 year career as a Major League umpire, a career that has been otherwise respectable if not commendable, Jim Joyce will forever be remembered for one mistake.

At least Griffey will be remembered for his peak, not his nadir. Jim Joyce won't ever be so lucky. It sure as hell can be a mean old world. Let's hope it's a little nicer today.


  1. I got to see Griffey play twice in my life. The first game was in 1996. I had my choice of tickets to see either Gooden's no-hitter or the game after that where they Yankees blew a 4-0 lead to lose 10-5. Guess which game I picked. The second time was about a month ago where The Kid and his .220 BA went 1-4 in a rainy game in front of 10,000 at Kauffman Stadium.

    These two games kind of neatly summarize my feelings towards Griffey. He went from being an absurdly talented player that victimized one of the best memories of my youth (that being the 1995 ALDS) to someone I just felt bad for; a relic of another time.

    As for last night, I still stand that I feel worse for Joyce then Galarraga. Armando's ''almost perfect game'' will be more memorable to me than any of the last several actual perfect games. He has found baseball immortality (as Sterling or Kay would dramatically call it) and will live for ever as the catalyst for broader replay in baseball (I would bet on it). As for Joyce, well you said it; he has to live forever knowing he blew that call and will forever be vilified for it. I guess I just kind of naturally pull for these kinds of guys.

    How 'bout that catch by Ajax?

  2. I have to disagree on two counts: first with the OP, and second with Jimmy.

    That was not a close play. The runner was out by a step, step and 1/2. People have been arguing the ball was moving in his glove, but that's just a result of looking at the play in super slow-mo. Look at any catch at that speed and the ball will always roll around before it settles. If this was bang-bang I don't take issue, and certainly Joyce becomes somewhat sympathetic. But here the call is clear, and while Joyce may not deserve to be tarred and feathered, he draws no sympathy from me. Galaraga on the other hand does. It is almost a certainty he will never approach a perfect game ever again, and regardless of what some may think, no one will ever remember his near perfect game. At least not the way it should be remembered. Being remembered as a catalyst for the greater role of instant replay in baseball is hardly the same, and in no way appealing. He becomes a footnote in a saga (instant replay) that was bound to evolve regardless of this happening, as opposed to going down in the annals of baseball history as being one of only 21 men to pitch a perfect game. Even if Selig rights the wrong, it's still not perfect.

  3. I think that Galarraga will certainly be remembered for this, not as vividly as he would be for a perfect game, but probably more than he would have been had he thrown a no-hitter with a walk in the third inning or something. The next time someone says "blown call", you are going to think of Jim Joyce and that freeze frame of Galarraga stepping on the bag, with the runner trailing a half step behind.

    The really odd thing is that Joyce erred on the side of denying history. From my fuzzy memory, it feels like it has been more common for umpires to give close calls to the pitchers when they were trying to complete no-hitters or perfectos (I believe Annibal Sanchez's no-no would be an example of that but I don't feel like paying MLBAM $3.95 to verify it).

    Anyway, I really think that's in the back of the umps' mind. By the time everyone is celebrating on the mound, they've already forgotten that you gave the pitcher a little help, but this call will live on in infamy. I kind of feel bad for Joyce, but in the interest on self-preservation there, he should have been ready to signal for an out if it was a close play.

  4. Anon -

    It's subjective, but I could see where you're coming from. I think it was a close play, but not particularly close. Plays closer than that are routinely called correctly. And neither I nor Joyce it appears, believe the bobble thing. Joyce thought the runner got there first. He blew it.

    I think that Galarraga might be better remembered for this than had he actually completed the perfect game.

  5. Some of my earliest memories of the stadium involve the Bleacher guys chanting "fuck you Griffey" from right field. Between that association and watching the 1995 Division Series as a 9 year old, I never liked the guy. Still, it's sad to see a once great player go out like this. Makes you appreciate Mussina even more

  6. Don't get me wrong, Anon - I don't think being remembered as a footnote is anywhere near as appealing as being remembered for a perfect game. I'm merely saying that I (and I am only speaking for myself; a baseball fan who's allegiance is to the Yankees and not the Tigers), will remember this near perfect game far better than had he pitched an actual one.

    Put it this way, I remember Wells' and Cone's very well because of my allegiance. I remember absolutely no details about Randy Johnson's - but I'll remember that he pitched one due to his name. I'll remember Buerhle's, but only because of the amazing catch. IF I remember Braden's, it will only be because of the stupid A-Rod drama. I doubt I'll remember anything about Halladay's, but if I do it will be for name just like Unit.

    I'll remember this one. Clearly. I'll tell my son about it someday and, God willing, my grandson about it. Not that it will help Galarraga sleep better (and, obviously, I'm sympathetic to him as well).

    But it's cool - everyone is going to see this in a unique way, and that's one of the things I love about this game.