Posted by: mdegeorge | June 3, 2010

Griffey, Galarraga, and so much more: a full day of baseball insanity

It’s been a banner day in baseball, one that requires a second opinion from the Sports Doctor.

First, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to Ken Griff…Hey, he was totally out!!

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Seriously though, is anyone more pissed right now that Junior? His retirement day is just another example of the unfortunate figure he has been over the last decade, one the almost overshadows the first-ballot Hall of Fame enshrinement in my eyes.

He was the phenom, the prodigal son, the one who was going to challenge baseball’s major milestones. And by the time he reached his peak, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were too busy saving baseball for many to notice Griffey.

He then made the big move of his career, ditching his cult-hero status in Seattle for a homecoming in Cincinnati, yet again following in the footsteps of his father. But his time in the Queen City was cut short by injury time and again.Griffey is one of the only names from the Steroid Era to emerge from his playing days with his name pristine. He was always looked at as a good guy who fell victim to terrible injuries. He even went out the right way: no farewell tour, no holding on to the point of burdening his team (this year’s Mariners have 18 burdens on the roster, and Griffey doesn’t earn special distinction). Surely the least he deserved was top billing on SportsCenter for an entire night to celebrate his storied career.

But alas, Armando Galarraga, who was pitching for the Toledo Mudhens three weeks ago, couldn’t even grant him that honor.

There are a few things that are apparent about that phantom final out:

– Jim Joyce was wrong, and he knew he was wrong. And he knew it immediately. And he probably told Jim Leyland as much when he came out to argue.

– I wish I knew a good Dubliners joke to use on Joyce here. Although I have a feeling “Joyced” will be a verb that increases in popularity very soon.

– Here’s what I think happened: if you watch the highlight—it takes 37 looks, so head to espn.com yet again—you see the ball hit Galarraga in the pocket and slide up into the webbing. After the “out” was recorded, he again reshuffled the ball in his glove. I think Joyce saw this as a bobble and just froze, going with the safe call.

– Everyone wants to jump on the issue of instant replay in baseball to prevent something like this. How about we focus on something that actually exists and should have been enacted in this type of situation? Derryl Cousins, the crew chief and a veteran of 31 years and over 4,000 games, has to step in. He needs to call his umps together and say, “Listen Jim, are you absolutely sure? If you know you made a mistake, let’s talk about it, maybe someone saw it different, and let’s get to the bottom of this. We’ll back you on it if you are absolutely sure, but if there are any doubts, let’s get it out there because this is kind of a big deal.”

– What about the possibility of the official scorer ruling it an E-1 to preserve the no-hitter? Surely there have been less-justified instances where the wrong call has been made (just look at the triple gifted to the Cardinals’ Brendan Ryan by Johnny Gomes’ vertigo). Or is that just a “two wrongs don’t make a right” situation in which the damage had already been done?

– Uh, Joyce has to be behind the plate for the series finale in just under 12 hours. God knows Detroit doesn’t need any excuses to set cars on fire.

– Can someone get a tape of what Miguel Cabrera was saying to Joyce through the rest of the inning? I’m assuming that it’s going to carry a “Parental Advisory” label in English and Spanish.

– I was impressed by Galarraga’s final line—one hit, 88 pitches, 67 strikes, no more than 13 pitches in any inning. But I was more impressed by his composure during and after the ninth inning. He didn’t hang his head after the missed call by Joyce. He looked wryly at the ump, swallowed the mistake, and finished the job quickly and succinctly. He was rattled initially though, forgetting to go from the stretch and allowing Jason Donald to get to third before leaving the wind-up. But he finished the job and showed a poise and maturity in the post-game interviews that was much better than I suspect most would have been able (or cared) to muster.

– I was equally impressed by Joyce’s postgame comments, though I detest that fact that any umpire should be such an integral part of a game as to warrant interviewing. But he really was repentant for his mistake. So often, it’s easy for an ump to dig in his heels because his decision has such finality. But he owned up to it and I believe he’s as heartbroken as he sounds. Expect reports of a formal apology to Galarraga by late tomorrow morning.

– Prepare for endless rounds of the instant replay debate, which I maintain would hurt the game more than help. But the more interesting debate is whether or not Bud Selig allows the result to stand. We know Donald should have been called the 27th out. And yet, I’m 96.87 percent sure Selig would never overturn it for the controversy it would cause and slippery slope it would give rise to. Either way, a few interesting days await.

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