It's So Easy, Even a Commissioner Can Do It
It could have been so perfectly simple. Pitcher is one out away from perfect game. Batter hits grounder to first baseman, who flips to pitcher covering at first to retire batter by half a step. Umpire incorrectly and incredibly rules him safe. Umpire gets message via headset saying call is under review from upstairs, calls time. Less than a minute later, umpire gets word: Batter is out, game is over, pitcher gets his perfect game.
Had Major League Baseball taken our advice and instituted an expanded, sane and streamlined method of video replay, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers would have secured the majors’ third perfect game in less than a monthwhich, in early June, already would have set the record for the most in a single year. (Or, it would have extended the existing record if you don’t count the two thrown in 1880, as we discounted in last week’s Comebacker.)
Galarraga sailed through a very quick game; it would have run shorter than a hour and 44 minutes had umpire Jim Joyce made the correct call on Cleveland infielder Jason Donald’s ground ball and not extended the game another batter. The 28-year old Galarraga, who made a solid debut in 2008 but lost his way a year laterleading to an Opening Day presence in the minorsthrew just 88 pitches, 67 of them for strikes.
Upon seeing the replay of the final out that should have been, Joyce broken-heartedly admitted that he blew the call and denied Galarraga history. Instead, Joyce, a good umpire who’s been patrolling major league games since 1989, will be remembered for this, and back at MLB Central, Commissioner Bud Selig is burying his head as he hears legitimate calls to expand and enhance the video replay concept he has so obviously tried to repel for years. So Bud, read our opinion piece and give our plan a chance.
That, folks, is precisely why Selig wouldn’t overrule Joyce’s blown call and, therefore, set a terrible precedent.
Nine other potential perfect games have been spoiled with one out to go, with only one of them approaching the notoriety that overwhelmed Galarraga’s near gem. In 1972, Chicago Cub pitcher Milt Pappas threw a 3-2 pitch that was called a borderline ball four by umpire Bruce Froemming, allowing San Diego’s Larry Stahl to end his bid for perfection with two out in the ninth. Reached by the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday, Pappas remarked: “At least I got a no-hitter out of it. But if Bud Selig intervenes and gives it to (Galarraga), I’m going to call Bud Selig and see if he’ll do it for me.”
Joyce and Comfort
A day after the all-but-perfect game, Galarraga took the Detroit lineup card out to Joyce and shook hands with him to let him know all was okay. Of course, Galarraga was all smiles after losing the perfect game; just moments later, the Tigers gave him a 2010 Corvette convertible, compliments of General Motors, while Joyce was receiving death threats and became the latest target of the obligatory fire(your name here).com web site mania for angry bloggers.
Blown Phone Calls
Another man by the name of Jim Joyce, living 50 miles south of Detroit in Toledo, Ohio, received 40 harassing phone calls in the 24 hours after Joyce the umpire made his blown call.
Did Joyce Make the Call at Home?
During a rain delay at Detroit’s Comerica Park between the Tigers and Oakland A’s, security guards ran quickly towards home plate where a man had run the tarp-covered bases and slid into home plate. They quickly realized that he was Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden (he of the year’s first perfect game), apparently having a good time and not remembering that foolhardy hijinks can sometimes backfire (see Kendry Morales).
What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate
It’s one thing to ask umpires to shut up and absorb the abuse (like Joyce), but they also might want to start to consider giving players a benefit of a doubt. Take Bill Hohn. On Monday at Houston, Astro starting pitcher Roy Oswalt missed strike three on a very close 2-2 pitch called a ball by Hohn to Washington’s Josh Willingham; Oswalt walked off the mound toward first and shouted in anger at himself, but Hohn assumed he was the target of Oswalt’s rage. When Hohn barked back, Oswalt quickly claimed he was yelling at himself. Hohn wouldn’t have it, ejecting Oswalt anyway. In the aftermath of the gamewon by the Nationals, 14-4MLB took Oswalt’s side of the story and said it would have a chat with Hohn regarding the art of assumption.
League vs. League
Interleague play resumes this coming weekend and will be the rule for the next two weeks. The season’s first brief interleague activity, back on May 21-23, resulted in a 21-21 draw between the American and National Leagues; the NL hasn’t had a winning campaign against its younger sibling since 2003.
Here we are in June, and several starting pitchers are still seeking their first victory of the year. In Atlanta, Kenshin Kawakami has started the year at 0-8 in his first 11 starts, and although his ERA (4.91) is hardly top of the line, it should at least be good enough for a few winsbut run support from his Brave teammates have been difficult to come by. In Baltimore, Kevin Millwood is 0-6 after 12 starts, and his ERA (4.29) is even better than Kawakami’s, but his run support is worse; the Orioles have averaged less than three runs every time he takes the mound. Finally, in Seattle, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell are a combined 0-7 in 22 appearances that include 16 starts.
The splurge in perfect games and shutouts so far in 2010run production in the majors has dropped 10% from the year beforehas many believing that steroids testing has done its job. But Bill Madden of the New York Daily News attributes the offensive drop-off to another banned substanceamphetamineswhich players once took to keep them moving through the rigors of a 162-game season, half of it spent on the road. Madden points out that the two teams with the majors’ best road recordsTampa Bay and San Diegoare also among the youngest, and therefore less prone to feel the need for speed.
Wounded of the Week
Although it didn’t lead to a stint on the disabled list, the week’s strangest moment of hurt took place in a Chicago batting cage where Texas DH Vladimir Guerrero hit a ball that quickly ricocheted off the cage ceiling and off his left eyeleading to significant swelling and a few days off.
More long-term concerns came this week in regards to Cleveland outfielder Grady Sizemore and the New York Mets’ Daniel Murphy, both of whom will now miss the rest of the season after they could not recover as expected. The case of Murphy was particularly interesting; in a rehab assignment at Buffalo, he was the victim of a rough (some say dirty) slide at second base that ended in a season-ending knee injury.
Other entrants into the major league medical ward this past week include Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett, Minnesota second baseman Orlando Hudson, Seattle starting pitcher Doug Fister and repeat offenders in Texas slugger Nelson Cruz and Oakland starting pitcher Brett Anderson.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Bedtime for Junior
And this time, a little afternoon nap won’t create controversy. Ken Griffey Jr. retired from baseball on Wednesday, as it became obvious that his ability (to say nothing of his playing time) was badly fading, a la Willie Mays at the end of his over-extended career. In 98 at-bats this season, Griffey hit a paltry .184 with zero home runs; in fact, he stepped down while mired in the longest homerless spell of his career.
Griffey’s retirement will shake loose our present thoughts of his bumbling, pseudo-scandal-plagued 2010 and bring us closer to recalling his best days during the 1990s, when he tore apart opposing pitchers; from 1993-99, he averaged 44 homers and 115 RBIs in 137 games per season. By the end of the decade, Griffey appeared to have the best shot at breaking Hank Aaron’s then-career home run mark, and he fled Seattle for Cincinnati because, as he intimated, he would have had a better chance of passing Aaron playing away from pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, which the Mariners had just relocated to.
Instead, Griffey’s tenure in Cincinnati was filled with numerous injuries that crippled his everyday availability, and his disabled list stints kept him from approaching Aaron. A late-season trade to Chicago in 2008 did neither Griffey nor the White Sox any good, and his farewell stint with the Mariners, starting in 2009, showed that Griffey had little gas left in his tank.
Griffey is a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer, and it is generally agreed that his 630 homers, almost all hit during the Steroid Era, were not chemically enhanced, given an extreme lack of any evidence and his constant (and convincing) denials on the subject. The Kid came to the majors as a 19-year old in 1989 with the promise of becoming one the game’s greats; he succeeded.
The Lone Legitimates
In Griffey’s time, nine players (including himself) joined the 500 Club for career home runs. All but twoGriffey and Jim Thomehave been nailed with various levels of proof that they took performance enhancement drugs.
David Clyde Redux?
Meanwhile, Strasburgmania has made its way south of the Beltway to Strasburg, Virginia, 70 miles away from Washington; the inhabitants of the town are lobbying to have its name changed to Stephen Strasburg for one week next year.
After spending the first two months of the 2010 season in the minors, Stephen Strasburg finally gets to ease into the majors when he gets a Tuesday assignment against another minor league team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 21-year old fireballer certainly appears ready for the big time; in 11 minor league starts, he was 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA, and he allowed just 31 hits and 13 walks in 55.1 innings with 65 strikeouts. If Strasburg isn’t ready, the usually fickle National fans certainly are; as of Saturday, tickets for his debut were all but sold out.
The Older He Gets, the Moyer He Wins
Jamie Moyer of the Philadelphia Phillies became only the third pitcher in major league history to win 100 games after his 40th birthday when he fired a complete-game, 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. The other two pitchers to win 100 after turning 40 are Phil Niekro and Jack Quinn. The 47-year old Moyer also didn’t allow a home run for the fourth straight game, the longest stretch since late 2008 for a player who’s only four long balls shy of tying Robin Roberts’ all-time career record at 505.
Fingerprints Courtesy of Scott Boras
When the New York Mets signed pitcher Oliver Perez before the 2009 season, we wondered aloud how the Mets could possibly give a common player with some promise virtually the same contract (three years, $36 million) as closer Francisco Rodriguez, who had just broken the all-time season record for saves. The Mets themselves must be wondering that now as well. Since signing, Perez is 3-7 in 21 starts and four relief appearances with a 6.62 ERA, wretched numbers created by a major lack of control that’s resulted in 91 walks over 104.2 innings. So at the end of May, the Mets asked Perez to shuffle off to Triple-A Buffalo and collect himself, but Perezbacked by his agent, the one and only Scott Borasasserted his collectively bargained right and refused.
The standoff lasted a week when, on Friday, Perez arrived at the clubhouse suddenly claiming that his knee was hurt; the Mets quickly (and eagerly) placed him on the 15-day disabled list. The sudden turn of events are leaving many to wonder whether the “injury” is in fact a negotiated deal between Perez, the Mets and Boras, and MLB says it will investigate.
The Philadelphia Phillies were averaging 5.4 runs per game until after May 10 at Denver, when a controversy flared up over the use of binoculars from the bullpen to allegedly steal signs used by the opposing Rockies. Since then? The Phillies’ per-game run average has dipped to 3.4, and they’ve been shut out five times.
Boomer De Jour
In just his 56th game of the year, Toronto’s Jose Bautista set a career high in home runs when he launched long balls 17 and 18 at home off Yankee (and former Blue Jay) pitcher A.J. Burnett. Bautista’s earlier mark was 16, established in 2006 for the Pittsburgh Pirates over 117 gamestwice as many as he’s played this year.
Yeah, But Were You Really There?
The Florida Marlins came up with a rather novel approach to sell many of their unused game tickets: Sell them after the game. That’s what they did in the aftermath of Roy Halladay’s perfect game on May 28, which drew 25,000 fans to Miami’s Sun Life Stadium; now, a whole lot more people can say they were there by holding up a ticket from Halladay’s 1-0 win over the Marlins. In the first five hours of their availability, 3,500 tickets were sold. (FYI, the Chicago White Sox pulled the same trick last year after Mark Buehrle threw his perfect game.)
Anyone for 19?
The San Diego Padres, who scored the most runs (17) by any one team at spacious Petco Park in their first home game of the year, eclipsed that mark on Monday when it crushed the New York Mets, 18-6. This is not to say that the Padres have completely tamed their ballpark after six years of low-scoring affairs; in 28 other home games this year, they’ve averaged only 3.4 runs.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Toronto’s Vernon Wells, whose hot-cold career has become hot again, ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games. The 31-year old outfielder is batting .321 with four homers during his run.
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