Thursday, June 2, 2011

Joyce & Galarraga Team Up

Jim Joyce made the wrong call a year ago,
but now he has a book out
with pitcher Armando Galarraga.
Maybe now I have seen it all. Umpire Jim Joyce and pitcher Armando Galarraga have teamed up to write a book about Joyce's blown call that cost the hurler a perfect game. I know Galarraga famously accepted Joyce's apology, but I never imagined a day when a player would be co-author with an ump who messed up.

I'm not against anyone peddling his story for a buck (I'm a laid-off journalist who wishes he had a great story to sell), but "Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History" opens the kinds of issues that baseball seems to have trouble dealing with.

In this case, ESPN reports that Joyce will not work any games in which Galarraga pitches. That's fine. For now, it won't matter; Galarraga has been sent to the minors by the Arizona Diamondbacks (his gem last year was tossed for the Detroit Tigers). But is it so easy to ensure that bias doesn't enter Joyce's calls?

Suppose Galarraga makes a triumphal return to Phoenix and helps keep the D-Backs in the division race. If Joyce works any of the team's games, is it unreasonable to think he might be unconsciously pulling for his writing partner to get to the playoffs? After all, they have a relationship that goes beyond the field, and the more attention Galarraga gets the more books might be sold.

By all accounts Jim Joyce is a very good umpire. The players voted him the best, and that was after he blew the call last year. I don't think he'd intentionally make calls based on his business deal. But I do believe baseball has opened a can of worms by allowing an umpire, who is supposed to be impartial, to go into business with a current player.

This is not the first time baseball has fallen short when it comes to the appearance of impropriety. When Randy Wolf, lefty starter for the Milwaukee Brewers, pitches, his brother, Jim, an umpire, is not allowed to call ball and strikes.

But somehow baseball has decided it's OK for him to work the bases in those games. That means he could have to make a call on a close call involving his sibling. Baseball really doesn't see a problem with that?

If it were up to me, Jim Wolf would work only American League games. That way there'd be no suggestion of bias. Baseball likes to take grand stands against perceived bias. Pete Rose was banned for betting on his team. That's all well and good. But it needs to be consistent in making sure any hint of bias is quashed.

In these cases involving umpires it has fallen well short of the goal.

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