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What Jim Joyce's bad call teaches us

Soon after Jim Joyce made what is now being called “the worst umpiring call in the history of baseball,” the event was labeled a teachable moment. This is almost always an attempt by adults to justify their interest in what is, after all, a mere game by imbuing baseball with importance. In this case, though, the robbing of Armando Galarraga by the inept Joyce of his perfect game did, indeed, teach children everywhere certain lessons.

First, life is not fair. Galarraga threw a perfect game. Of this there can be no dispute. Not a single Cleveland player got a hit. It was Joyce, the umpire, who made a mistake -- not Galarraga, the pitcher. Nevertheless, with the solemn agreement of sportswriters everywhere and approval of the august commissioner of baseball himself, someone named Bud Selig, it was decided that even though an injustice was done, nothing was more important than the unwritten rule that a wrong call is as good as a right call.

In this, baseball is like a panel of reactionary judges who are forever turning away appeals by innocent people because they have been filed late. Here again, the rules are more important than fairness or justice, and if sometimes an innocent man must swing, that is too bad. The system must prevail. This, kiddies, is an important lesson, and I hope you learn it well. It is as important to be prompt as to be innocent.

Second, we come to this matter of what is called grace or pride or something like that. The umpire, the inexplicably klutzy Joyce, has been praised for acknowledging his mistake. What else he could have done is beyond me because his foolish call was captured on videotape -- and it was not even close. How he could have insisted that he, in fact, made the right call when the tape showed otherwise would not only have made him look like a fool, but insane enough to warrant incarceration for mental feebleness?

So this is another lesson for children: admit the obvious. The applause will be deafening, and I guarantee a spot on the Today show, although maybe not in the first hour. It goes without saying, though, that if there is any doubt, insist on your correctness. This is an unstated rule, but I think everyone understands.

Third, apologize for your actions. In so doing, the apology will overshadow why you made the mistake in the first place. Just by saying he was sorry, Joyce was spared any explanation of how he could have gotten the call so wrong. After all, it was clear to everyone in the ballpark that the runner was out.

Finally, children everywhere already understand that these so-called teachable moments are overwhelmed, overshadowed and overlooked by the money in the game of baseball and the heedless and hedonistic lifestyle of so many players. You want some real teachable moments? Talk to an agent.

By Richard Cohen  | June 4, 2010; 11:17 AM ET
Categories:  Cohen  | Tags:  Richard Cohen  
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Jim Joyce made a mistake. He sincerely apologized to the pitcher and all the baseball fans in America. His apology was accepted and his mistake forgiven.

Mr. Joyce has demonstrated his honesty and integrity. The pitcher and fans have demonstrated good sportsmanship.

Richard Cohn has demonstrated cynicism and a pleasure in debasing others. No room for him in America's pastime.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | June 4, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

BTW: that panel of "reactionary" judges have to draw the line SOMEWHERE (every convict claims he is "innocent").

Posted by: JakeD2 | June 4, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I watched a perfect game pitched by Armando Galarraga. I saw the blown call many times. Tigers fans everywhere are sick about it. Baseball fans everywhere must accept this as a call to action.

Instant reply exists in every other major sport. Even college football games use instant replay. Every MLB game is televised. No additional equipment or staff would be required to implement instant replay for plays at bases, in addition to foul balls. I don't think anyone wants to question balls and strikes yet. But, it would be a simple matter to add base plays to the current rules that allow replay for deciding foul balls and home runs.

Bud Selig should step up the plate immediately by calling Armando Galarraga's masterpiece a perfect game, which we all know it was. Next, he should support the addition of plays at bases to current instant replay rules. Only then will baseball join the rest of us the 21st century. Only then can this travesty of justice be avoided in the future.

Charles Weinblatt
Author, Jacob's Courage

Posted by: csw18 | June 4, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Baseball is the boring past time of old men (see photo)
The ump acted like man and admitted his mistake (would you rather he hang himself?) and you are throwing a fit like a child.

PS I saw the video and worse calls have been made

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | June 4, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cohen has just made a mistake in his journalistic efforts that is an even greater faux pas in his profession than Joyce's was in his. That being making a statement that is completely false when he when he knows the facts show otherwise. He states that " was clear to everyone in the ballpark that the runner was out." Far from true. In fact, NO ONE in the park except the umpire, pitcher, and first baseman was close enough to see what happened clearly enough to make a judgement about the call, and even if they think they were, they could not question the call with any certainty without the replay. Joyce did not have the luxury of seeing the replay over and over before making the call. Yes, he missed the call, but even Jim Leyland said not one player in the Tigers' dugout could tell if the runner was out or safe until they saw the replay. Such gross exaggeration by Cohen clearly shows that he is on the lowest level of his profession. Making irrational generalizations like this is clearly the most irresponsible type of journalism, and removes any credibility the author might have had. A little common sense and use of some facts would be appreciated. Let's see if he is as big a man as Joyce was and apologizes for this outlandish remark.

Posted by: kenkreft | June 4, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Mistakes made in a hasty moment often turn out to be incorrect when a re-examination of the situation is made. This is especially true in the case of an event which takes place in the blink of an eye.
The call by Mr. Joyce, the umpire, was clearly incorrect as shown later on the videotape of the play. In such a case, the umpire cannot reverse the decision he abruptly made. However, such an erroneous decision can be and should be overturned by a higher authority, such as the commissioner of baseball. Why not? Is it because it might set a precedent? So what? What is more important, setting the record straight or showing that pigheadedness is more important even if the umpire's call was proven clearly to be in error!
Selig should right the wrong! The evidence is there!

Posted by: theoldiesguy | June 4, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cohen--

You have outdone yourself as a crap writer. If you have nothing interesting to say, please don't. What proof do we have that Joyce is "inept." Hmmm? He made one public mistake. From all accounts, he was successful in his career before that. Now, he is suddenly "inept" because of ONE mistake, because writer Cohen simply decides it's so? Similarly, what proof is there that Joyce is "inexplicably clumsy"? Also, did he really get the call "so wrong"? It was either safe or out, yes or no. There is no "so wrong" in that equation; only the other choice.

Basically, my point is (to Mr. Cohen) that you can't just MAKE DUMB STUFF UP just to publish a column. Your desperate attempts to have an "opinion" are extremely obvious and thus not effective. You don't HAVE to be annoying just to be effective. You know without a shadow of a doubt that Jim Joyce is not "inept" - seeing as he's risen to the absolute top of his merit-based profession. He made a mistake. A mistake does not equal "inept." Write better.

Posted by: Urnesto | June 4, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Since the author of this wretched piece of content spared no descriptive cheap shot to anybody else, neither shall I. Mr. Cohen, you are a malcontent; one that preys on any possible spin to a story that shows how we are all money-grubbing, sleazy, evil people in the face of atypical events. You are a joke with no avenue for laughs.

Yes, it was a teachable moment that should be cherished for the foreseeable future. One of the great problems we have these days is the inability of people saying to those around them that I was wrong; I made a mistake; I had no ulterior motive other than wanting to do a good job. That was Jim Joyce who from the standpoint of the profession he lives and breathes each day, seldom receives any kind of thanks or acknowledgment of the service they provide to the game each day. Contrition is a lost art. It is looked upon as the act of a weak person lacking any level of confidence or pride. The rule these days seems to be deny, deny, deny, just look at any politician caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

So, yes, I will take these lessons whenever I can get them, despite the attempts of leeches like you that try to turn them into misanthropic episodes. I'm sorry that you, sir, haven't had a happy moment since the early days of your life. Please stop writing for a day and walk in the sunshine; it will do you some good and save us from your unwelcome drivel for at least one day.

Posted by: rgod8855 | June 4, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

Looking for a teaching moment? Simply compare how Mr. Joyce has taken responsibility for an admittedly inexplicable mistake and compare it to how BP chairman Tony Heyward is handling the situation in the gulf. There's your lesson. Although, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere for justification of your bitterness towards all the "heedless and hedonistic" professional athletes you obviously resent so much.

Posted by: ClarkBrooks | June 5, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

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