Like most American men I have spent some time thinking about this. Here’s the replay if you need a refresher:
So, Jim Joyce blows the call. He then goes into the Detroit locker room and apologizes for blowing the call. There are two conversations at work now, one is about ethics and Jim Joyce’s actions and second is about the game of baseball.
Ethics. First, check out this drivel as an example of what is being said:
This is the current vein: no matter how Joyce may have erred people recognize the difficulty of the call and hence credit Joyce for his error. The courage of the error. Hold on a second. How do we know it was a courageous act? Maybe it was, in fact, a cowardly act where Joyce knows, or is confident at least, that this is where the direction will turn. Or maybe Joyce had a stake in the game and was looking for a way to help the Indians? I’m not claiming Joyce was trying to be impartial, but to automatically credit him with a gutsy decision is premature and only exists in a revisionist analysis. In fact, the supposedly normal act, letting the perfect game, is also based on a revisionist logic: the ump chooses the safe call by importing his impression of the world’s reaction and not based on a close reading of the play at the plate. This is the argument lodged against basketball refereeing. I am fairly certain baseball fans do not want to hone this road, no matter how accurate it may be.
Plus, ethics are not about courage. Ethics are about acting consistently. People make decisions based upon their expectation of your reaction. If you suddenly change your criteria then you deny them a chance for accurate predictions. Basing your ethical framework in a valuable goal then produces decisions that appear courageous. Not that ethical decisions are courageous decisions. Making a tough call can be ethical, but not because it is a very unpopular call. Apologizing to the locker room may also be an ethical move, but not because it is a very hostile/uncomfortable situation.
Was Joyce guided by more than a blasse sense of acting? Yes. But if it was inconsistent behavior then it was not ethical, and his apology seems to admit this. While he acted confrontationally he robbed Galarraga of becoming only the 21st person in the history of the game from doing something.
People forget the error is a structuring principle of baseball. And not just on the part of the players. While Joyce may have robbed Galarraga, you have to wonder if maybe a Joycean error in the 5th created the possibility of a perfect game. What if he had earlier called an out at first where the runner would have normally been safe? How many other pitchers have been robbed of potential perfect games by umpire error? It’s sad for Galarraga that his robbery comes at the last possible moment, but he possibly joins a much larger and longer list. This is baseball and I contend it is the possible misfire that makes it as beautiful as it is. See the Derridean notion of a misfire as that which makes language so great.
The first question I asked about the whole situation, however, was: the THIRD perfect game this season? What is going on? Is it a steroid, absence of, issue? Is this really healthy for baseball? Joyce may have saved the game.