Results tagged ‘ Jim Joyce ’

Remembering a Yankee killer

With Ken Griffey Jr. having announced his retirement, Alex Rodriguez is now the active home-run leader in the major leagues. A-Rod pushed his total to 591 Thursday in the Yankees’ 6-3 victory over the Orioles. The next stop on the all-time list for Rodriguez is Sammy Sosa, very catchable in sixth place at 609. A-Rod would need to have a monster few months to catch fifth-place Junior at 630, but it remains possible. He has hit at least 47 home runs in a season five times, although not since his 54-homer year of 2007 when he won his third American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Probably most surprising about Griffey’s career is that he was an MVP only once, albeit unanimously, in 1997 when his former teammate, Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, was the runner-up. Junior somehow got lost playing in Seattle and amid a crowd of contemporaries who used performance-enhancing drugs, as A-Rod himself admitted. The Sosa home-run race with Mark McGwire in 1998 and the growing dominance of Barry Bonds dropped Junior into the background after the turn of the century.

Yet Junior remained the most exciting player to watch since Willie Mays. Yankees fans will never forget , but would like to, his dash around the bases at the Kingdome on Edgar Martinez’s double that produced a walk-off Mariners victory over the Yankees in Game 5 of the first AL Division Series. I can still see third base coach Sam Perlozzo furiously waving Junior home, and his legs churning toward the plate concluding with a picture-perfect slide.

That was a time when I looked forward to Yankees-Mariners games like no other just for the pure pleasure of watching Junior Griffey patrol center field and take target practice at the right field seats. His fence-climbing catch of a Jesse Barfield drive remains one of the best catches I’ve ever seen at Yankee Stadium. His father, Ken Griffey Sr., made one of the greats, too, in left field that is also high on my list.

In retrospect, Griffey’s decision to go home to Cincinnati 10 years ago was a career mistake. He and pitcher Randy Johnson and manager Lou Piniella were the axis that saved major-league ball in Seattle. All eventually left, but none was missed more than Junior. Going to the Reds was a family decision for Griffey. Among his reasons was a desire to play for a team that had its spring training camp in Florida, which the Reds did at that time.

I thought at the time that if Junior had to leave Seattle the best landing place for him would have been Atlanta. The Braves were a winning organization with a terrific general manager-manager combo in John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox, plus the best pitching staff in the game and a spring training facility near Disney World in the backyard of Junior’s adopted residence of Orlando, Fla. Think of how many more World Series the Bravos might have won with Griffey. It might have been a different story for the Yankees in 1996 and ’99.

It’s too bad Junior had a dim view of the Yankees because he was made for the Stadium. He was reprimanded by manager Billy Martin as a youngster when his father played for the Yankees and never forgot it. It was a grudge Griffey should have dropped years ago. He paid them back over the years, batting .311 with 36 home runs and 102 RBI in 501 career at-bats against the Yankees.

The Braves couldn’t come up with a package for Griffey, so off to Cincinnati he went. I can remember when people thought he had an off year in 2000 when he hit .271 with 40 homers and 118 RBI. He never achieved those power numbers again. He had only one other comparable season with the Reds, in 2005 (.301, 35 homers, 92 RBI) as his career took no longer the path of Willie Mays but rather that of Mickey Mantle as injuries piled up higher than his statistics.

News of his retirement became obscured by the story out of Detroit about Armando Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game foiled by umpire Jim Joyce’s erroneous call. That can happen to the best of them. In a Yankees game 32 years ago Thursday, Lou Gehrig hit four home runs and Tony Lazzeri hit for the cycle. Topping the sports page, though, was John McGraw’s announcement that he was retiring after 30 years’ managing the New York Giants.

Griffey’s leaving the game deserved the same attention. He passed the home-run baton to a former teammate who last year finally achieved what always eluded Griffey, a World Series championship. A-Rod remembered Junior fondly.

“I came in at 17, right out of high school, and I got to see our Michael Jordan, our Tiger Woods, the best of the best,” Rodriguez said.

If you don’t believe that, get out tapes of that 1995 ALDS, the one in which Griffey punished the Yankees with a .391 average, five home runs, seven RBI and that mad dash home in the clincher. You will not see his like again.

No perfect solution

/* Font Definitions */
{font-family:"Cambria Math";
panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4;
mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1107304683 0 0 159 0;}
panose-1:2 3 6 9 0 1 1 1 1 1;
mso-font-signature:-1342176593 1775729915 48 0 524447 0;}
panose-1:2 3 6 9 0 1 1 1 1 1;
mso-font-signature:-1342176593 1775729915 48 0 524447 0;}
/* Style Definitions */
p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";}
@page Section1
{size:8.5in 11.0in;
margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in;
–“Nobody’s perfect!” is the famous last line delivered by Joe E. Brown to Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder’s classic 1959 comedy, “Some Like It Hot.” But from now on, whenever I hear that phrase, I’ll think of Jim Joyce. He was the first base umpire Wednesday night in Detroit whose mistaken call on what should have been the final out cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

I have been thinking about Joyce ever since I watched the replay on a video screen in the Yankee Stadium press box of Galarraga stepping on the bag at first ahead of the Indians’ Jason Donald. Everybody’s reaction in the box was the same, to clap their hands or slap themselves in the head and yell, “No!” I can only imagine what the reaction at Comerica Park was as Tigers fans were prepared to celebrate the first perfect game ever pitched by a Tiger. A friend of mine there told me Thursday that people stayed at the park for about half an hour just hanging around in disbelief of what they just saw.

I enjoyed a few beers with Jim Joyce and another umpire, John Hirschbeck, in Boston one night after a Yankees-Red Sox game with my old friend, Joe Giuliotti of the Boston Herald. I don’t remember the year, but it was some time in the mid 1990s when Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key were Yankees teammates because they were sitting at a table not far from us.

Joyce entertained us with wonderful stories, and both umpires spoke passionately of their profession. I remember Boggs saying to me the next day at Fenway Park, “You and Joe were with two of the best in the business last night. Just don’t tell them I said that.”

Well, Boggsy, Jim Joyce needs to hear that today. His career of nearly a quarter of a century and among the finest of anyone in his trade has been reduced to one faulty decision. Think of the guts it took for him to go to Comerica Park Thursday and work the plate. The person who brought out the Detroit lineup card was none other than Galarraga, who has displayed more class the past two days than anyone could expect.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he didn’t want to “open a can of worms,” but he suggested that the powers that be in Major League Baseball look closely into the situation.

“You’re talking about a historical event,” Girardi said. “It doesn’t really change the outcome of the game. If it’s something that happens in the third inning and runs are scored, you’re talking about changing the whole game. [Wednesday] is probably as unique a situation as you can get with the last out.”

There is strong sentiment around the game for commissioner Bud Selig to reverse the call. But would doing that turn Galarraga’s performance into a perfect game? Everybody saw Donald stand on base and a 28th batter, Trevor Crowe, make the 27th out. How do you get rid of all that?

It is no more a perfect game than Ernie Shore’s famous “imperfect game” of 1917. He came into a game for the Red Sox against the Washington Senators after the starting pitcher, Babe Ruth, was ejected by umpire Brick Owens for arguing balls and strikes following a leadoff walk to Ray Morgan. With Shore on the mound, Morgan tried to steal second base and was thrown out. Shore set down the next 26 hitters in a 4-0 Boston victory, but Morgan’s reaching base kept the game from being perfect.

Yes, the “Pine Tar Game” decision by American League president Lee MacPhail in 1983 is a precedent that an umpire’s decision can be overturned. However, MacPhail’s ruling was based on what he called the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. That logic cannot be used in this case. What Joyce did was simply a blown call, one that was verified by video replays, which are not used in baseball except for home run disputes.

Here are a couple of things I don’t understand. Manager Jim Leyland and other members of the Tigers expressed outrage at the call, but Detroit did not file an official protest with MLB. Even stranger, why didn’t the other umpires caucus to ensure the right call was made? Granted, it was Joyce’s call, and he was right on top of the play, but surely one of the other umps had a decent view of it. At least talk it about it, guys.

You can argue all day about bringing instant replay into the game, but the fact remains that there are already in place avenues to explore in cases of dispute. I just do not see how you can make a perfect game of a game that was not perfect. As Seymour Siwoff, president of the Elias Sports Bureau, told me years ago, “You have to score what you see.”

What we all saw was unfortunate. It was a heart-breaking decision for Galarraga, who is frankly taking it a lot better than most people, and a devastating one for Joyce, who tearfully admitted his blown call to the pitcher. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter were among the Yankees players who called Joyce the best umpire in the game, a sentiment echoed by Girardi.

“I’ve known Jim Joyce a long time,” Girardi said. “He’s a very good umpire and works very hard at what he does. I feel bad for him today. That’s something you don’t really want your career marked by.”

I couldn’t agree more, but even Joyce knows that erasing what actually happened is impossible.