Thursday, June 3, 2010

Joyce, Denkinger, and replay

I cringe every time an ump makes a bad call because I know what's coming next, a reference to Don Denkinger's blown call in game 6 of the 1985 World Series. And yesterday there were a lot of them due to Jim Joyce costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game. There has been, of course, a tremendous amount of outrage and calls to overturn the play were rebuffed today (wisely) by Bud Selig. And here is where my annoyance set in because those against setting an overturn precedent suggested that the Denkinger's call could be reversed thus making the St. Louis Cardinals the 1985 world champions.

But not so fast my friend.

The plays were similar but there is one enormous difference overlooked in this train of thought:
The Denkinger call happened with zero outs, not two. In fact, there was only one out when the winning run scored. Anyone comparing the two plays, just because they were both wrong, is being idiotic and lazy. Here's how the inning played out:

Jorge Orta reaches base via the blown call
Steve Balboni singled
Jim Sundberg tried to sacrifice the runners but failed miserably, Orta is thrown out at 3rd
After a passed ball Hal McRae is intentionally walked
Dane Iorg then comes through with the biggest hit of his life

Now then, the only out was a failed sacrifice so it takes a pretty broad assumption to suggest that the Cardinals would've won if the call had been correctly, because we just don't know. Also there was one more game to play so the Cardinals still could have won the series, had they showed up. I think many people remember this call taking place with two outs in game 7 but that clearly is not when it happened.

If the Joyce call spurs MLB into enacting replay then in my opinion it will be worth it (but I'm not a Tigers fan or related to Galarraga). I've read a few suggestions on the best way to incorporate it but here's how I'd like to see it:

  • All plays but balls and strikes would be subject to review.
  • Each manager gets to review one play (right or wrong) per game, so they would need to use it wisely.
  • If a call is not overturned the manager who requested the review is ejected, there has to be a consequence for being wrong.
  • The 9th inning and beyond all close plays are reviewed automatically.

I know the puritan police will fly into an uproar but come on, this isn't your grandfathers national pasttime. Expansion, the DH, interleague play, and the importance of the all-star game has made this a decidedly different game than was played 50 years ago. That's just fact. And if replay adds a few minutes to a game, so be it, better that calls are right.

Technology exists to make the games better, MLB would be wise to use it.


  1. This post is obvious in its simplicity but was needed. The Denkinger call is incredibly different. I made the same point in a comment to this morning's story by Will Leitch (a huge Cardinals fan), who said that, if we're going to start changing calls retroactively, then he "wants his 1985 world championship back." What a joke.

    Galarraga was one out away from making history when the call was made; the Cardinals were 30 outs away when Denkinger made the call. Get over it, Cardinals fans.

  2. Missed that by Leitch but doesn't surprise me. Twitter was full of similar comments which is what prompted this post.

  3. Now it looks like what happened with Denkinger is happening with Joyce, i.e., threats and catcalls from "fans", and this is really sad. Fans of the losing team will always look for any excuse and anyone to blame for the failure of their favorite team, and that's part of the game, but it's sickening when the "fans" start heaping abuse because of it.

  4. I see your point about Denkinger not causing the actual loss, but the problem with that call from the standpoint of a baseball fan (rather than a Royal or Cards fan) was that in those days the umps would not consult with each other and thankfully that has changed and Denkinger was a key part of the impetus to do so. It was such a bad call because the umps on the field could have gotten it right if there had not been the then present unwritten rule to not interfere with another umps call. I know KC and SL fans have other agenda's over that notorious call, but it was a low point for all baseball fans around the country too.

    And in this case Joyce acknowledged his mistake immediately instead of five years later. Joyce manned up and Galaraga gave immediate redemption: that's why this is such a fantastic story. Its most striking comparison with Denkinger is how different it turned out. Something everyone can cheer, not just Royal fans. I predict Galaraga gets the most applause at the All-Star game. He deserves it.

  5. The thing that always gets forgotten in that inning is that Jack Clark dropped a foul pop too. Cards fans never mention this.

  6. No matter which side of that Series you're on, I think we should all be able to agree that the series had enough drama, enough top-notch pitching and some interesting at bats that it's a complete outrage that it's known for one non-Series ending call.