Joyce faces the music
Major League Baseball was prepared to send in another umpire for the Indians-Detroit Tigers game Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park, but Joyce told them he would prefer to go to work, as usual.
“No, not in my lowest moment,” Joyce said, when asked if he considered not showing up. “If I had done that, I couldn’t have faced myself.”
Added Indians catcher Mike Redmond: “I’ve always respected Jim. He goes to another level. It doesn’t surprise me (that he didn’t take the day off). He wants to go out there and do the best job he can do.”
Joyce turned a perfect game into a one-hitter for Tigers starter Armando Galarraga on Wednesday night, when he mistakenly called Jason Donald safe at first after he hit an infield grounder to the right side with two out in the ninth.
The Tigers and their fans were outraged, but Joyce, regarded as one of the top umpires in the game, did not lack for supporters.
“I feel sorry for Jim,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Jim is what an umpire should be. If I had to pick an All-Star crew to umpire every single one of the games that I managed, Jim Joyce would be on it. He’s good, he’s fair, he’s friendly. It’s just unfortunate he had to be in the middle of this.”
Joyce seemed taken aback by the words of encouragement after the game Thursday, when he faced several members of the media.
“The way that people have stepped up and talked about me favorably—I’m shocked,” he said. “I had no idea I was held in that regard. I think of myself as just a hard-working umpire.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland had Galarraga take the lineup card to the pregame meeting at home plate Thursday to minimize adverse fan reaction to Joyce, who was the home plate umpire in this game.
Galarraga and Joyce, who had tears in his eyes, shook hands, and Galarraga patted the umpire on the shoulder as he left the field.
Joyce conceded that it wasn’t easy taking the field.
“After the second inning, I could finally spit,” he said with a laugh. “And after the second or third, the juices got going. It felt partly normal.”
He called the work day, “The best three hours I’ve had in the last 24.”
After Wednesday’s game, Joyce walked to the Tigers clubhouse and apologized to Galarraga.
“It was only fair,” Joyce said. “The whole world saw it (the play). If I did anything else, it would have been fake. They’ve been saying that nobody feels worse than I do, and they’re right, so it was the right thing to do.”
A reporter noted that Joyce is the No. 1 topic on Twitter, making him suddenly famous.
“I didn’t want my 15 minutes of fame to be this,” he said. “I wanted it to be because I made great call in the World Series. I hope my 15 minutes are up, to be honest.”
Acta compared umpires to third-base coaches. They can wave 800 runners to the plate, but the one that gets thrown out puts an onus on the coach.
“How about Jim Joyce today?” Acta said. “He was fantastic behind the plate. But you won’t hear about that. You only get the negative. Not too many people could bounce back (so quickly) from that kind of traumatic thing. He should be on the front page, but that doesn’t sell.”
Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement Thursday afternoon and pointedly failed to mention any possibility that the outcome of the game Wednesday could be changed.
Instead, he praised both the Tigers and Joyce.
The meat of the statement concerned Selig’s decision to look into ways to avoid errors.
“Given last night’s call and other recent events,” Selig said, “I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters.”