Thursday, June 3, 2010

RoB Roundup

A few things worth mentioning from west of the Hudson River this week. There are two big ones in particular, and then a handful of other ones that I'll write provided the Lakers continue to run up the score.

-As I said in the comments section tonight, I hadn't heard about the Tigers/Indians game and the Armando Galarraga/Jim Joyce situation until I got back from the Red Sox game. But like everyone else in the United States and beyond, I have been thinking about it all day and going back and forth about it all day. First of all, good for Joyce to come out and admit it. Second of all, I thought it was bold (in a bad way) for Joyce to call the runner out in the first place. Sure, tie usually goes to the runner, but--as the argument goes--this is a special situation, something that may have happened twice in a week, but has only happened 20-21 times in 120 years. An incorrect out call would have carried fewer negative consequenes than an incorrect safe call.

The "special situation" argument is a somewhat-valid one, having the commissioner's office overturn the call because it is something that wouldn't affect the outcome of the game (except for one at-bat), it is something that has happened so rarely in the history of baseball, and because it is something that really shapes a player's career and life. Not to mention the umpire's. However, each player knows what he's up against when he puts on the uniform--everyone, including the umpires, are human. You are up against the human element. Galarraga should understand that, and so should everyone else.

But as it is, as the Red Sox' management said, it becomes a slippery slope. Should the Jeff Maier call be reversed? Should Games 1 and 4 of the 1999 ALCS be reversed? Because of the high stakes (especially in hindsight), those were very high-leverage situations. We don't want the commissioner's office to be taking away at-bats that happened because an umpire makes a mistake. It's a messy situation in several ways, it sets a bad precedent that can and will be cited forever, and it would be nice to see Bud Selig take a stand about something.

Lastly, this does definitely assign more weight to instant replay. Originally, I wasn't for instant replay, but if it is executed correctly (not the way it is currently executed), it could be helpful in a lot of these situations. Every MLB game has a fifth umpire waiting just in case someone gets hurt. That fifth umpire should be in a booth watching a monitor. Each obvious call should be reversed within fifteen seconds. No time waiting for Joe West to walk into the umps' room, eat a burger, and make a decision. A reversal could be made before the manager goes back to the dugout.

It would largely eliminate the need for a manager to go out and argue, but it is only debatable whether these arguments are good for the game. Traditional, yes, but would it really be missed?

For what it's worth, I'm sticking with the human error being part of the game. "Man in the booth" replay is good for homers, but not for plays like this. I'm also for sticking with the original call.

IN OTHER NEWS, Ken Griffey Jr. retired this week after an abysmal start. With a .404 OPS at age 40, looks like he's even more toast than he has been. I mentioned a few months ago that Nomar's retirement should make a lot of my generation feel old. Griffey's retirement should evoke the same emotions, but to a lesser extent. This guy transcended uniforms: In the mid-90s, Griffey was just as popular in Boston as Mo Vaughn or Roger Clemens was. Everyone imitated his stance in Little League, and I think he was at least partially responsible for the backwards hat becoming acceptable in suburban/white kid culture.

Beyond his undeniable accomplishments on the field, which made him a sure Hall-of-Famer even before he broke his wrist for the first time, he was really the most recent universally-liked baseball superstar. He didn't have any steroid accusations around him, he was great with kids, the media, and his teammates, he left Seattle for free agency--but left it for his hometown--there was nothing to dislike. There hasn't been anyone in baseball that good and that likable simultaneously. Jeter doesn't count because he was a Yankee. There may never be another player like that, partially because of the ESPN/blog/hype culture around sports in the year 2010.

There was even something special about his return to Seattle, after many injuries tragically derailed a career that could have outshadowed all the numbers that have been skewed by steroids. In Sports Illustrated there was a two-page picture of him at bat with his favorite video game being listed: "Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball," a Nintendo game from like 1996. That's hilarious. That's awesome.

I hope we have some other people with historical perspectives (i.e. FTB) cast some kind of analysis toward this guy. But I have a feeling that when I'm 65 years old, I'll be telling people about how I watched Griffey the same way other people talked about how they watched Mantle. I won't be saying that about Bonds, Clemens, Arod, Pujols, Ortiz, Manny, or even Nomar. I might say it about Jeter. But I'd definitely say it about Griffey.

OTHER STUFF:
-I don't like the guy, but I am excited for Strasburg's debut next week.
-The Blue Jays' success is more surprising than the Padres', Nats', Reds', or Athletics'.
-Wakefield got lit up today, but I love how some are still blaming him for the Phillies' offensive struggles.

Y'all have a good weekend.

10 comments:

jason said...

ill definitely be saying it about pujols, and i dont know if ive mentioned this before but recently saint louis named a highway after mark mcguire so i guess he is forgiven for any and all steroids accusations

the gm at work said...

The naming of the Mark McGwire highway was not recent. It was before anything was said aloud about steroids. And you might say that about Pujols, just as people in Boston might say they saw David Ortiz. It's a more regional thing. I feel like Griffey transcended region a lot more than Pujols. Kids in Boston aren't wearing Pujols jerseys, but you know as well as I do that Mr. H. still occasionally wears the Griffey jersey.

Ross Kaplan said...

So here's my crazy conspiracy theory for the Joyce blown call thing. So in the history of baseball there have been 18 perfect games, none between Cone's one in May of 99 and Randy Johnson's one in 04, and other similarly long gaps in between perfect games. So we were just about to have the 3rd perfect game in ONE SEASON!!! Oh, not to mention 2 perfect games within a week of each other. Somehow, someone in the Commisioner's office knew that a 3rd perfect game in less than a month would raise some fishy questions so before the final "out" an MLB agent shoots a dart into Joyce that momentarily blinds him and he calls Donald safe.

This of course is absurd, but the point I'm trying to make and the story people seem to be forgetting is that this would have been the 3rd perfect game thrown in less than a month, this was absolutely unprecedented. I don't know what's going on here, but I feel like there's got to be something going on when 1/6 of the perfect games ever thrown in the 100 + years of baseball history were thrown in a one month span.

Anonymous said...

DV

As unfortunate as it is that Griffey went out without so much as a whimper, the one thing that he has going for him is that people can look back on his career and feel good about the whole thing. He's on a very short list of players that we can be confident did not use PED's. Good for him.

Also, did you include Pujols in your list because he is linked to steroids? Or because he just isn't that transcendent?

Ross

You're right about the rarity of perfect games. But that's what's great about baseball--the randomness of certain statistical situations developing. David Ortiz has 14 triples in his career (5,315 AB's, or roughly one triple ever 400 AB's). I watched a game (probably in 2004) where he hit triples in consecutive at bats against the Twins. The odds of that happening are 160,000 to one. Granted, it's not on the scale of a perfect game, but still, crazy nonetheless.

--the Gunn

from the bronx said...

GM,

I consider myself extremely lucky to have watched Griffey play in the prime of his career with the Mariners. Before time and age robbed him of his gifts, he was the greatest baseball player I have ever seen, bar none. He did everything well in an era where players were increasingly one dimensional, and his performances put him on a par with the all-time greats. The most enduring memories I have of Griffey are both from games against the Yankees. 1) the ridiculous catch to rob jesse barfield of a home run and 2) scoring from first to clinch the 1995 ALDS. None of the other "home run guys" from 1990 on (Canseco, McGuire, Bonds, Pujols, A-Rod, Sosa, Ortiz, Manny, etc), who were all dirty or probably dirty, could ever make those plays happen because they were so one-dimensional. Bonds and A-Rod early in their careers, perhaps, but not once they became more one-dimensional through drug use. Those plays are examples of why Griffey was so much better than everyone in his generation. He could hit 50+ home runs, but he also did the little, more fundamental things that don't show up in the box score but definitely contribute to winning games. Because of the position he played an the skill with which he played it he deserves to be considered an equal to Willie Mays, which is no small compliment. If any of you who read this site saw him in the early 1990's with Seattle, then you should consider yourself lucky. I don't think you will see another guy like him for a long, long time.

I'll throw in my $.02 regarding Galaraga and Joyce. It was definitely refreshing to see that kind of sportsmanship and class from both the pitcher and the umpire. Galaraga reacted admirably and Joyce took ownership of his mistake in an immediate and sincere way, which was refreshing given some of the recent nonsense with respect to umpires in baseball. That said, Selig is a tone-deaf idiot for not overturning the call and giving Galaraga the perfect game. You are not opening up a pandora's box, as some have speculated. How many times in the history of baseball has the call on the 27th out of a perfect game been blown so obviously with cameras documenting the call from 1,000 different angles?? If it was the 26th out of the game, no question selig is right not to overturn the call. But changing the 27th out hurts no one and would definitely be in the best interest of the game.

TimC said...

Good post DV, and right down my alley as I prefer to look at big-picture stuff without getting worked up over one game results (save for RIGHT NOW, when I am worked up over both Diasuke and yesterday's joke of a "clutch hitting" performance. It does exist, Theo, just not on your edition of the Red Sox. When this team misses the post-season by two games, we will look back on June 3.)

I think the controversy surrounding the blown call revealed or confirmed something that many of us suspected for most of our baseball watching lives; people tend to care more about numbers than team performance. Certainly, if the blown call in that game took place in September and cost the team a playoff spot, people would be sympathetic and talk about the possibility of needing replay to fix such errors. But the outcry would be reserved compared to the current situation and observers, in my opinion, would be as likely to talk about what the team could have done to win the game or earn a playoff spot despite the blown call.

It is the same type of thinking employed in the steroids scandal; people tend to be more concerned about correcting the historical leader board rather than the season standings. DV, you mentioned reversing the results of games played years ago but for many readers this idea sounds completely ridiculous. And yet, reversing the call from Wednesday does not carry that same reaction and I think many would applaud it. I don't think this would happen in the NFL if, for example, the touchdown record was lost because a runner was incorrectly ruled out of bounds or in the NBA for a similar scenario. It certainly would not happen in soccer, based on the events after Henry's handball in the France-Ireland playoff series.

(Side note on steroids; it seems that athletes in individual sports are far more severely punished, both with suspension/fines and in public perception, than those in team sports. Could this type of thinking explain why baseball players tend to get more negative publicity for steroid use than NFL players?)

My last thought here is that although I am in favor of replay, the length of the game MUST be cut down to balance it. Replay would add, in my mind, a minimum of five minutes per game. With the way things are already going in terms of game length, that is too much.

Griffey retiring was a sad day for me. I pretty much agree with everything FTB had to say. The guy was my favorite player growing up and was the inspiration for my play in center field up until high school. I still have a season-mode game saved with the Mariners from his 1994 SuperNintendo game (I think I am about 150 games into a season, and I do plan on finishing it before I die) and my old roommate from Colby co-founded a blog urging people to vote for Griffey in the all-star game (which has received some media attention in Seattle). Needless to say, this guy has been a part of my sports life and I will probably join DV in my senior years ranting and raving about the merits of Griffey (and Nomar, too. Probably Dice, as well).

from the bronx said...

also, so it doesn't get overlooked, i wanted to point out that Gardner hit his 3rd home run of the year yesterday at Yankee Stadium. he got a 3-2 pitch on the inner half and he absolutely CRUSHED IT into the first row in right field. he was slumping a bit, but seems to have gotten it turned around the last week or so.

The GM said...

Ross,

Conspiracy or no conspiracy, I know that the fact that three perfect games in a month would have made Tim Kurkjian giddy. The Gunn's comment about "what's great about baseball" borders on Kurkjian territory. That's not a good thing.

I did not include Pujols because of his connections to Presinal and because it's true--he is not as transcendent. Griffey was, for some reason, more than just a talented baseball player.

FTB, I hope you're right about the steroid thing. You've seen more baseball than all of us, so hearing you echo the Griffey sentiments means that much more.

Tim,

The reason baseball is affected more by people caring than football is because of individual stats, no doubt. There is more weight put on individual stats in baseball than any other team sport. This not even open for debate. And it is more of a shame that Griffey was sidelined by injuries suffered when playing hard, because he could have been a clean name at the top of a lot of lists that are not clean right now.

jason said...

ok so the first time i saw the sign may have been recently for the mcgwire highway and i know that pujols has got to be more then just saint louis because he is far superior to ortiz

John said...

When I was younger watching Griffey play he was easily my favorite player(which I'm sure is no different than about 50% of men 18-30). I rooted for the Mariners over the Sox because of Griffey(also because Sox games were not broadcast on regular cable, thus I rarely was able to watch any). I can also remember adamantly defending him from someone who called it a disgrace of the game for wearing his hat backwards. None of this is special, or different in any way from the stories almost everyone will have of Griffey, but I figured it was important enough to share. I don't know for a fact but he is probably the reason that I started playing/following baseball at all.

Griffey absolutely transcended baseball and regardless of what team you rooted for, you almost assuredly loved Griffey as a player. I think with the way things are now in baseball and media, we won't see that again. Jeter may be the closest that gets to that, but I don't think he will ever reach Griffey status.