Veteran umpires feel Joyce's pain
Arbiters leaning toward being in favor of expanded use of replay
In the wake of Wednesday's blown call that cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, two umpires who are no strangers to scrutiny offered their takes on first-base umpire Jim Joyce's missed call and the role of instant replay in baseball.
Veteran umpire Tim McClelland said on ESPN's "Mike & Mike" radio program that he believes umpires are growing increasingly in favor of expanded replay, and former umpire Don Denkinger said he's for it.
"I think more and more umpires are coming to this because ... there's such an increased scrutiny on umpires and officials in general, in all sports -- maybe undue or unfair," McClelland said. "But I think more umpires are coming around to that way of thinking."
Denkinger, speaking on the same show, said, "There probably should be expanded replay, but there's a whole lot they need to clean up before they get to bang-bangers at first base. I'm not too sure they can go that far. It looks very obvious when it's slowed down -- go out there and try to call it when it's at full speed."
McClelland, a 27-year veteran and a crew chief, was the home-plate umpire and a rookie in 1983 during the infamous George Brett pine-tar incident, in which he called Brett out after he had hit a go-ahead home run at Yankee Stadium. His call was later reversed by American League president Lee MacPhail, who ruled that the home run would stand.
Most recently, McClelland was criticized for a pair of calls in Game 4 of the 2009 American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels. He called out Nick Swisher for leaving third base too early on a would-be sacrifice fly and ruled Robinson Cano safe at third base on what would have been a double play when Cano was tagged while standing off the bag.
Denkinger's notable gaffe occurred in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series between the Cardinals and Royals on a play somewhat reminiscent of the one that transpired Wednesday, in which Joyce called the Indians' Jason Donald safe with two out in the ninth inning on a play at first base though it appeared that Galarraga, covering to take a throw from Miguel Cabrera, had his foot on the bag when he caught the ball. Galarraga had retired Cleveland's first 26 batters.
In 1985, Denkinger ruled the Royals' Jorge Orta safe at first with the pitcher covering, allowing Kansas City to mount a late-game rally. The Royals won Game 6 that night and then took Game 7 to clinch the Series, leaving St. Louis and its fans to wonder what might have been.
"You're just terribly disappointed in your work," Denkinger said. "I didn't even see the replay when I walked to the umpire's room after the game was over, and the Commissioner was standing there. And I asked him if I got the play right, and he said, 'No, I don't believe so.' Then I got a chance to watch the replay of it and realized that I was wrong. It's very disappointing. You don't like to have those things happen to us, but we're only human beings and they happen."
"It just happened that he made an inaccurate call at a bad time," McClelland said of Joyce.
Despite the apparent growing sentiment among umpires in favor of expanding replay, McClelland and Denkinger were in support of Joyce and sympathized with him.
"It's a shame," McClelland said. "I called Jim -- but he wasn't answering the phone -- just to tell him that we were all thinking about him, and it could have been any of us in his place."
Denkinger said: "I just feel sorry for Jim Joyce. Nobody wants that to happen to him. It looked to me like he was in perfect position to see the play, and obviously he didn't see it properly. When he went in and watched it again, he immediately left and went out and apologized, and I guess maybe that made him feel a little bit better, that he was man enough to say that he was wrong.
"I don't really think that you have to say that you're wrong -- they pretty well can see that you were wrong. But he confronted it in that particular manner, and I think that's admirable for him. Unfortunately, it's going to be with him as long as he officiates."
According to McClelland, expanded replay has been discussed among umpires, and it may not be met with much opposition by them were it implemented.
"We talked about it in the crew," McClelland said. "I know I wasn't for it. But after watching what I went through in the playoffs last year and then what Jim's going through, I think more and more umpires are coming around to it. I haven't talked to all the umpires, and maybe this is not the sentiment of our union or our union leadership, but this is my own personal opinion."
Denkinger's support of its implementation was unabashed: "Absolutely, yes I would."
Dan Mennella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.