Sox weigh in on Kid, Ump

June, 3, 2010
BOSTON -- For one night and the morning after, the conversation in the Red Sox clubhouse hummed like a sports-radio talk show.

Hot topics, opinions coming from every direction.

Jim Joyce, the blown call, Armando Galarraga’s imperfect game.

Junior Griffey, retirement, the end of a great career.

"It’s part of baseball, human error,’’ reliever Joe Nelson said. “It happens, it sucks. Joyce is a really good umpire. He’s done a good job for a long time. He manned up immediately, said, ‘I saw the replay, I was wrong.’

“It’s unfortunate. [Galarraga] deserved the perfect game. But Joyce is not defending the call. He got it wrong. It happens to good umpires. It happens to good human beings. All you can do is go from there.’’

After Mike Cameron hit four home runs in a game, in 2002, he sought out Griffey and asked him to sign the lineup card. It took him a couple of years, but he got it done.

“Since I’m always going to be known as one of the guys that got traded for Ken Griffey Jr., I wanted to make sure he signed it,’’ said Cameron, who not only was traded for the most popular player in Mariners history when he was in the prime of his career, but played the same position, center field.

“He used to get on me a lot,’’ Cameron said. “He was always the biggest joker in the world. I used to tell him and Barry [Bonds] all the time, ‘If you guys don’t sign a bat for me, I’m going to come over here when everyone leaves, and I’m going to steal every bat you got. I told Barry the same thing. The next day, when I got to the clubhouse I had a bat.

“We made some trips together for Nike. The Kid. Everybody wanted to hang around Junior. Everybody wanted to turn their hats around when they saw Junior.’’

Clay Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter in his second big-league start, was asked if that made it easier for him to empathize with Galarraga.

“No, because I didn’t throw a perfect game,’’ he said. “That’s more intense. I saw him speak afterwards, and he took it probably a lot better than anyone else in the world would have taken it.

“In the umpire’s defense, you make mistakes. You don’t want to make them in that kind of atmosphere, but it goes to show you it happens. I sort of feel sorry for both of them. The ump is going to catch a lot of flak, but you make mistakes.’’

David Ortiz, who felt the lash of public scorn earlier this season, was troubled by the controversy that surrounded Griffey just before he retired, a report that he was asleep in the clubhouse.

“I know Grif since I first started playing pro ball,’’ said Ortiz, who originally was drafted by the Mariners. “A great guy, man, who has a lot of respect for the game. To see him go through BS like that, it was horrible.

“We’re all going to get to the point where it’s time to take it to the house. A great career. The game is going to miss a guy like that.’’

Ortiz’s hot streak has quieted any talk that he was nearing the end.

“Oh yeah,’’ he said, “it’s not time for me to leave yet.’’

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he saw numerous replays of Joyce’s missed call, and the aftermath in Detroit -- the reaction of the distraught umpire, the consoling pitcher, the philosophical manager, Jim Leyland.

“The more I watched that, the more I became proud of the way it was handled,’’ Francona said. “He made a mistake. There’s a few things to remember. With the instant replay they have now and how slow they can make it, things are scrutinized so much because we have the ability with technology.

“He missed a call. The importance of it, he said, was [it was] the biggest call he’s ever had. Unfortunately, he missed it. ... Galarraga had a lot of grace and maturity far beyond his years and Jimmy [Joyce] was honest. I was actually really proud of the way everybody handled it.’’

What about reversing the call, to right the obvious wrong? Francona wouldn’t hear of it.

“The game’s the game,’’ he said. “Play the game. You can’t do it [reverse the call]. Nobody’s perfect. With the exception of probably the media, nobody’s perfect. The game on the field goes so fast. I don’t think people realize, as you get farther away you have the ability to slow it down. I’ve talked to official scorers before, and when you slow things down, everything looks like the play should be made. When you’re at field level, everything’s going fast.

“It was a bang-bang play. He was wrong. It happens. That’s the way the game is.’’

Jacoby Ellsbury, who grew up in Oregon, was a huge Griffey fan as a kid. “He was the guy I wanted to see play,’’ he said. “a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer. Nice to see a guy do it all, natural.’’

Nelson was in the bullpen when Griffey hit his 600th home run off Mark Hendrickson of the Florida Marlins two years ago. “He signed a ball for me,’’ Nelson said. “I had no problem going out there the next day to ask him. Unbelievable career. What can you say?’’

Jason Varitek broke in with the Mariners, and later played with Griffey on Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He chuckled thinking about Griffey’s at-bats when he was behind the plate, Griffey talking to himself after almost every pitch. He’d say, ‘I should have hit that one,’ stuff like that,’’ Varitek said.

“He was just so gifted, so talented,’’ he said. ‘When I think of him, I think of that hat backwards, the big smile, hit, run, catch, he could do it all.’’

Maybe, said Cameron, it’s time to introduce more instant replay to the game.

“We’re going to replay it for the next two months, anyway, might as well do it for the two minutes to get it right.’’

Perhaps, Cameron said, baseball could take its cue from football and introduce a challenge,

“In a situation like that,’’ he said, “we were talking about having that little red flag you throw out. You get one timeout, one instant-replay call. I mean the game has already been so far advanced already, you might as well use it.’’

He smiled.

“I’m sure there'd be a lot of guys,’’ he said, “who would like to throw it right at the umpire.’’

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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