BOSTON - Ask most casual baseball fans if they know who umpire Jim Joyce is and you'll likely be met with some variation of the following statement:
"He blew Armando Galarraga's perfect game."
Ask some die-hard baseball fans and they'll likely know that Joyce has a real loud strike call ("stri-EEEEEEEK!").
Otherwise, he's an anonymous umpire.
There's a reason for that, which is that he's a very good umpire. He doesn't rip off his mask and scream at anyone who dares to question his calls at home plate, he doesn't instigate players or managers and he rarely blows calls.
And when he does, he admits it and feels bad about it. Remember the aftermath of the Galarraga call:
What's done is done. All we can ask of Joyce for that call is accountability and he's been more than accountable.
This isn't Angel Hernandez, Bob Davidson, Joe West or any number of problem children umpires. Jim Joyce is everything that an umpire should be. He respects the game and works hard at his craft. He is widely respected by his peers, players and managers alike.
And in the 2013 World Series, he's shining.
Say what you will about the obstruction rule itself, but Joyce's job is to call the game the way the rule is written. He correctly made the obstruction call in Game 3 well before the throw from left field was headed home. Few noticed it immediately, but Joyce pointed toward home plate before a throw was even made. With Allen Craig stumbling down the line, few in Busch Stadium knew the game was already over. Joyce had immediately, instintively applied the rule 100 percent correctly.
Again, feel free to hate the rule, but Joyce's job isn't to pick and choose how to apply the rule and when to apply it. His job is to enforce the rule how it is written, and he absolutely did so when he was supposed to.
[As an aside: Why do people think rules should be applied differently based upon when something happens? I keep hearing, "you can't end a World Series game like that." My reply? Why the hell not? That's the rule. The rules don't change based upon when the game is being played. The response I get is, "let the players decide!" They did. Jarrod Saltalamacchia launched an ill-advised throw into left field.]
In Game 4, now umpiring at second base, Joyce made an out call that was disputed by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Most in attendance thought Joyce missed the call. I definitely did. I didn't think there was a chance Dustin Pedroia got his foot down.
But he did.
Onto Game 5, there was again a bang-bang play at Joyce's base. This time it was an excellent defensive play by Jon Lester, but the call was still disputed. Again, I thought in real time that Joyce missed it. But, again, he got it right.
Though there are calls missed and the strike zone could use some firming up, I've long believed MLB umpires are the best game officials in any professional sport. So often in real time we question their calls on the bases and so often they nail it. Joyce is a great example of this, specifically in this series with those two calls.
Jim Joyce is doing the job in the 2013 World Series on the biggest stage. Hopefully he feels like this is his redemption for the highest profile mistake in his career. He deserves it.