Armando Galarraga and Paul McCartney: A Study in Contrasts

Just a day before they were treated to the classy pitching performance and sportsmanship of Detroit Tigers pitcher, Armando Galarraga, Americans were witness to a truly classless act from former Beatle, Paul McCartney.  On June 2, in a game against the Cleveland Indians, Gallaraga lost a bid to become only the 21st pitcher in major league history to pitch a perfect game, when with two outs in the ninth inning first base umpire Jim Joyce made a mistake and called the baserunner ’safe’, when he really should have been called ‘out’ (replays clearly showed that Jim Joyce had made a bad call, and Joyce acknowledged as much after seeing the replays).  After realizing his mistake, Joyce admitted ruefully, “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”  With equal poise and class, Gallaraga met with Joyce after the game and issued some comforting words for the distraught umpire: “He probably felt more bad than me.”  And adding a touch of wry humor, Galarraga noted, “Nobody’s  perfect.”  Contrast this classy behavior with that of former Beatle, Paul McCartney, who on June 1 was at the White House to receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, from the Library of Congress.  Upon receiving the award, Sir Paul went out of his way to (a) complement the current President, Barack Obama, and (b) take a cheap shot at Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.  In a carefully-delivered quip that was clearly prepared in advance, the former Beatle remarked, out of the blue and apropos of nothing: “After the last eight years, it’s good to have a president who knows what a library is.”  Consider the contrast: Armando Galarraga had just been ROBBED of an honor, but instead of whining or complaining, he went out of his way to rise above the loss and even comfort the umpire who had robbed him.  By contrast, Paul McCartney was being GIVEN an honor, and instead of showing the grace that is customary and expected for such occasions, he went out of his way to introduce a note of petty and mean-spirited snideness.  I’m no big fan of George W. Bush, and I am an absolute lover of the Beatles.  But I cannot help but conclude that Sir Paul made a perfect ass of himself with his irrelevant, nasty comment.  The irony is that George W. Bush has been married for the past thirty-plus years to an intelligent, classy woman who also happens to be a librarian (so of course Bush knows what a library is).  For his part, Paul McCartney showed terrible judgment when he married Heather Mills, who turned out to be one of the nuttiest celebrity-wives the world has seen in recent years; and even with the best lawyers at his service, Sir Paul ended up having to spend over 24 million pounds sterling (about 5% of his net worth) to get himself unhitched from her.

5 Responses to “Armando Galarraga and Paul McCartney: A Study in Contrasts”

  1. Dominic Balestra says:

    Most observers seem to hold that Galarraga was robbed. But such a view presupposes a naive realism, as in the case of baseball where the judgment of the umpire contributes to the reality of what transpires in some plays. All the more so regarding what transpires in politics. And might it be the case that Al Gore was robbed of winning the Presidential election aginst George W. Bush since they also did not allow a reply in Florida?

  2. michaelbaur says:

    Professor Balestra’s baseball-epistemology seems (to me, at least) to come dangerously close to a kind of positivism, or conventionalism. I’d like to know, specifically, how an umpire’s “judgment” contributes to the reality of what transpires. My view is that it is possible to say that an umpire’s call is wrong, if the call does not accurately reflect what has transpired, quite independent of the umpire’s judgment. For instance, if a pitch from a pitcher never comes close to the plate (let’s say it’s five feet off the plate), then it seems to me that such a pitch is a “ball,” and it does not become a “strike” just because an umpire happens to call it a strike. An umpire who calls it a “strike” has made a wrong call. Similarly, if a base-runner’s foot has reached first base only after the ball has been caught and secured by by the first basemen (who also has his foot on the base), then the runner is “out.” An umpire who calls the runner “safe” has made a wrong call. The rules of the game seem to support my interpretation: whether we are talking about pitching or base-running, the rules say that an umpire makes a mistake if the umpire’s call departs from the facts that have transpired (quite independent of the umpire’s own judgment, which contributes nothing to the facts). And this is how the Bush-Gore case is different from the Galarrage case: the relevant rules in the 2000 election did not simply say that the candidate with the largest number of popular votes (or the largest number of votes that are theoretically countable) shall win. The applicable rules governing the 2000 election had to do with a number of issues (e.g., federal law, state law, the interplay of federal and state law, the authority of the state’s legislative body, etc.); accordingly, the legal decision to be made in connection with the 2000 election required an analysis of several issues, and a prudential judgment regarding the relative importance of these several issues, all considered in light of the aims of the relevant laws. Thus, with the 2000 election, the rules themselves imply that no single, judge-independent fact can alone determine the right outcome. By contrast, there are certain rules in baseball (e.g., regarding pitching and base-running) which state quite the opposite, namely that there *are* single, judge-independent facts which can by themselves determine the right outcome (e.g., if a base-runner arrives on base only after the ball is secured by a fielder with his foot on the base, then the runner is out).

  3. Dominic Balestra says:

    Until Major League Baseball allows for an appeal that can reverse such a call, then the umpire’s decision cum “error”, constitutes the fact of the game. I will not get into the question of whether the first baseman had secure possesion of the ball before the runner crossed that bag !! At the boundaries it is more like clouds than clocks.

    Finally, as I recall judgment-neutral facts was a dogma of logical positivism!

  4. michaelbaur says:

    I am now closer to agreeing with Professor Balestra. I am very far from saying that there are judgment-neutral facts (I’ve read Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, after all; and I don’t subscribe to a naive realist reading of Aristotle and Aquinas). In fact, what I want to say is that “what counts as an out or a ball or a strike in baseball,” etc. depends on what the rule-book says about these things, and not on any judgment-neutral fact. But the rule-book also specifies when the umpire ought to call something an out or a ball or a strike, and when not; and in providing such a specification, the rule-book refers to something that can be determined to be the case (e.g., the runner’s reaching the base), apart from the *particular* umpire’s particular judgment. If the rule-book did not ‘track’ right and wrong judgment calls by reference to something beyond the particular umpire’s own particular judgment call, then it would never be possible for an umpire to make a mistake. But we often do say that umpires have made mistakes (and we have every right to do so). Of course, it does not follow from this that a mistaken call by an umpire is invalid. A mistaken call may be valid and binding, if there is no applicable procedure within the game of baseball by means of which the mistaken call may be appealed and reversed. So I’d say: even though the mistaken call is valid and binding, it remains a mistaken call. One can say the same thing about a number of Supreme Court decisions. The crucial point is this: it’s possible to say that a judgment call is valid and therefore binding on those who are subject to it, even in cases where the judgment call is wrong, provided that there is no relevant procedure by means of which the judgment might be reversed by some higher authority. The bindingness of Jim Joyce’s particular judgment call has to do with authority and procedure, and not with the alleged fact that it is his very judgment which constitutes or co-constitutes states of affairs to be what they are. That is, there is a difference between validity and bindingness (on the one hand) and correctness (on the other hand).

  5. Rosyid says:

    well he made a bad well he made a bad call but umps are human too they make mistakes once in a while but as a whole they do a very good job. Until they use video repaly for this sort of thing which I am opposed too its ok for home runs etc but umps making split second calls is a part of the game of baseball.. people are going to have to live with bad calls once in a while even tho pitching a perfect game most likely will never be done by this pitcher again.

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