Right or wrong, it's the tendency of fans to only notice an umpire when he blows a big call.
I would've assumed ballplayers might evaluate blue in a similar manner, but it looks like their close proximity and frequent exposure to the game's officials actually allows a more fair and balanced view of the group.
[Photos: Jim Joyce's tough moment]
After all, how else can you explain Jim Joyce being voted the game's best umpire in a survey of 100 big league players conducted after he cost Armando Galarraga(notes) his perfect game with a missed call at first?
ESPN said Sunday that 50 active players from each league were asked confidentially within the past week to select the three best umpires in baseball. Joyce was named on 53 percent of the surveys, topping Tim McClelland (34 percent).
"The sad thing about the Galarraga game is, Jim Joyce is seriously one of the best umpires around," one player told ESPN in its full report. "He always calls it fair, so players love him. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's terrible that this happened to him."
What's interesting is that McClelland was also involved in a memorably bad call — I deemed it the worst of all time because the right call seemed so clearly obvious — during last fall's American League Championship Series between the Angels and Yankees. But the overall reputations of the two umpires, culled from years of respecting the game and their craft, were able to survive the worst day they've ever spent at work. It's almost as if each survey participant cited the blogosphere's favorite qualification — "small sample size!" — before responding.
At the same time, C.B. Bucknor and Cowboy Joe West were named the game's worst umpires by the players, and I suspect the results would be the same if you asked the fans. Their sustained suckitude is apparently a lot more visible to everyone than one botched call that grabs headlines. Probably as it should be.