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After blown call costs Pirates, can we please have expanded replay?

Jul 27, 2011, 3:33 AM EDT


I hope that if the Pittsburgh Pirates miss the playoffs this season, it will be by more than one game.

The Pirates, who at 53-48 trail the NL Central-leading Cardinals by one game, were handed a 4-3, 19-inning defeat early Wednesday morning when Atlanta’s Julio Lugo was called safe by umpire Jerry Meals on a not-so-close play at the plate.

(Watch the video here)

Lugo was awarded the run despite the ball arriving to Pirates catcher Michael McKenry several feet before he did. He was called safe despite McKenry standing out in front of the plate as he tagged Lugo. Lugo didn’t even touch the plate until after McKenry turned to show the ball to Meals.

There is no guarantee the Pirates would have won the contest. Lugo would have been the second out, and the Braves would have still had runners on first and second. But Meals’ call put an end to a game that had no business ending, and the whole thing looked like the actions of an umpire who was ready to go to back to the hotel and go to sleep.

To his credit, Meals spoke to’s Mark Bowman after the game and more or less admitted that he blew the call.

“I saw the tag, but he looked like he oléd him and I called him safe for that.  I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area.  I’m guessing he might have got him, but when I was out there when it happened I didn’t see a tag.

“I just saw the glove sweep up. I didn’t see the glove hit his leg.”

Now I’m not one who spends a lot of time complaining about umpires, as it’s largely a frustrating and fruitless exercise. The umpires have a difficult job. They have to judge whether fleet-footed players are safe or out on the base paths, and whether bullet-like fastballs and filthy breaking balls are in or out of the strike zone. Errors are going to be made, and I believe that over the course of a marathon season, the calls tend to even out.

But at some point there has to be some accountability. The explanations of “oh sorry, I might have blown that call,” start to ring hollow after a while, especially when the technology is there to help them get it right. Yes, the umpires make mistakes. But some of these mistakes don’t have to happen.

Bud Selig is not thrilled about the idea of expanding instant replay. But if he needed a watershed moment to give him the necessary kick in the rear, perhaps this is it.

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  1. greynraney - Jul 27, 2011 at 3:51 AM

    If the right call was made at the plate the Braves weren’t guaranteed runners on 1st and 3rd. If you watch the replay you will notice the batter stumbling out of the box and pitcher motioning for the catch to throw to first for the double play, which would have ended the inning. Calls like this are bad for baseball, and for the fans that stuck it out all 19 innings to see the game end like this is bullsh*t! Good thing the game was played in ATL or Meals would have had a price on his head.

    • pjmarn6 - Jul 27, 2011 at 4:53 PM

      If you look at Lugo’s behavior after he was tagged, he walked slowly away and didn’t tag home until he head that he was called safe and then he returned and stepped on home plate to make sure that he wasn’t chased by the catcher and then called out. Therefore Lugo knew he was tagged out.
      But the BIGGEST STORY is that I looked up BUD SELG on the net looking for his email address and found that it is reported that BUD SELG DOESN’T USE A COMPUTER NOR DOES HE HAVE SOMEONE IN HIS OFFICE THAT USES ONE FOR HIM! I did find that the commissioner of baseball has the sole responsibility to hire and fire umpires. A 19 inning game shouldn’t end this way. Instant replay can’t get her soon enough. And in cases like this before instant replay does arrive, there should be a conference among the umpires and the call overturned. He was tagged a good four feet before he reached the plate and Lugo knew it.

      • pjmarn6 - Jul 27, 2011 at 4:53 PM

        head should be heard.

    • pjmarn6 - Jul 27, 2011 at 5:08 PM

      Perhaps Bud Selig is not enthusiastic about instant replay as he doesn’t know how it works. Anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to use a computer certainly can’t understand how instant replay works. It’s like sending an innocent man to the gas chamber because you can’t understand the evidence that proves him innocent. LET HIM DIE!

  2. Walk - Jul 27, 2011 at 4:51 AM

    Lugo did touch home before the catcher showed meals the ball, that part is an inflamatory accusation, but lugo was out. Lugo did go back and touch the plate but he did not have to which only made the call look worse. Mckenry’s swipe tag caught lugo low on the leg as he came in then continued up and missed lugos shoulder, lugo did touch the plate. Meals saw the tag miss lugos shoulder, did not see the beginning of the tag hit lugos ankle area. Mckenry showed meals the ball as lugo stood and touched home for the second time. It was a bad call but it does not need any help to make it look worse than it was. I watched all 19 innings of that game and saw players on both sides arguing with home and first base ump on numerous occasions. The worst was part other than the missed play at home was when meals charged out from behind home plate when braves pitcher martinez thought he had a third strike that wasnt called. Meals broke out of his crouch as martinez threw his hands up and said something, i couldnt tell what, i thought the pitch was a ball but it had been called a strike on several occaisons that night, no way meals should have kicked home and stalked toward the mound like he did.

    • pjmarn6 - Jul 27, 2011 at 5:00 PM

      The catcher doesn’t have to show the umpire the ball. Nor does the ball have to touch the player who is tagged out. The ball is in the glove and the glove with the ball in it has to touch the UNIFORM of the player and not the bare skin of the player. THE UMPIRE HAS TO USE HIS EYES TO SEE WHERE THE BALL IS AND USE HIS EYES TO SEE THAT THE GLOVE BRUSHES THE UNIFORM. I SAW A SWEEP OF THE GLOVE UP THE BODY OF LUGO AND THE UMPIRE SAW THAT LUGO WAS WELL AWAY FROM HOME PLATE.

  3. hittfamily - Jul 27, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    If only there was an instantaneous way of defenitively knowing a call.

    It is an embarassment when a drunken slob in a sports bar can determine out or safe seconds after the play occurs, and baseball continues to allow incorrect plays stand. Once again, the fans get cheated.

  4. pghburgher - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    Well Roder Goodell should be happy with the call for two reasons. 1) It went against Pittsburgh and 2) If Bud Selig doesn’t fine and suspend Jerry Meals for such a huge error He will Replace Roger as the most hated man in Pittsburgh.

    • psousa1 - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:58 AM

      Anyone who counts Roethliesberger, Harrison and Ryan Clark as ‘detractors’ must be a good person. The 3 of them have the cumulative I.Q. of a chair.

      If HGH testing came in Harrison would be would not be in the league.

    • hittfamily - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      And yet he is still far more competent than his colleague manning the helms in MLB. When Goodell sees a way to better the game, he takes it. He didn’t institute instant replay, but he sees it’s validity enough not to get rid of it. He also outlaws plays that aren’t necessary and routinely result in injury, like home plate collisions. That play would not be legal in the NFL.

      Horse collar tackles, going low on QBs, doubleteamed cut blocks, hitting defenseless receivers: all avoidable plays that routinely results in injury, and all used to be legal. Home plate collisions are illegal in high school and college, yet in the MLB, 5-6 teams lose players in this common, wreckless, and dangerous play. Blindsiding a defenseless receiver in the NFL is illegal, and it should be in baseball too.

      • nlfan865 - Jul 27, 2011 at 1:15 PM

        the pirates were down to their seventh catcher of the season

  5. skids003 - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    Only allow replay if everyone is allowed to force “sportswriters” to be accountable for the crap they write.

    • hittfamily - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:43 AM

      Sportswriters have spellcheck, editors, and edit functions. They have a backup plan. Baseball needs the same. Bud probably thinks the Russians really did win the gold in basketball, and the USA was just a victim of human error.

      • skids003 - Jul 27, 2011 at 10:34 AM

        Sportswriters also have 20/20 hindsight, and lack of memory when it comes to their predictions. Also, I’ve never seen very many ex players make very good umpires either, they are usually the worst.

  6. paperlions - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    I guarantee the Pirates (and every other MLB team) have won (and therefore, also lost) at least 1 game (and probably many more than that) this year because of blown calls. Blown ball/strike calls are responsible for outs and subsequent hits that shouldn’t exist in nearly every game….granted, all blown calls don’t happen on the final play or inning, so they are mostly forgotten….but the effect on winning of a blown call in the 1st that leads to (or prevents) a run is the same as one that happens in the 9th (or 19th).

    Over the course of 162 games, teams generally benefit from blown calls as much as they are hurt by them.

    • paperlions - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:28 AM

      Fine thumbs down guys….it took me 3 seconds to find an example where the Pirates won this year largely because of a blown call. Enjoy.

      Dodgers Vs. Pirates: Bucs Sneak Over .500 Thanks To Blown Call, Eighth-Inning Doubles

      The Pirates now have a winning record on the season after their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park Monday night helped them to an 18-17 record.

      Jeff Karstens pitched 5.2 innings and allowed one run on seven hits. Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley held steady with Karstens, allowing only a third-inning RBI single by Garrett Jones in the first seven innings.

      In the eighth, however, the Bucs caught a huge break when the Dodgers had a man on first and no outs. Jose Tabata slid to catch a ball in left field, the batter was called out, and the Bucs doubled the runner off first. Replays showed that Tabata’s apparent catch was actually a trap. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and infielder Juan Uribe were ejected for arguing, to no avail.

      The Pirates then added three runs in the bottom of the inning. Garrett Jones led off with a walk, which was followed by doubles by Neil Walker, Lyle Overbay and Ryan Doumit (who went 3-for-4 on the day). That proved to be more than enough, and the Pirates now have a winning record to take into mid-May.

      • uberfatty - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM

        That was a 4-1 game and it happened in the 8th. I haven’t seen replay of the trap, but I would assume the call was much tougher to make than this one. Traps are tough sometimes, tags 5 ft. from Home Plate aren’t. Copmletely different circumstances. When a team gets the benefit of a blown call and just so happens to end up winning the game that doesn’t mean the blown call contributed equally. The fact that this was the 19th inning, and was such an obvious call are also factors to consider.

      • paperlions - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:41 AM

        Doesn’t matter. The point is that missed calls at any point in the game can and do have effects that determine who wins or loses. They happen all the time.

        Indeed, this call may not have determined the winner, per se, as the next hitter could have singled in the winning run or the Braves could have won later in the game.

      • pghburgher - Jul 27, 2011 at 10:34 AM

        Look a little further and you will find that it was a make-up call for the trap they called the day before. it doesnt make it right but last nights call ruined a hard fought game by both sides. no true winner here.

      • spudchukar - Jul 27, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        The degree of error has nothing to do with the impact on a game. Like in life one cannot be barely pregnant.

    • hittfamily - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:52 AM

      Apparently my kindergarten teacher was incorrect. 2 wrongs do make a right.

  7. StottsEra - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    no instant replay, just fire jerry meals

  8. deathmonkey41 - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    Are umpires getting worse or is it the fact that we now have the benefit of multiple camera angles and slow motion to prove how awful they’ve always been?

    • paperlions - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:24 AM

      Better (and more) camera angles, instant internet outrage (before you only knew or cared about such calls for your own team and didn’t get to see outrage from other markets), and much much much better video technology that produces much clearer images so you can actually see what happened.

  9. professorperry - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    If the “imperfect game” didn’t shake Selig, this won’t.

    • Old Gator - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:59 AM

      If the Sendai earthquake had been a blown call, it wouldn’t have shaken Bud Light.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    I agree 100% with paper. These calls even out. Stop whining about a call that did NOT coat the Pirates a win. The game would have still been tied and we don’t know what would have happened. Calls even out over course of 162 games. Stop whining.

    • hittfamily - Jul 27, 2011 at 8:51 AM

      It didn’t cost them a win, but it cost them an opportunity to compete for a win. The players and managers win and lose games, not correctable flaws in the monitoring of the game.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:02 AM

      And if the Phillies should lose the World Series on a terrible call like that- will you feel the same way?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:16 AM

        Yes. Calls even out. Doesn’t matter the team or the player. People have to get over it.

      • deathmonkey41 - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:22 AM

        I disagree and I think this is almost as bad as umpires giving “make up” strikes and such.

      • cintiphil - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:31 AM

        I saw a W-S game on T-V where the Cardinals did lose the series because of a call just about the same, but at first base. The ump admitted after the game, he blew it. This event is not that critical, but just annoying if you are a Pirate fan. I am absolutely positive the Pirates have won a game or two this season because of blown calls just like this one. I know the Reds have won at least one game because of a bad call. Get over it, things even out before 182 games are played. You whiners all sound like babies needing your bottle.

      • cintiphil - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:43 AM

        I forget to mention, I think he was out also, but as we used to say in the old days, that’s the breaks! Get over it and wait until the next day.

      • cintiphil - Jul 27, 2011 at 11:58 AM

        Typo, I meant 162.

  11. edpeters101 - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    This is baseball, where 30% is considered very good. Mistakes are made; bad pitches, missed grounders, bad throws, missed signs and missed calls. It’s the nature of the game, if you don’t like it go play cricket..

    • deathmonkey41 - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:15 AM

      It doesn’t have to be though- I think that’s the problem most people have. And with the long, stupid tirades managers throw before and after being ejected for arguing these terrible calls, a buzz up to a booth umpire could resolve most problems and probably result in shorter games over the long haul.

  12. offseasonblues - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    Umpire error on close calls may even out over a season, but really, stupendously, even without your contacts you could see he was out terrible calls are just unnecessary. This is a perfect example of when an “umpire in the booth” would solve the problem, and with no need for an instant replay delay.

  13. deathmonkey41 - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    The other problem I have is that the umpires didn’t huddle together to talk about it- Meals began walking off the field before his arms came down.

  14. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    I agree with replay 100%. I don’t want to come across as I am anti-replay. However, to point to one call and say it cost the Pirates the game or if they end up one game out of the playoffs it will be because of this call is absolutely 100% ludicrous hyperbole. Calls even out. Plays even out. Shoot, even pitches with an AT BAT even themselves out. To pin a Pirates playoff miss on one call that didn’t even cost the Pirates a win is stupid.

    Again…I want replay. But only because it will be easy to implement. I want 3 challenges for the managers and NO ON-FIELD ARGUING AT ALL. Manager goes on field, he is tossed and suspended for a game. Second offense, 5 games. Third offense, 20 games. It won’t lengthen games. Period.

  15. mojosmagic - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    The umpiring seems to get worse year by year. Angel Hernandez and Joe West lead the pack and both should be fired. Those two change the strike zone inning by inning. The guy last night obviously wanted to get dinner and go to sleep.

  16. summerof67 - Jul 27, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Baseball doesn’t need instant replay.

    It needs better umpires. With better training and better attitudes.

    Baseball is also a human game. The only one left of the major sports, IMO. No clock telling you when to end it. Ground rules that vary from park to park. (If you lose the ball in the ivy at Wrigley field, for example, it’s a ground rule double.) And so on.

    I would like not to lose the humanity of the game because of a number of blown calls, no matter how egregious.

    • nlfan865 - Jul 27, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      i concur whole heartedly…well said

  17. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jul 27, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    What baseball really needs is to a fire squad to handle umps that make bad calls. After all this is a matter of life and death isn’t?

  18. stevem7 - Jul 27, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Jerry Meals is, and has been for a long time, a SUB-STANDARD umpire that MLB does nothing about. He’s one of the reasons this game has NO INTEGRITY. And anyone thinking BUTT Selig will do anything is out shopping for Swampland in Florida if they believe that.

  19. purnellmeagrejr - Jul 27, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    One of the worst calls EVER! I hope the Pirates don’t miss out on the post season by one game.

  20. johninpa - Jul 27, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    The theme of many comments here is that bad calls are okay because they even out by the end of the season. I’d love to see the evidence for that. I would contend that there is simply no room for bad calls in baseball with the availability of multiple camera angles, super slow motion and so on. Give each team an appeal or two. The NFL and NHL have figured it out, let’s bring technology to baseball. And don’t complain about the time for a review. What’s two minutes in a 3 hour (or in this case 6 hour) game?

  21. bigleagues - Jul 27, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    With Pitch F/X MLB has the technology to chart – in real time – Pitch Speed’s, Velocity, Break, Balls/Strikes, etc . . . beyond the number crunching that statheads do – these data are used in evaluating umpire performance, among other things.

    The fact that Bud Selig isn’t really interested or excited or in favor of – or whatever – of instant replay enhancing and reinforcing the integrity of game outcomes . . . is right in line with his other anti-integrity of the game decisions throughout his tenure as CEO – errr uhh, Commissioner.

    The CEO has yet to really elaborate on WHY he isn’t favor of instant replay. His reasons must be mystifying.

  22. plaintiffstructures - Jul 27, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    If Galarraga’s perfect game being stolen by a blown call wasn’t enough to get Selig to notice that getting it right is important, isn’t it a little naive to think that he would care about a blown call at home.

    I don’t get the lets make sure the home run is good, but who cares about a perfect game or play at the plate. I think they take the attitude that there are 165 games so one just isn’t that important, when they are all important.

    • bigleagues - Jul 27, 2011 at 11:37 AM

      How many games are there?

    • cintiphil - Jul 27, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      It is 162, not 165.

      • plaintiffstructures - Jul 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        Sorry, typo.

  23. bobulated - Jul 27, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    MLB Umpires’ new motto; “At least we’re better than the NBA refs.”

    I agree replay is needed, that being said you would need more cameras for home plate calls, especially directly over head. I’m not saying the tag was missed but I don’t think we realize how reluctant an ump in the booth might be to actually overturn calls. We could have even got the old “inconclusive evidence” on that one without an overhead shot.

    • bigleagues - Jul 27, 2011 at 5:35 PM

      I think NBA Refs have a much harder job that MLB Umpires. They have to keep up with the action on the court.

      And though I’m hard on the refs and umps, each sport has some very good officials, some very mediocre officials and a whole bunch in between.

      Every so often, looking to the other sports for some guidance is a wise move. MLB is the only one without significant instant replay policy in place.

      Perhaps getting game deciding calls correct is too controversial an issue for CEO Selig to wade into.

  24. nlfan865 - Jul 27, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    look im a braves fan and ive seen all kinds of bad calls…there were plenty in this game…but the game is bigger than your needs to try to control it…it has survived human error for over a hundred years and should be allowed to continue.the umpiring crews are just a part of the game as the players and coaches are, and are gonna make mistakes…shut up and get ready for tommorows game…when fans are looking for bud selig to be the voice of reason you should conclude their issues dont hold much merit.means will have to live this down just as other umps go about their business of improving and correcting their mistakes….that is why we have a so many games in a season….this aint football girls….one play in one game in one season doesnt spell doom for the whole sport…..

  25. johngaltx - Jul 27, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    A side note: Why was Lugo running home on a hard smash to the third baseman? He was practically standing right beside Alverez when the ball arrived! If the tag was called as an out, it would have been an easy double play as the pitcher took a nose dive right out of the box.

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