Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bucs can't afford ump's blunder

A team with the offensive punch of the Pirates needs to seize the moment when a game is close. They certainly don't have the firepower to go hit-for-hit with any team in the National League right now. It's not their style. They have a hard enough time conjouring up enough runs to win a game on their own.

That's one of the reasons you see such aggression on the basepaths. The Braves sniffing out the suicide squeeze in the ninth inning is just one of the desperate moves the Bucs seem to try when they don't have many chances to score.

So when a game is within their grasp, they have to win it. That's what makes the blown call at home plate by umpire Jerry Meals so outrageous this morning.

It's true that Pirates catcher Michael McKenry's tag was early. I'm not saying he didn't tag the Braves' Julio Lugo because it surely looks like he did. McKenry could have done a better job and he was certainly excited to get the tag down for the out. He brought his glove down quite quickly. So quickly Meals thought it was early.

But how many times has the umpire just assumed a second baseman or shortstop's foot clips second base on a double play when it doesn't? This is the same type of play, considering how far up on the baseline from home plate McKenry caught the ball and made the tag and it's really a no-brainer to call the out rather than try to outsmart the 15,000 people still in the stadium and the thousands of sports fans watching at home to tune in for the anomaly of a 19-inning baseball game.

I don't think Meals was tired or wanted to just end it. There really was no maliciousness intended toward the Pirates. But if you are going to make the "I'm smarter than the rest of the world and he missed that tag" call, you have to be right. And it can't be close. A postgame comment saying he "might have" made an error has to be a hard pill to swallow for the 24 Pirates who played last night, including a catcher who was behind the plate for 19 innings.

This win or loss can effect a season, and for a team like the Pirates, who savor every victory not just because they are trying to end a 18-year streak of losing seasons. This one also takes them out of the tie for first place in the NL Central. This is meaningful baseball in Pittsburgh and the high of the momentum they are building as the wins pile up could be thrown off by one bad call. It's really that delicate. Despite the fact that it ruined Armando Galarraga's perfect game, this call is worse than the error made by Jim Joyce on that day. That one has proven to not have effected the Tigers in the standings from that year.

Time will only tell if this one affects history.


  1. I like most of this article. You make a very good point about McKenry's tagging technique. He was haphazard. Had he not flailed his glove hand like a showboating Patrick Roy save, there would be no questions. However, Meals may have, in fact, just missed the call. Hard to say. I was slow-mo-ing my DVR and it appears, from the front-left-center field camera, that you can see McKenry's glove contact Lugo's leg and cause his pants to wrinkle/shift for a second. HArd to say if that's from the glove or just due to the sliding motion.

    However, to compare this call to the Jim Joyce call is absurd. Yes, this call more directly affected the w/l outcome (potentially, there was still a man in scoring position with 2 outs). BUT in terms of the calls themselves, the Joyce call was one of the all-time lows for the game and an absolutely shameful botch that requires no triple slow-mo replays. It did not afffect wins and losses, but it did affect an epically historical event for the history of baseball.

  2. Yet again another example of how the national pastime must recognize it's the 21st century and institute replay/manager challenge option.
    Ignoring this need is like saying chewing tobacco is healthy!