Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blown Calls Are A Blight Upon Baseball...

I stayed up to watch the Pirates-Braves game last night. It went 19 innings.  It could have possibly gone a little bit longer, if not for an egregiously blown call (H/T to the folks at HBT) by home plate umpire Jerry Meals (hyperbolically called the 'new worst call ever' on Sweet Spot).

Setup: The Braves have men on second and third with one out and pitcher Scott Proctor up at the plate.  Pirates pitcher Daniel McCutchen gets ahead 0-2 on Proctor, and on the next pitch Proctor hits a chopper to third base and the throw beat Julio Lugo home.  The catcher, Michael McKenry, applied the tag about three feet up the line from home plate and Meals called Lugo safe, giving the Braves the winning run and the victory in the 19th inning.

Reaction: I was half-asleep when I saw it, and I couldn't believe he was called safe.  I am not in favor of instant replay, but as I have written in the past, obviously blown calls like this make it harder for me to keep my opposition to instant replay.  This is one of those plays in which replay would have overturned the call.  Would the Pirates have won the game?  I don't know - the Braves would have had men on first and third with two outs.  Maybe there is a wild pitch, or a balk, or base hit, or error - but those outcomes would have been determined by the players on the field.  And that is the key difference.

Rob Neyer has an alternative look at all this.  I respect Neyer immensely, but I think he is completely wrong here, at least about the play.  The circumstances, on the other hand, Neyer got completely right.  McCutchen should NOT have been pitching there with the Pirates' best reliever (Joel Hanrahan) still in the bullpen.  Clint Hurdle does deserve some blame for adhering slavishly to The Book™, but it doesn't take away from the blown call.

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