Jerry Meals Blows Braves/Pirates Call. Can We Have Replay NOW?

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

This time, a blown call might cost a team a playoff spot. MLB needs replay review -- NOW. What do you think? Vote in our poll.

Just last week, after yet another egregiously blown call in a game between the Cubs and Marlins, I made the call here for replay review to be instituted for all calls other than balls and strikes.

That game didn't really mean anything; the Cubs likely lost the game as a result, but they're going nowhere, and the Marlins are buried in last place in the National League East.

Tuesday night, it happened again, in the 19th inning in Atlanta; umpire Jerry Meals appeared to make a horrendously bad call on a play at the plate, allowing Julio Lugo to score the winning run. As you can see, it appears that Pirates catcher Michael McKenry tagged Lugo long before he touched the plate:

And if that angle doesn't convince you, how about this one?

My colleague Rob Neyer has argued this morning that perhaps Meals saw something the rest of us didn't; that, I suppose, is possible. TV camera angles can lie. But it does appear to me, from the image above, that McKenry tagged Lugo on his left leg and hung on to the ball. It would have been the second out of the inning; the game would have continued. It was already the longest game by time in the history of either franchise; maybe Meals was fatigued at 1:50 a.m. Had Meals made the correct call and ruled Lugo out, the Braves could still have won the game later that inning or in a subsequent inning -- or the Pirates could have won.

And that's the salient point. Unlike the Cubs/Marlins game, this one meant something. The Pirates started the day tied for first place in the NL Central. What if they miss winning the division by one game? In that case, this call will have directly cost them a chance to win the World Series. Last season, a bad call cost the Giants a game; San Francisco made the playoffs and won the World Series anyway.

But what if the Pirates get shut out of the postseason because of this call?

It's possible -- but not likely -- that Meals got the call right. Why can't we have replay review of plays like this, so that the result of the game accurately reflects what actually happens on the field? Last week, I suggested adding an umpire to each crew; he would be stationed in the press box with replay monitors and review all calls like this one. It's too difficult to do that in the middle of a season, hiring umpires and installing the necessary equipment in 30 stadiums.

But MLB has its own TV network, headquartered in New Jersey -- right across the river from MLB HQ in New York -- with plenty of TV monitors. How hard would it be to station a retired umpire or two there, with access to video from all games, to review plays and contact stadiums by cellphone, starting right now? I'd suggest the following calls could be reviewed: home runs (already done), fair/foul, safe/out (last night's play) and caught/trapped. It could be set up in less than a week.

Major league players play hard and do their best for their teams to win games, and aim toward a World Series championship. I don't think it's too much to ask for officials of the sport to assure that what the players actually do on the field be reflected in the results of the games. Replay review's time has come.

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