He missed the call. Let’s get that out of the way. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals blew a crucial call during the decisive moment in the Pittsburgh Pirates v. Atlanta Braves game last night. The ball beat Julio Lugo by a mile, and I’m sure everyone rooting for the Braves thought for sure Lugo would be called out. Instead, they got to celebrate a victory, while Pirates fans must have felt like the manager after the call at the 7:25 point in the video below:
In the less than 18 hours since the call was made, message boards on ESPN.com have lit up with irate Pirates fans calling for, among other things, implementation of instant replay, and the phone number for Meals’ eye doctor, so that they may make him an appointment for a check-up. It is sad when an official of any sport misses a call in this situation, but what is even more sad is the reaction from fans. Apparently, two seperate Pirates fan message boards have posted Meals’ home address and phone number. And I think we can safely say that no one is calling him to tell him not to worry about it, everyone makes mistakes.
I have been an umpire for 11 years now, and in that time, I’ve blown my share of calls. Some in decisive moments of a game, and some not, but what has always boggled my mind is the reaction I have received. I have been followed off the field, being cursed at by angry parents, purely because a call went against them. These are “adults” who are supposed to be role models for their children. Arguing with officials is as time-honored of a tradition in sport as turkey at Thanksgiving, but sometimes, people go too far; today, the Pirates front-office joined that club.
A formal complaint was filed to the commssioners office in protest of the call. Normally, this is only done when a team feels a rule was misinterpreted. As an example, a complaint was filed by the Royals after George Brett was famously ruled out after a homerun because the pine-tar was too far up the handle on his bat. The call was eventually overturned by the commissioner, and the rest of the game was replayed. That is a rules protest, but what Pirates President Frank Coonelly has done is merely an example of how a sore loser reacts. There was no misinterpretation of the “out-safe” rule by Meals, he purely thought the Pirates catcher missed the tag ( and for the record, I thought so too when I first watched the full-speed replay).
In his statement, Coonelly said that he does not understand how Meals missed the call, but does not question his integrity or his ability as a professional umpire. However, one sentence baffled me: “For Pirates fans, we may have lost a game in the standings as a result of a missed call, but this game, and the gutsy performances by so many of our players, will make us stronger…”
Are you freaking kidding me? You think you lost a 19 inning game because of this one call? How about the 2-15 your team hit with runners in scoring position, along with the 16 left on base? No? Then how about your two runners who were caught stealing, as well as one who was picked off of third base? That run might have been important. Still no? Then how about the 20 strikeouts your team amassed during the game? Those statistics might have something to do with your loss, not to mention the mere fact the catcher made a lazy swipe tag instead of keeping the ball on the runner to leave no doubt. I would have expected better from the bourgeoisie of baseball; blaming the umpire is for the cretins and the sports-uneducated masses. You should know that you can blame a loss on a lot of things, Mr. Coonelly, but you can not ever blame it on the umpire.
Whine about it all you want, make all the arguments you want, but right now there is no instant replay in baseball. Players need to suck it up and move on from whatever call they feel was right or wrong and just continue playing, come out the next day and try to get a win.
The commissioners office will do nothing about this complaint, as well they should. No childish excuses should ever be validated in professional sports. Joe Torre, now executive VP of baseball operations, has already come out and said that Meals missed the call; hopefully that will be the extent of it. Jerry Meals has even stated he missed it upon watching replay. I’m sure if the Pirates miss the playoffs by one game, we’ll be hearing about this again. In the meantime though, the mature kids in the winners circle will be focused on playing the game, instead of on those who call it.