Umpire Jerry Meals May Have Blown the Call but Replay Isn't the Solution

C KSenior Analyst IJuly 27, 2011

ATLANTA - JULY 26: Julio Lugo #28 of the Atlanta Braves scores the game-winning run in the 19th inning against Michael McKenry #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates at Turner Field on July 26, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

He was out.

That was likely your initial reaction to last night's game-ending play in the 19th inning between the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even after watching slow motion replay after slow motion replay, most of the baseball world is convinced Julio Lugo was indeed out and that home plate umpire Jerry Meals cost the Pirates a valuable win.

Once the initial shock of the ruling died down, cooler heads without a bias towards either team surfaced and made a strong case that Lugo was indeed safe.

I'm not sold either way. Watching in real time, there's no way he's safe. But countless angles and freeze frames later and there is no conclusive shot showing that Michael McKenry actually successfully applied the tag.

There's this angle, which seems to show the tag was applied. And then there's this one.

The latter of the two is what complicates the whole situation. Do I believe he was out? Yes. But is this the worst call ever? No way.

There is a slight chance he was safe, and a slightly larger probability he was out. But remember, we aren't the umpires and we weren't on that field two feet away from the play. Lugo's demeanor as he lazily touched home plate gives the impression he felt the tag, but anybody would be surprised to be called safe in that situation.

The ball beats you to the plate by about 10 feet and nearly every part of the catcher's body comes in contact with yours, you figure some of it had to be what's most important, the glove. But replays show that there is, in fact, a chance Meals was right with his call.

There's only one person in this world who knows the right call, and that's McKenry. But after the elaborate protest from his manager Clint Hurdle, he wouldn't dare say anything but that he made the tag.

And here comes the inevitable part: Should instant replay be used for these kinds of situations in MLB? Most of me wants to say yes, but this situation itself is not the example to bring to commissioner Bud Selig.

Replay would have done absolutely nothing in this situation to overturn the call on the field. There was not a single angle shown that made it clear that the tag was or was not applied. In other words, there was no conclusive evidence to change the call.

Most of the time instant replay would be a useful solution. But in this instance, it would be futile. The fact that anyone is still having questions over if there was a tag or not shows it. By no means did Jerry Meals make the "worst call ever," and in no way would replay have done anything.

The problem is the majority of us all declared he was out way before we even saw a replay for ourselves. Logic told us from our initial view from the top of the backstop screen on television that there was no way Lugo was safe. He almost didn't even touch home plate, for God's sake.

Before seeing a replay themselves, the Braves broadcast crew even admitted they were shocked by the call and said McKenry tagged him on the leg and the arm. Replays then showed he came nowhere close to getting his arm and might have touched the leg. That more than anything shows how different the view on the replay is than in real time.

Given the option of replay in this instance, the call would have stood. I understand the need for instant replay but this shouldn't be Exhibit A as many are making it out to be.

Last season, when Jim Joyce cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game on the last play at first base, replay would have been the answer. But last night it would have been proved futile. There is no angle that shows, with absolute certainty, that Lugo was out.

The popular thing to do after chaos like this is to jump on the replay bandwagon and scream and holler as loudly as possible. In this scenario, though, it would have only further complicated things.

If anything, this should be an example to all of us that even with instant replay not every play would be guaranteed to be called correctly. Without conclusive evidence, the call on the field would have to stand and while most of the time replay gives us that, it isn't 100 percent.

Baseball enthusiasts everywhere, I ask you to take a step back, collect yourselves and move on. Replay will come soon enough. For now, ease up on the superlatives and refrain from sending any death threats Jerry Meals' way.

This was merely a controversial call that could have gone either way, an instance in which instant replay wouldn't have proven a damn thing.