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The Baseball Equivalent of Bush v. Gore

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has been provided by Mr. Jerry Meals. This was no garden-variety, or even Phil Cuzzi variety, blown call — as with Bush v. Gore, the bad faith is transparent.  As you can see [scroll down to “Braves walk-off”], although I apparently can’t embed, the runner (who was tagged up and down his body while being nowhere near home plate) is understandably shocked to have been called safe.   In this case, the bias against the Pirates was once removed — I assume Meals was more concerned with the buffet at the local gentleman’s cabaret getting cold than which team won — but the effect is the same.  On a game that could have a major impact on two pennant races.

Obviously, if Selig was serious about his job, Meals would be working at Arby’s tomorrow.   I expect to see him in the World Series.

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  • Well, who you gonna believe, me or the lyin’ videotape?

  • wengler

    It’s not ruining a pitcher’s perfect game bad, but that is one of the worst calls I have ever seen.

    The technology is there. Robot umpires now.

  • Green Caboose

    Reminds me of a call made by an umpire named Eric Gregg in the late 70s or early 80s to end a game quickly. Gregg was also someone who’s hobby was overeating.

    However, the closest to Bush v. Gore has to be the pine tar incident, only in that case the bad decision was overruled. It’s interesting to research it now. If you go to Wikipedia they only note rookie home plate umpire Tim McClelland and not even a mention of crew chief Joe Brinkman, one of the worst umpires of all time, who actually made the decision.

    Furthermore, it seems that almost everyone has forgotten that Joe Brinkman had voiced a grudge against the Kansas City Royals shortly before the Pine Tar incident:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1121059/index.htm

    Note that this article was from the SI dated on 7/25, the day after the Pine Tar incident, but published a week before (as was standard practice then). Note also that today the only article I can find that references all the relevant rules and precedents, and points out that the rule book made it essential that the Pine Tar ruling be overturned, was again SI the week after the event:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1121102/1/index.htm

    Of course, back then SI was based in Chicago — they didn’t move HQ to New York until sometime around 1989. And in the pre-internet days that meant they weren’t subject to the New York Sports Media groupthink. If the Pine Tar incident had happened today I suspect the official punditry would have covered it entirely from the NY point-of-view, but perhaps the sports blogosphere would have fought successfully for the correct decision.

    • Njorl

      I remember Eric Gregg – the “Phillies Phranks” umpire. He did advertisements for the Phillies official stadium hot dogs. I grew up in Philadelphia, and his pro-Phillies bias was embarrassingly evident.

    • Sports Illustrated has been based in the Time-Life building in New York City since its founding in 1954.

    • Quaker in a Basement

      Wasn’t it also Brinkman who handed the Royals the ’85 World Series with the blown call at first base?

      • Quaker in a Basement

        Gotta read the whole thread before I comment. Denkinger.

        • Thlayli

          To be precise, it was the Cardinals’ complete loss of composure at that point which handed the series to the Royals.

          Bad call? Hey, stuff happens. Forget about it and get the next guy out. The Cards failed to do that, and that’s why they lost.

          (See also: Bartman, S.)
          (See also: “tuck rule”)

          • Hogan

            Yes yes yes.

    • seeker6079

      …crew chief Joe Brinkman, one of the worst umpires of all time…

      This. Leaving aside his general incompetence (which was huge enough) he had a huge hate on for the Blue Jays and never let it go. My god, the man’s bias was so bad that he could drive even Cito Gaston to finger-jabbing rage. Gaston, the man for whom “phlegmatic” was just too exciting a state of being to contemplate! It’s like being so annoying that Gandhi punches you in the face.

  • SP

    It was a little bit closer than you make it- it was a swipe tag that brushed the uniform of Lugo’s leg, clearly tagged (which was the only place he was tagged, the swipe did not subsequently touch Lugo’s arm), but it’s not like he was stuffing the glove into Lugo’s gut. It’s clear what Meals was claiming, he immediately said “you missed him.” Obviously the catcher could have tagged him several more times if he thought it necessary, which I think is what makes it appear much worse.

  • Joe

    “buffet at the local gentleman’s cabaret”

    Probably more like … I’ve been here for around seven hours, I’m outta here! The best is the Pirates pitcher trying to have the catcher get a double play and finding out, uh, what?! “Am I allowed to say he was out?”

    I think it’s a horrible call and if the Pirates miss the playoffs by a game or two, well, it’s going to be really annoying, but still it’s a baseball game. Not quite Bush v. Gore.

    Amazing that both teams use 2 pitchers after the 10th in a 19 inning game.

  • brian

    It’s Enrico Palazzo!

    • JohnR

      You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to beat me to the punchline! Unfortunately, you did.
      Still, I’m delighted to see that I wasn’t the only person who had that instant reaction to this story…

  • Anonymous

    Shame the call has obscured Procter’s epic belly flop coming out of the box.

  • TT

    Obviously, if Selig was serious about his job, Meals would be working at Arby’s tomorrow. I expect to see him in the World Series.

    It’s hard to tell what, exactly, Selig has ever been serious about, other than steadfastly believing that an exhibition game in mid-July should determine who gets the last at-bat in Game 7 of the WS.

    • NBarnes

      Selig is dead, dead, dead serious about maintaining MLB’s ownership within a very small and very committed set of hands. If he thinks there’s any chance you’ll rock the boat on salaries, you’ll never even sniff a MLB franchise. Sorry, Mark Cuban.

      • That…bears no resemblance to reality whatsoever.

  • efgoldman

    Weren’t there a couple really, really awful calls in a Cards/Royals series, 70s or 80s? Over which an important Cardinals player (their best pitcher, maybe?) got tossed?
    Time to start real work for which I even get paid. No Google-fu.

    • efgoldman

      That is, Card/Royals World Series. Not interleague play.

      • Walt

        You mean when Joaquin Andujar got tossed?

        • c u n d gulag

          Yeah, that one!

          Of all of the bad calls I’ve seen, I still think that one was the worst call EVAH!!!

      • Hogan

        The Royals won Game 6 when Don Denkinger miscalled Jorge Orta safe at first on a ground ball, and the Royalss went on to score two runs, forcing a seventh game.

        Game 7 was the one where Whitey Herzog used five pitchers in one inning, including Andujar, who charged the home plate umpire and got thrown out. Not out of character for Andujar. He was one of their best starting pitchers, but he was being used in relief at the time.

    • One bad call, even then-commish Uebberoth told the ump he blew it.

      Andujar didn’t get tossed on a call. He got tossed for a gesture he made to catcher Darrel Porter AFTER a bad ball call.

  • rea

    Sad but true, I’ve seen a dozen calls this bad this year.

  • DH

    Actually, from the camera angle from in front of the plate it looks like he might have missed him. The ump did not hesitate for a minute either. I don’t think this is such a miscarriage of justice.

    • mark f

      Agreed. 1:45 through 1:55 of the linked video makes the tag look very questionable to me. At best the catcher got Lugo’s knee but there’s no obvious contact.

      • Joe

        OTOH, 1.15-1.25 suggests he might have tagged him TWICE. At best, it looks like there might be a question. At best.

        Well, at least when the Mets lost in extras when a reliever hit, it was clean. Then, the Mets pitch hit with a starter, he got a triple and Reyes ended the game with an out.

        • mark f

          Try clicking pause & play a few times through that section. It doesn’t look so good in freeze frame.

          • Joe

            I tried that. Doesn’t really change my opinion one way or the other. SP above has a good stance though not really sure it was clear respecting the arm.

            • mark f

              I don’t think anything’s definitive. I just can’t see a clear tag from any angle.

    • km

      The real clue that he got him, though, is that both McKenry and Lugo act as if he got him. You expect the catcher to maybe vamp it up a bit, but the runner isn’t gonna pretend he’s out when he knows he wasn’t tagged. But Lugo felt the glove hit him, and you can see it if you watch their body language after the tag. It may have been hard for the ump to see that all at once, but on replay it’s pretty clear.

  • With video, the call is clearly wrong.

    But at full speed, I can see the ump thinking that the swipe missed. The motion of the catcher’s glove doesn’t stutter or change to indicate contact.

    Baseball really needs video replay.

  • And obviously, instant replay would destroy the game by allowing managers to challenge calls that could cost his team the playoffs.

  • Norm
    • Scott Lemieux

      Obviously, he may be right that Meals just blew it — I don’t think he blows the call the other way, but whatever. But he was definitely out.

  • Jonathan

    As a Cubs fans, I neither watch nor care about baseball. Even so, this so violates my most basic sense of fairness that when I watched the video, all I could think was, ‘Hit him! Just punch him in the face! No one will blame you and you’ve got a bunch of strapping young athletes behind you. Just deck the fucker!’

  • Tyto

    I don’t think it was that close. What’s telling to me is that Lugo essentially stops short of the plate, knees still bent, then taps the plate pretty much out of habit as he gets up. Kudos to him for that tap, I guess….

  • howard

    Umps do blow calls on the field and of course it matters.

    But the most meaningful blown calls are ball-and-strike calls; while broadly speaking I’d say it’s gotten better, that is still, by far, the worst part of umpiring and it effects every game.

    • But don’t you think, with so many instances, it evens out? If not over the course of a game, with over 200 pitches, at least over the course of a series, with over 600?

      • JRoth

        Sure, when it’s mere incompetence/random variance. But it can also be systematic – the first game of the series, Derek Lowe was getting all sorts of calls off the plate while James McDonald was getting squeezed all night. It’s possible to justify either strike zone (it wasn’t Gregg-wide for Lowe), but you can’t justify both. And it wasn’t just the standard (but totally bogus) “vets get calls that rooks don’t”; McDonald was filthy, striking out 9 in 5 1/3.

        It would be interesting to rerun the ’90s in a world where the Braces get the same strike zone as everybody else. Those guys were brilliant regardless, but I wonder what the effects are when Glavine can’t throw a pitch 3″ off the plate with comfortable knowledge that he’ll either get a swing and a miss or a called strike.

        • gorillagogo

          By “Derek Lowe”, I’m sure you mean “Tim Hudson”.

          • JRoth

            Typo.

        • Tim McCarver used to rant about this during Mets games (probably continued that after he left for FOX).

          There was one ump in the NL, wish I could remember who, who actually had a sideways strike zone: anything above the belt was a ball, anything within six inches of the plate he’d call a strike. If memory serves, this was after the leagues, in an attempt to minimize beanballs, told umps to give more low strikes.

          Or maybe he was just to fat to squat, I wish I could remember.

  • It was the 19th inning, Scott. Cut the man some slack.

  • R, Johnston

    Meh. Time to revisit the best post in the history of the internet.

    Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

    Why are so many people flat out lying and saying there was a tag on the arm as well as a tag on the leg? Precisely because the notion that a tag on the leg clearly happened is simply not a good idea. It’s not a supportable notion.

    When a fielder makes a swipe tag on a runner for no reason at all, one that’s not required for safety or for the extra reach, that fielder is begging for the runner to be called safe. In this case it resulted in a tag that was at best a light brush of the uniform and nowhere near as obvious or conclusive on replay as the frothing horde would claim. Kudos to Jerry Meals for giving Michael McKenry his wish.

    • rea
      • No coincidence that V-Mart is a catcher. See the way he stretched out his hand and kept his body away?

        • rea

          He hasn’t played much catcher this year. He’s evidently a heck of a dancer, though.

    • JRoth

      Or it may have been a swipe tag because there was a baseball game going on with two runners in motion, one of whom would have been thrown out to end the inning.

      I didn’t realize that the catcher’s job was to impress the umpire with his performance of the tag. As a commenter elsewhere noted, you don’t get more outs by tagging harder.

    • There was only one out. The swipe tag was not only called for, it was mandatory to ensure the runner on first didn’t go to third.

  • efgoldman

    Also too: We don’t expect perfection from the players, in any sport. That’s why there are stats for errors and penalties.
    But we insist on perfection from officials. Makes no sense to me.
    Now, there are consequences for a shortstop with an .850 fielding percentage: he doesn’t get to play any more. But I don’t know that there are consequences for officials who blow too many calls, or even that records are kept in one sport or another.

    • In fairness, MLB umpires undergo something like seven years of training and work in the minors…yes, they too have to work up from the Rookie Leagues thru AAA…where they are under constant review before they’re allowed on the field in a major league game.

      Once an ump makes it to Triple A ball, his evaluations are done by MLB directly.

    • Joe

      Ah the impersonal “we.”

      We don’t really. We realize officials will make mistakes and don’t freak out. That’s one reason we don’t have instant replay for every single thing. But, some plays, like those that stop a perfect game on the last play or end a game in the 19th inning, we care about more.

  • seeker6079

    If the catcher had been as assiduous about making sure as the runner was about touching the plate then we don’t have a dispute.

    • JRoth

      Aside from the fact that the catcher had other things to tend to (like getting the inning-ending out at first), the batter had (apparently) stepped on home plate (incidentally) as he popped out of his slide. After the safe call, he gave it another tap because he wasn’t aware that he’d done it earlier.

      Incidentally, there’s as much evidence that Lugo had stepped on home plate at the time of the call as there is that McKenry missed the tag.

  • Steve

    Meals was horrible the entire game. If he had been calling balls and strikes correctly, then the game probably would have ended within 9 innings. Still, he’s better than Country Joe or Eric Gregg.

    • rea

      Country Joe may be the worse–he acts like he thinks the fans come to the park to see the umpires. And what he did to Justin Verlander a few weeks ago ought to have been a crime.

  • dangermouse

    Human element.

    • Ian

      Human element, meet videocamera.

  • Joe

    “Unfortunately, it appears that the call was missed, as Jerry Meals acknowledged after the game,” said MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre. “Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied. I have spoken with Jerry, who is a hard-working, respected umpire, and no one feels worse than him. We know that this is not a product of a lack of effort.

    http://sportingnewsradio.com/mlb/mlb-issues-statement-on-tuesdays-pirates-braves-tilt-69875/

  • Henry Holland

    Congratulations to Ervin “Magic” Santana for his 3-1 no-hitter today against the Indians. The Indians scored like this:

    Carrera safe at first on error by SS Aybar.
    Carrera stole second.
    Brantley flied out to right.
    Cabrera grounded out to second, Carrera to 3B
    Carrera scored on Santana’s wild pitch.
    Hafner struck out swinging

    First complete game no-hitter for the Angels since Mike Witt’s perfect game in 1984. Only 2 games behind Texas…

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