COMMENTARY | Besides Sid Bream sliding safely into home plate, it's perhaps the play that's most etched into the brains of Pittsburgh Pirates fans over the last 20 years. The name Jerry Meals conjures up bad feelings and the occasional dirty word or phrase.
It was July 26, 2011, and the Pirates were engaged in a marathon game in Atlanta, a 19-inning affair that ended after Meals made one of the worst calls in recent memory, calling the Braves' Julio Lugo safe at home when replay showed catcher Michael McKenry clearly tagged him out three feet in front of home plate.
The Pirates went on to finish the year with a 19-43 record, the first of two consecutive collapses that added insult to injury to long-suffering Pirates fans. Of course, as fan-bases are known to do, the collapse had nothing to do with awful pitching, poor hitting or just plain bad luck. It was Jerry Meals' fault, and the umpire soon after started receiving death threats from irate fans who felt he ruined their season.
There are countless other examples fans can use to make a case for expanded instant replay in baseball. The most famous, of course, being the debacle when umpire Jim Joyce cost pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010.
Debate is raging on both sides of the argument, with baseball purists arguing that the human element of the game is what makes baseball special. The game has gotten by for 150 years without the need for absolute perfection, so why now? Not to mention that an expanded replay system could add substantial time to games that are already some of the longest in professional sports. And what's next? Expanding replay to examine balls and strikes?
The other side has a valid point, too. Why not use it if the technology exists? They argue that the only thing that matters is that the right call is made all the time, every time. Not to mention that replay could eliminate all the time wasted when managers rush out of the dugout to fruitlessly argue calls. When is the last time a manager's tirade overturned a missed call on the field anyway?
That could all change now, pending approval of owners, players and umpires. It represents a radical shift in a game that is known more for its history and traditions that its progressiveness. But, then again, if approved, baseball will become the last of the four major North American sports leagues to implement replay.
Has the time for expanded instant replay in baseball arrived?
Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates for MLB.com on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.
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