Those begging for expanded replay in Major League Baseball may never get it in the form they're hoping for under the Bud Selig regime, but if there was ever a call to point to that could enhance their odds, it would be the blown call by umpire Jerry Meals on the final play of the Orioles' dramatic 5-4 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday night.
With runners at the corners and one out, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who was making his return to the lineup after injuring his calf back on Aug. 27, hit a slow roller to second base that Robert Andino attempted to turn into a game-ending double play. Teixeira busted it hard down the line in effort to beat J.J. Hardy's relay throw and appeared to be in great shape to do so before going into a head-first slide at first base.
That ill-advised decision slowed Teixeira's momentum down just enough to make the call interesting, and then Meals — who became infamous for blowing a game-deciding call in the Pirates-Braves 19-inning marathon last July 27, robbing the Pirates of a chance to extend the game and in the opinion of some, crushing their season long momentum — made it even more interesting by immediately making a punching motion his right arm to rule Teixeira out.
Game over. Orioles move back into first place tie with Yankees in the AL East. But as replays would quickly show, Teixeira, silly idea or not, very clearly got his hand to bag before the ball made it to Mark Reynolds glove, which means he was safe, which means the tying run should have counted and the game should have continued:
Oops, Meals did it again, and in a way I almost felt bad for him to be put in that position again with a VERY important game on the line.
But he is a professional after all, and both of those blown calls were right in front of him. He has to see them clearly and call them correctly. It shouldn't have to come down to a replay at that point, but somehow, someway, the human element I suppose, Meals missed them both. And because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding both, it almost doesn't matter how many calls he hasn't missed over his 14 years as a full-time umpire, these are the ones that will always define his career.
Unfair or not, that's how it will go.
But like I said, if you're a champion for expanded replay, you have more fuel for your fire tonight. And I certainly support that idea because there's no really to not take advantage of television and technology. However, a little more accountability for these umpires wouldn't hurt either. Granted, we can't expect umpires to be perfect, but we have to expect and even demand them to be better and more focused than this.
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