Wednesday, July 27, 2011

He Called Him Safe?

It was 1:50 AM on July 27th, 2011.

Just in case you wanted to document the worst call in baseball history.

With all due respect to the Jim Joyce/Armando Galarraga perfect game debacle, when it comes to the ease of the call, umpire Jerry Meals rendition of what really happened between Mike McKenry and Julio Lugo borders on the hallucinogenic.

Before I post a link to a YouTube video that Major League Baseball will take down in the next thirty seconds, let me set the scene for those who drifted off to peaceful slumber.

Bottom of the 19th. Braves runners on second and third. One out. Relief pitcher Scott Proctor takes the plate for only the second time since 2007. Immediately goes down 0-2 to Pirates workhorse reliever Daniel McCutchen. McCutchen delivers, Proctor grounds to a charging Pedro Alvarez at third base. 850 year old Atlanta Brave Julio Lugo makes a beeline for home plate. Alvarez comes with a strong and accurate throw. McKenry receives it and swipes at Julio Lugo. Then all hell breaks loose.

Now okay, there's a lot going on in this 1 minute, 48 second video:

1. Most importantly, you can see the angles of the tag. The definitive one is at about 1:30 of the video. You can see McKenry making the swipe, and Julio Lugo's pantleg reverberating from the contact of McKenry's mitt. If ANYONE felt as if Lugo actually was safe, that angle puts the axe to that idea.

2. Clint Hurdle turned a color that I didn't know a human being could. It was almost a blackish purple hue. Even in my stunned disbelief at what I had just seen, I was readying myself to call an ambulance for him.

3. How bad do you feel for Mike McKenry? To catch 19 innings and over 300 pitches to have it end like that? Ouch.

4. If Lyle Overbay doesn't hold back Daniel McCutchen, he probably eats Jerry Meals.

5. This isn't in the video, but I had seen it last night (and had it confirmed through a billion tweets), that Neil Walker was actually signing autographs for fans immediately after the game. That's insane. Neil Walker, you are without a doubt a better person than I am. I would have been punching holes in anything I could. What a class act.

6. Scott Proctor does the world's most inexplicable belly flop, absolutely ensuring that if Meals calls out Lugo, McKenry can lob the ball to Overbay at first to complete the double play and get out of the inning.

We should have a bit of perspective here. Yes, the Pirates lost. If Meals ends up making the right call, maybe the Pirates win, maybe they don't. But the fact is that they deserved to find out. While the Pirates lost the game, the true losers were MLB fans as a whole. It was an instant classic. a six-and-a-half hour epic that featured game-saving plays and two of the best bullpen showings in baseball history. It didn't deserve to end that way. Fans should have either been treated to Joel Hanrahan closing out a Pirates win, or a dramatic walk-off hit by Atlanta. Not this. Major League Baseball owes the Pirates an apology, and the Pirates owe Major League Baseball a tongue-lashing.

Just as an additional note, shame on Jerry Meals for the way that he has reacted to his call. Within 30 minutes of Jim Joyce's awful call, he released a statement of contrition, saying that he had simply blown the call. His regretful demeanor and sheer humanness endeared him to fans, and to Armando Galarraga himself. While he still has a chance to do something similar, Jerry Meals is showing no signs of it.

Given the surroundings and circumstance, we will likely look back on this as a turning point in the Pirates season. The Buccos will either harness the "Us vs. Them" mentality and use it to their advantage, or crumble under the weight of fatigue and difficulty of schedule. Only time will tell.

And in just over 8 hours, the Buccos will continue the fight.

If the Pirates weren't "America's Team" at 1:49 AM this morning, they sure are now.

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