Safe at (Two Feet Short of) Home
Anyone who has seen the highlights of last night’s Braves/Pirates 19-inning affair will agree, the game ended in horrific fashion. Unless, of course, you’re a Braves fan. In that case, the call at home plate in the bottom of the 19th inning was a thing of beauty and no visual evidence to the contrary can change your mind.
That’s baseball. Depending on allegiances, people see different things when looking at the same replay. I have no stake in either team except to say that I enjoy watching both play. This is the first year I can say that about the Pirates in a long time, but that does not effect my opinion of either team. I enjoy tight play-off races and winning baseball. And I enjoy magnificent games that defy odds and teeter on the edge of torture for the players and managers.
Last night, the Braves and Pirates were locked in a 3-3 tie through the bottom of the 19th. Each team’s bullpen was fantastic, pitching a combined 26 scoreless inning. Relievers were forced to pitch full-game type innings, the managers were forced to substitute position players in strange locations, and the home plate umpire was forced to make a ridiculous call to end the game.
Maybe he was not forced, but he made the call nonetheless. With one out in the bottom of the 19th inning, Julio Lugo of the Braves was on third. He raced home on a soft bouncer to third that was cleanly-fielded and the play at the plate ensued. With a solid two to three feet between himself and the plate, Julio Lugo was tagged out. The call was so obvious, Julio Lugo looked ready to head back to the bench. He then saw home plate umpire Jerry Meals’ arms wave him safe, so he stepped on home plate just for good measure and began his celebration.
Baseball still does not need expanded use of instant replay. However, more emphasis needs to be placed on monitoring the calls umpires make. This game may fire up the Pirates and lead to a win streak. But it may lead to a fall in the standings just as much. in fact, last night’s call sent the Pirates from first place in the NL Central to third.
Baseball is a strange game in the fact that such a little thing, one single play, can effect a season.
Rather than instant replay, umpires just need to pay attention.