Home plate umpire Jerry Meals is being painted as a villain for his controversial call that ended Tuesday night’s 19-inning game and gave the Braves a 4-3 victory over the Pirates.
Meals admitted he may have missed the call which allowed Julio Lugo to score the winning run. Major League Baseball confirmed video replays showed he did miss the call.
Here was the situation: With one out in the bottom of the 19th and runners on second and third, the Braves’ Scott Proctor hit a ground ball to Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who fielded it cleanly and threw home to catcher Mike McKenry, who made a swipe tag as Lugo slid. Although the throw beat Lugo to the plate, Meals called Lugo safe, saying McKenry missed the swipe tag. Television replays were inconclusive, although there is no instant replay in baseball for such situations.
The call, made more important because the Pirates are in a dogfight for the NL Central lead, trended as the hot topic on ESPN and talk radio Wednesday.
Some faulted Meals. Some faulted the system for not having instant replay. Some, though, tried to shield Meals from all of the blame.
So here is my question: Why is no one holding McKenry’s feet to the fire?
McKenry is in his second season as a big leaguer and has played in just 38 career games, but he does have 520 games over six minor league seasons. That’s enough to know you have to make the tag first. In this situation, there was a chance to double up Proctor at first base, which is why McKenry went for the swipe tag. McKenry didn’t look to throw to first. He held his mitt up so Meals could see he had the ball. If he had no intention of trying for a double play, he didn’t need to make a swipe tag. Lugo had no intention of running him over.
Take a close look at the replay and where McKenry is positioned. On the play, he moved out in front of the plate. Heck, he moved out in front of the batter’s boxes. He did a terrible job of blocking the plate, which he should have done in case of a wild throw or a closer play. McKenry wasn’t in good position to make the tag, resulting in the quick swipe tag.
Meals may have missed the call, but McKenry missed the play.
That shouldn’t be overlooked.