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Umpire Meeting

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Amidst the uproar this week following the magnificently bad call in the 19-inning Braves-Pirates debacle this week, a renewed cry for instant replays crowds the baseball chat.

To be fair, the home plate umpire, Jerry Meals was fairly consistent in his decisions all evening. When Dan Uggla contested a strike, he was quickly tossed from the game. When Fredi Gonzalez defended his player, he too, got the boot. The now infamous “safe at home” call when it appeared the Braves’ Julio Lugo was steps away from home plate….. well, honestly, watching it from every angle, I’m still not sure if the tag was applied or not. In case you have not seen the video, you can judge for yourself courtesy of mlb.com:

You be the judge!

Safe to say, it was almost 2:00 AM, and everyone, umpires included, had just about all the “free baseball” (as Skip Carey used to say) they could handle.

In the overall scheme of the season, will one call matter that much? Surely not. There are 161 other games that contribute to the success (or not) of a season. The fact that the Pirates are in the thick of the battle for a playoff spot just adds to the drama.

But to return to the notion of instituting instant replays or worse, adding a fifth umpire in the press box, or even charging a computer with determining balls and strikes is this fan’s worst nightmare. To say that I strongly dislike instant replays to determine home runs or its use in college basketball, pro basketball, football, or any other sport is an understatement. But taking the human aspect out of the National Pastime will rob us, the fans, of some of the most exciting and rallying aspects of a game.

Really, who does not enjoy yelling at the umpire that he’s blind as a bat, couldn’t tell a strike if it….(insert your own phrase), or the ultimate insult, “Ump, you stink!”? Who does not enjoy booing the umpires as they walk onto the field or any other chance you get?

How many times has a bad call at second, a contested third strike awakened the fans from a lazy summer slumber and whipped them into a frenzy of outrage? In turn, the fury of 30,000+ screaming fans shifts the momentum on the field, pulling the home team into the zone. A call against a team actually can work in its favor, changing the course of the game.

Remove the possibility of the umpire spectacularly blowing a third strike, an out at home, or a fair/foul ball controversy from baseball by implementing instant replays, and you remove the essence from the game. Not to mention depriving the fans of the joy of awarding an umpire a standing ovation for finally recognizing the strike zone.

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