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Botched call human mistake, step toward replay

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

If there is a compelling reason to argue against modified instant replay in baseball, I'd like to find it, because I like a good, long, loud, profane argument as much as the next five or six guys.

I'd like to be the guy who says, "You're all wrong, and I can prove it, and when I'm done proving it, you can all skulk away in shame and pound salt, you massive clot of contemptible ignoramii."

I'd just like to say the word "ignoramii," if nothing else.

But the best I can do here is try to modify the replay hysteria in the wake of the Braves-Pirates 19-inning extravaganza in Atlanta on Tuesday night with a moderately feeble, "Look, Jerry Meals blew a call. He didn't see something that never happened. He missed something that did happen."

In the evolutionary time line of blown calls, the first is better than the second. So it would help a bit if we could all acknowledge that this is not the crime of the century, no matter how much Clint Hurdle can make his face look like Popeye's when he is squeeze by Bluto in one of their fights and his face actually turns into a tomato with eyes.

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(Evidently, the hallucinogens are kicking in early today. But I digress).

It would also have helped some if Meals could have explained how he got himself into the position on the field where he had to guess on the play at the plate, because that is the one acceptable alibi -- "I couldn't get to the right spot, and I had to guess as best I could."

That might have helped a bit, too. Taking a humble approach not only for the call but what led to it might make the portrayals of Meals today a bit more nuanced and a bit less villagers-storming-the-castle-demanding-severed-heads-on-pikes.

He blew a call. Badly. Unless someone wants to offer proof that he's narcoleptic, or Tim Donaghy, maybe calming down a bit would help.

As to the matter of replay arguments, there really is only one left -- if you're moving the line on allowable replays, where exactly is it?

Reasonable people can disagree. My own original position, that I am comfortable with hilarious injustice now and then if only to advance the conversation at the bar and convince someone else to pick up the next round, has been largely discredited. I'm fine with that, and frankly didn't care that much anyway as long as that next round was purchased.

But it's the scolding tone of the replay advocates, the suffocating air of superiority, that is the real bother here. Yes, you're right. Yes. Replay has its benefits. Yes, baseball would benefit from modifying its position, train its umpires better and find the places where replay is not intrusive but an arm of justice.

But let me add this: God in heaven, will you please either shut up, catch your breath, stop acting like the dean of students on crank and buy the next round?

Because it is my firm belief that this is one of the largest obstacles to replay among those who in a position to change it is the notion that a good shrill voice, piercing the air like a jackhammer under an airplane engine, should be heeded as though it were the voice of the Deity. I truly think that replay is resisted in part because a blown call really isn't the same as framing a man for murder, but the demands for replay are being framed just that way.

Jerry Meals screwed this one up, spectacularly so. I tend not to think it was because he was bored or tired, or needed to hit the WC, or had a hot date in the only bar in Atlanta that stays open beyond 3 a.m. I tend to think he screwed it up because he put himself in a bad position, because his partners were in no better place to try and get him to overrule the call, and because sometimes you're just wrong.

I do not, on the other hand, think it is because he is inherently evil. Maybe his explanation lacked the extra details we'd like, like "I really wasn't in a great position to get my best look because the play developed differently, or because I thought the best angle would be where I was and I was wrong."

And yes, the arguments for replay for plays like this are pretty damned convincing at this point. It's hard to defend the wrong that can easily be righted.

But if the conversation about replay remains centered around, "I'm right because you're stupid," and "No, I'm right because you can't do anything about it," we'll all be getting nowhere and right in the same spot when the next Jerry Meals play happens.

Now, who's buying the round?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com


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