There have been plenty of bad calls in the long, sorted history of Major League Baseball.
There was Don Denkinger's blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. More recently, there was the CC Sabathia near-no-hitter in Pittsburgh during the 2008 season and who could forget last year when Jim Joyce botched the call at first base, costing Detroit's Armando Galarraga a no-hitter.
No blown call in the history of baseball though – at least in my 30-plus years of watching the game – comes even remotely close to what happened Tuesday night in Atlanta, where the Braves were hosting the surging Pittsburgh Pirates.
The game had gone to the 19th inning. Both teams had exhausted their bullpens. Both teams were drained of energy. The stands were nearly empty. Every potential rally came to a screeching halt.
With two on and one out, Atlanta's Scott Proctor grounded to third. With Julio Lugo heading home, third baseman Pedro Alvarez threw to catcher Michael McKenry, who appeared to tag Lugo on the leg.
Home plate umpire Jerry Meals, however, hesitated for a moment before calling Lugo safe, giving the Braves a 4-3 victory. Almost immediately, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle burst from the dugout to argue.
He was right. Major League Baseball and Meals, himself, admitted as much.
"I saw the tag, but he looked like he oléd him and I called him safe for that," Meals said after the game. "I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area. I'm guessing he might have got him, but when I was out there when it happened, I didn't see a tag.
"I just saw the glove sweep up. I didn't see the glove hit his leg."
A day later, Meals said he might have been wrong.
"After coming in to the locker room, I reviewed the incident through our videos that we have in here, and after seeing a few of them, on one particular replay, I was able to see that Lugo's pant leg moved ever so slightly when the swipe tag was attempted by McKenry. That's telling me that I was incorrect in my decision, and that he should have been ruled out and not safe."
Said Joe Torre, MLB Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations: "Unfortunately, it appears that the call was missed, as Jerry Meals acknowledged after the game. Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied. I have spoken with Jerry, who is a hard-working, respected umpire, and no one feels worse than him. We know that this is not a product of a lack of effort.
"Having been the beneficiary of calls like this and having been on the other end in my experience as a player and as a manager, I have felt that this has always been a part of our game. As a member of the Commissioner's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, I have heard many discussions on umpiring and technology over the past two years, including both the pros and the cons of expanding replay. However, most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires. Obviously, a play like this is going to spark a lot of conversation, and we will continue to consider all viewpoints in our ongoing discussions regarding officiating in baseball.
"We expect the best from our umpires, and an umpire would tell you he expects the best of himself. We have to continue to strive for accuracy, consistency and professionalism day in and day out."
The comments were fine and dandy ... it's not like anyone expected MLB to live up to its mistake. But will Bud Selig and company be so willing to talk if the Pirates miss the playoffs by one game? Probably not.
Like in all sports, baseball players and managers are fined for speaking out against umpires. In most cases, that's the right call. But if baseball really wants to make things fair, it's time to add replay to baseball.
The easiest solution would be to add a fifth umpire to each crew. That umpire would be stationed in the press box, perhaps right next to the official scorer. If a play is questionable, the replay umpire would simply signal to the crew chief that a play is under review.
If the system sounds familiar, it should. That's pretty much how football has been managing replay for the last decade. Like in football, certain calls could not be challenged – balls and strikes, for example.
How baseball can allow situations like this, between two teams in contention for post-season berths, is unfathomable. It's time for baseball to accept the fact that replay is a necessary evil.