From Left Field: Poor Umpiring May Haunt Mets

An article by posted on July 27, 2011

As the eternal optimist I am when it comes to the Mets, I’m not giving up hope until the team is mathematically eliminated.

Even with a Carlos Beltran trade looming, who knows? The team can get hot.

They gutted out two clutch wins in Cincinnati so far and can make a statement with two more.

Now that it’s late July, catching the Phillies is a long shot. The Mets are 13.5 games behind Philadelphia and only play the Phillies six more times this season. With the Phillies pitching and clutch hitting, the Wild Card should be the Mets focus.

That being said, besides the middling teams in the NL Central and NL West, the Atlanta Braves are the Mets main target to catch in the Wild Card race.

The Mets are 7.5 games behind the Braves but also still play Atlanta nine more times. Though they have historically struggled against the Braves, a hot streak at the right time can push the Mets right back into the race.

That leads me to last night’s Braves-Pirates game. The marathon game lasted 19 innings, and the Mets could have closed the lead to 6.5 games had the Pirates won.

In the bottom of the 19th inning, Braves reliever Scott Proctor grounded a ball to Pedro Alvarez at third base. Alvarez had to range to his left, but he set himself and made a strong throw home to catcher Michael McHenry.

McHenry appeared to swipe tag Julio Lugo on the leg several feet in front of the plate, but umpire Jerry Meals called him safe, thus giving the Braves the victory.

Safe?! Are you kidding me Meals?!

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle raced out of the dugout and exploded on Meals, but the call was final.

This was an absolutely putrid call that you have to see to believe, if you haven’t seen it already.

Though a game like this may get lost in the shuffle of a pennant race, it could be one the Mets remember vividly. Since the Mets won their game, they could have gained a game on the Braves.

Now, looking at the big picture, it’s only a game. How much can it really matter?

Well, let’s say the Mets do get hot even after dealing Beltran. Let’s say that actually win a few games from the Braves. And let’s say the team is actually playing some meaningful baseball in September. That bad call could come back to haunt the Mets.

I understand that umpiring is a difficult job, especially since so many calls can really go either way. Unless MLB devotes itself to full instant replay (which I do not agree with), we will always have disputed calls.

But after seeing that call from last night’s game, that was just terrible. Not only did McHenry block the plate, but Lugo also slid right into him. It was an easy call, and definitely one that shouldn’t have decided such a close game.

Anyway, this call is futile if the Mets can’t string together some victories. It might just be me blowing smoke that a game (involving a Braves victory of course) ended that way.

So while this call may go down as just another example of poor umpiring, there’s a remote chance that it turns into a thorn in the Mets side.

About the Author ()

Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He earned a Master's degree in journalism from Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Be sure to visit http://www.jimmancari.com/

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