Let's have an instant replay, shall we? After Jim Joyce-Armando Galarraga, I used this space last year for a Ted Black-like "clarion call" that it was time for baseball to come deeper into the technology age and go to the videotape more often. Now we have Jerry Meals' 2 a.m. fiasco in the 19th inning of the Pirates-Braves game. And this corner hereby bangs the drum quickly again.
We need instant replay in baseball on a more widespread basis. If Bud Selig & Co. don't do it, we're going to have a major embarrassment on our hands come October someday. Imagine what Don Denkinger circa 1985 would be like in the Internet/Twitter age. Yikes.
To date, baseball's use of replay works just fine. The umpires leave the field and go check out a monitor to see if a home run ball is fair or foul or out of the park/in the park. I've seen a few of these live (notably Alex Rodriguez's chinker off the FOX camera in Philadelphia during the 2009 World Series). It works fine. Almost always takes less time than watching players or a manager stomp around in protest.
Go to the video, get confirmation, make the call. Fine.
Now, that's not to say we should be doing this for everything in the game. Balls and strikes, no way. Every play on the bases, no way. The suggestion here is simple: Keep the use of replay for "boundary" calls exactly what it is now. Then institute an NFL-like challenge system. Give each manager one challenge a game for things like trapped catches in the outfield, close plays at first base (think Joyce-Galarraga).
Or, for things as we saw Tuesday, tag plays at bases and the plate. Imagine if Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had this at his disposal. Meals rules Julio Lugo safe, the Braves start celebrating and Hurdle simply comes out and announces he's challenging the call. The umps go watch it and reverse it. Better yet, maybe there should be a "replay ump" in the press box to make the final call, again to mimic the NFL.
The Meals play could be a seminal breaking point for the Pirates' Cinderella season. What if they lose the NL Central by one game? Or what if they spiral out of control because of it? And what was Meals thinking anyway?
On first glance, you wonder if he was just sick of the 6 1/2 -hour game and wanted to be at Waffle House in Atlanta by 2:30 a.m. I've watched this replay dozens of times -- the radio and TV calls from both Pittsburgh and Atlanta are posted on the Inside Pitch blog at Buffalonews.com -- and one thing I noticed is how Meals properly moved to get Scott Proctor's bat out of the way as the throw is coming home from third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
Only Meals would know, but it almost seems he lost his concentration on the play and the tag by going for and pulling the bat out. He's behind catcher Michael McKenry. He doesn't have a great view and admitted afterward he ruled an "ole" tag. But when a ball beats a runner to a base by that much, it's almost always an out. Even Lugo seemed to think he was out, as he retouched the plate and broke into a smile after the call.
Joyce-Galarraga was a bang-bang play, albeit a clear miss by the ump, but didn't impact a game. Meals blew his call in the most defining moment of the game, handing a team a victory. He should get suspended. He better not get any postseason assignments.
That said, he wouldn't even be remembered much if we had replay. The call would have been quickly reversed and the game would have moved on. First and third for the Braves, two outs in the bottom of the 19th. We'll never know how it would have turned out and that's not right.
> Robbie, ump move on
In the wake of his much-deserved call to Cooperstown last week, former Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar will have his No. 12 retired today on his bobblehead day in Rogers Centre, making him the first Jay with a retired number.
Of all the dozens of stories I've read over the last week on Alomar, I was most intrigued by an MLB.com interview with umpire John Hirschbeck, who was involved in the infamous 1996 spitting incident when Alomar played with Baltimore. Bygones have long become bygones for those two, although writers clearly kept Alomar out of the Hall last year as a product of the incident in his first year on the ballot.
"I'm very, very happy for him," said Hirschbeck. "I've been in the big leagues for 29 years, and he's by far the best second baseman I've ever seen. Hitting, fielding -- he was the whole package. I think he should have gotten in the first time, but he's very deserving. I'm glad he's in."
During a conference call held by the Hall prior to his induction, Alomar acknowledged the incident hurt his ballot.
"I want people to know that the year I didn't make it, one of the first calls I got was from [Hirschbeck]," Alomar said. "He said he felt sorry because maybe one of the reasons I didn't make it was because of the incident. I told him, 'No. It was not your fault. It was my fault.' John embraced me the same way I embraced him."
"It's just one of those things that happened in life, and then it's over," Hirschbeck said. "It seemed like a big deal at the time, but now when you look back, we've both moved on from it. Forgiveness is an important thing in life. There are no hard feelings. I'll say this remark until the day I die: If that's the worst thing Robbie Alomar ever does in his life, he's led a very good life."
> Around the horn
* Now that Carlos Beltran has been dealt to the Giants and Hunter Pence has come East to augment the Phillies' lineup, should we just stage our NLCS rematch right now? I don't see anyone from the NL Central touching either of those teams come October, with the Braves' rotation making them the only plausible challenger.
* The White Sox called up Alejandro De Aza from Charlotte and got a game-winning two-run homer from him Wednesday. A lot more than they've gotten from Alex Rios, he of the $12 million deal -- with two more years left -- and .208 average.
"Rios is going to have to take a back seat now," said GM Kenny Willliams. "Here's what I told [manager Ozzie Guillen]: 'Do not worry about the size of the contract. Just worry about putting the players (on the field) on a given day that can help you win.' I'm sending a message to everyone."
* Amazing Elias/ESPN.com note: When the Mariners snapped their 17-game losing streak Thursday in the Bronx, every other club had won four times in that span and 24 teams had won at least seven.
> Herd grapevine
* Some years, it seems like big crowds in Coca-Cola Field spook the Bisons and they put up some real stinkers. Hasn't been the case this year. The club is 6-3 on the popular Friday night dates, and put up a 15-2 win over Indianapolis before more than 14,000 on School Day in June. Good to see the big crowds get rewarded on the field as much as they do off it.
* During last week's Italian Festival Night, pictures of visiting batters on the HD board were replaced by females from "Jersey Shore" while Bisons were marked by famous mobsters. Boo to that.
Disrespectful to the players, to women and to Italians for the automatic association with mobsters. When the game is going on, the team's terrific new tinker toy should be for information, not sight gags.
* Heading to the clubhouse after a dreary loss last week, a guy in a red Canada Day Blue Jays Jose Bautista jersey saw me and said, "Hey, 2013 can't come fast enough." The Mets are on the clock. Or else it better be the Blue Jays' turn.