Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Meals incident should inspire change

While attending last Sunday's Pirates-Cardinals game at PNC Park, my brother said something that I initially brushed off nonchalantly.

As the two teams headed to extra innings tied at 3, he said, "Baseball should allow ties after a certain amount of innings."

To be clear, I don't agree with adding a third column to the standings, and I told him as such. But after the Bucs and Braves drudged through 19 innings last night, I've begun to think that an inning threshold might be a good idea to preserve the quality of competition.

As last night's game crept toward its unsatisfying conclusion (more on that later), the action in extras was at times much less than compelling. Sure, there were chances constructed and jams escaped, but to the naked eye it appeared fatigue was mitigating what should've been a pulsating battle between two National League postseason hopefuls.

I'm thinking if the game was suspended after, say, 12 or 15 innings, the two teams would be more than happy to return this evening to complete the contest after a night's rest. After the suspended game was finished, the day's/night's scheduled tilt would start immediately afterward.

Of course, if the suspended game is the last of a series, that would complicate matters. However, as is the case with rescheduling rainouts, dates and times could be found to complete the game if necessary to division or wild card races.

All of which brings me to Tuesday night's home plate umpire Jerry Meals. I'm certain that Meals would've seen the controversial play involving Pirates catcher Mike McKenry and Atlanta's Julio Lugo a little more clearly without the wear of seven hours of baseball weighing on his mind and body.

The most offensive part of last night's Pirates loss (aside from manager Clint Hurdle's absurd bunting fascination) was that it's highly unlikely Meals calls Lugo safe if the game hadn't extended beyond all reasonable expectations.

Quite simply, the subconscious desire to end the game and head back to the hotel got the better of Meals. Fatigue makes cowards of us all, as Vince Lombardi once said, and Meals was afraid to make the right call.

Here's hoping baseball can be reasonable and not expect perfect judgments from its arbiters once games turn into marathons.

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