At the intersection of Major League Baseball and technology, every spotlighted missed call leads to another: for expanded use of instant replay.So it is in the wake of the call by home-plate umpire Jerry Meals that broke up the Tuesday night-Wednesday morning game between the Pirates and the Braves. Meals' ruling that Pittsburgh catcher Michael McKenry missed tagging Julio Lugo with the ball that had beaten him by 10 feet, giving Atlanta a 4-3 win in the 19th inning at Turner Field, signaled another round in the debate over whether MLB should invoke instant replay for more than just boundary home run calls. Forget the occasional evidence. The diehards remain staunch opponents of adding Big Brother to the umpiring crew. Count among them none other than McKenry, the rookie catcher who said "no" to instant replay on Wednesday. "They're going to get some right. They're going to get some wrong," McKenry said. "That's just part of it. Nobody is perfect at the end of the day." Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke cited another tradition -- that of catchers slapping down the tag like they mean it. "For one, tag the guy better," Roenicke said. "On the replays, it's really hard to see if the guy did hit him. He's out easy, but ... just stick him with the glove so you don't have the controversy." This time, however, even some confirmed traditionalists were hedging. "I'm an old-school guy, in some ways, because I'm old," said Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker. "But ... I try to make adjustments and adapt to what's happening. If they could come up with something that would show a proper angle and do it in a very short period of time, I'd be for it." "I've always liked the human element," said veteran Cleveland outfielder Austin Kearns. "But at this point, it's kind of like you wish you had some challenge flags or something." "This point" was a game-ending call that essentially knocked the Pirates out of a share of the National League Central lead. That made it a high-visibility call that lit an instant spark fanned into a fire by gusts in cyberspace. "Meals Pirates Replay" became an instant favorite Google combination. In the solar system of missed calls, Jim Joyce and Don Denkinger were both eclipsed. Numerous national media outlets dusted off polls on instant-replay expansion, with yeas holding a consensus 75-25 percent lead. Major League Baseball, while taking the extraordinary step of issuing a statement addressing this one specific play, staunchly defended its conservative policy on replay expansion. But MLB had to feel a little like Louis the 16th on Bastille Day. In MLB.com's poll, 76 percent of respondents favored expanding replay beyond boundary home run calls -- although, significantly, only 31 percent had their minds changed by Meals' mishap.
In a similar poll by USA Today, instant-replay proponents led 75-25 percent.
Wall Street Journal's online poll garnered ever greater support for more replay, 83-17 percent. The Twitter-sphere instantly exploded with dismay and pleas for instant replay, from national insomniacs and wide-awake international fans (it was, after all, 7:50 a.m. in Italy, where displaced Pirates fans had a fit over their morning panini). Pirates club president Frank Coonelly expressed his displeasure in a formal complaint filed with the Commissioner's Office. In an MLB statement in response to that, Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, acknowledge Meals' error and reiterated the game's dynamic position on replay. "Unfortunately, it appears that the call was missed, as Jerry Meals acknowledged after the game," said Torre, who called on his widespread experience both as a catcher and as a manger for perspective. "Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied.