It was fitting that former President George W. Bush was in the front row for this game because he finally got to see one of his beloved Weapons of Mass Destruction in person in the form of home plate umpire Jerry Meals. The work Meals did behind the plate was some of the worst I have seen in all of my years of watching baseball. It was so bad at points that rational baseball men I respect such as Keith Law and Joe Sheehan had to comment on it.
Bad umpiring has done, and will do, more harm to the industry of baseball than any performance-enhancing drugs could do. — Keith Law
Eric Gregg thought the 1-2 to Crawford was outside — Joe Sheehan
The image below shows the balls and strikes plot on pitches called by Jerry Meals in today’s game:
Meals’ zone was very wide, and quite inconsistent on the outside corner to left-handed batters. Dan Johnson was called out on strikes in the second inning when Lewis threw just one pitch in the strike zone. In the sixth inning, Carl Crawford was retired on three pitches by Darren Oliver – only one of which was in the strike zone (and the at bat Sheehan and Law reacted to). That was just two examples where the Rays had their bats taken out of their hand by a man in black being paid a six-figure salary to define his own strike zone. Meals was not alone in his failure as Geoff Kellogg called Elvis Andrus safe on this steal of second base.
I have been quite critical of the shoddy work by umpires this year for the exact reason Law outlined above – it is degrading the quality of the game I love so much. 2010 has had way too many examples of terrible strikezones, blown calls, and that’s just so far in the four post-season playoff series. The simple fix to this situation is to implement an expanded use of instant replay by implementing a booth official and a challenge system much like the NFL does it. However, Bud Selig is a simple-minded man who insists on protecting the integrity of the game’s human element while ignoring the incompetent element his reign as commissioner has created due to any lack of substantive accountability for umpires who fail to enforce the letter of the law. Hunter Wendlestat, Jerry Meals, C.B. Bucknor, and Bob Davidson are names that comes to mind where their prime has either passed them by or never exisited.
Bud Selig waited at least five years too long to address the steroid issue and was finally pushed into action by Jose Canseco’s book. While I have read bits and pieces of Jonah Keri’s The Extra 2%, none of the content in it will push Selig into acting on instant replay. I have said many times that the expanded use of replay will never happen until Bud Selig retires because if he truly wanted it to be part of the game, he would have done so by now. He fought hard for the wildcard, and he fought hard to get the Mitchell Report done. He has also fought just as hard to speak down upon replay every time it is brought up in interviews both in print and on radio. Even in the face of outright fan outrage in 2010, he continues to defer to his special committee or some other meeting without showing any form of true leadership.
Getting back to the game, it was wonderful to see the Rays succeed in spite of the factors playing against them today. Through the first five innings, the game looked much like the first two of this series where the Rays would strike out or strand whatever runners they managed to get on base. The sixth inning saw the bats finally come to life with the ever popular B.J. Upton driving in the game’s first run to tie the game after Matt Joyce ran into an indecisive out as he thought about advancing to third on Nelson Cruz onto to change his mind too late. Ian Kinsler put the Rangers back up with a solo shot on a 3-2 inside fastball which was Garza’s only true mistake on the night as he pitched a phenomenal game. Garza threw 90 pitches in six innings of work, 55 for strikes which included eight swings and misses on his breaking pitches. The only other run of the game came after Mitch Moreland doubles and advanced to third when Jaso seemingly lost Garza’s fastball in the shadows where upon Elvis Andrus drove Moreland in with a groundout.
The Rays bats came back to life in the seventh when Dan Johnson hit a laser off the right field wall for a double and was lifted for Desmond Jennings. Carlos Pena awoke from his weeks-long slumber to drive Jennings in and Pena later scored when Jaso singled off Neftali Feliz who Ron Washington surprisingly used out of character. Both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena added insurance home runs in the ninth inning before allowing Rafael Soriano to close the game out around a solo home run surrendered to the red-hot Nelson Cruz.
The Rays live to play another day and it remains to be seen whether either manager brings back their ace on three day’s rest to clinch or extend the series or stays true to their word. The Rangers still have not won a home playoff game since relocating to Texas and it would be wonderful to keep it that way tomorrow. I am going to the area on business the next three days so it is my mission to find a ticket for the game tomorrow and not to be gored by anyone’s antlers while cheering for the Rays.