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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Embrace the controversy, Pirates, and speak up!

It’s not enough for Clint Hurdle to speak out after the grievously, glaringly missed call by home plate umpire Jerry Meals this morning in Atlanta, though he did well to say, “This game deserved way better than that.”

It’s not enough for the Pirates’ players to do it, either, though Jeff Karstens did well to say, “For some reason, somebody didn’t want us to play anymore. So the game was ended.”

Here, look for yourself if you didn’t stay up that late.

And if that’s not enough, try this still photo from the Associated Press …

Managers and players complain about calls all the time. This one demands much, much more.

No, a team can’t protest a judgment call. But the Pirates had better protest.

You had better do it even louder than broadcaster Greg Brown did in shouting, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” And you had better do it with the franchise’s most prominent voices.

Let them know the Pirates are through getting kicked around.

Let them know that the team, their players and their fans don’t deserve to have their stomachs turned inside out so unjustly, so unfairly.

Let’s hear it from Neal Huntington.

Let’s hear it from Frank Coonelly. He came from MLB’s office and, maybe because of that, has not been critical at all regarding the unfairness in travel, scheduling, being in the Central Division and the lack of an interleague rival. I know his allegiance is to the Pirates, and today is the day to display it.

Bob Nutting could speak up, too. When the Penguins felt an injustice had been done by the NHL this past February with that fiasco on Long Island, Mario Lemieux spoke up and rocked the hockey world. Nutting is no Lemieux, of course, and I’m not comparing. But nothing gets the sporting world’s attention like an owner.

Let some good come out of this. Let the baseball world know the Pirates have earned their way back to respectability and that they’ve earned respect from the people who administrate the game. Yeah, they were kicked around — rightly, fairly — as the worst team in baseball for nearly two decades. I did a lot of that kicking myself. But enough’s enough.

If that sounds like I’m oversimplifying Meals’ call as a matter of snubbing the Pirates, hey, so be it. Good luck in trying to come up with a better explanation: Maybe Meals simply tired out from the six hours-plus behind the plate. Meals really is that terrible of an umpire to miss a call like that so badly. This wasn’t bang-bang. It was bang-nothing. There was a tag, then Julio Lugo actually got up, and a full second or so elapsed before he tapped his foot on home plate. It was patently obvious he had been tagged, patently obvious he was out.

There are missed calls, and there is outright incompetence. If this doesn’t cross into the latter, I’m not sure when a call does.

And if there was any fiber of Meals being that was moved by which team was being slighted or even the late hour, then he deserves to be suspended, though that obviously would be impossible to prove.

There’s nothing the Pirates can do about that. Meals will be right back on the field tonight at third base — within convenient earshot of the visitors’ dugout! — and I’m sure he’ll stay in the umpiring fold forever. If an egregiously awful umpire such as Bill Hohn can keep his job, for example, you can take it to the bank that Meals  will retire in blue.

But there is plenty the Pirates can do to capitalize.

Hurdle and his players can use this as part of their continuing us-against-the-world attitude. No one would begrudge them that.

And a loud, though not out-of-line statement about the franchise’s feeling on this missed call could serve the double-mission of letting Hurdle and the players know they have their backs (even if they haven’t brought in any help yet), and of letting baseball know that the Pirates are going to fight back, on and off the field, at an institutional level. Let the baseball world and umpires know that the days of John Russell playing turtle in the dugout are gone.

And hey, as long as the Pirates have that megaphone the next 24 hours or so, feel free to add to the pleas for additional replay. Tell Bud Selig how you really feel about preserving that precious “human element” in the game. Tell the commissioner to go ask Jason Grilli and Daniel McCutchen how offended they would be if there was a mechanism to get that call right.

Speak up, Pirates!

The podium is yours. Make it count.

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