Like every MLB season, 2011 was filled with great games, amazing plays, and way too many instances of incompetent umpiring.
Of the poor calls, I'm ranking these as the five worst:
5. First-Base Karma (New York Mets 2, New York Yankees 1, May 20)
Brett Gardner hit a grounder to lead off the bottom of the fifth for the Yankees, and he appeared to be thrown out at first on a routine play. However, umpire Jeff Kellogg called him safe, saying first baseman Daniel Murphy's foot wasn't touching the bag, which set off Mets manager Terry Collins. Replays would show Gardner was indeed out, but the Mets really couldn't complain about the decision going against them; the previous day, a blown call at first base went their way.
4. An Argument For Instant Replay (Florida Marlins 7, Chicago Cub 5, July 17)
Even though Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood looked to have clearly picked off Brett Hayes at second base, umpire Lance Barrett called him safe. The Cubs didn't take Barrett's mistake in stride, and after the game Wood complained, "It was a terrible call, absolutely terrible." He continued, "The umpire ... he's right on it, he's right there on top of it and butchered it." Cubs manager Mike Quade went a step farther, arguing for a rule change: "I'm becoming a big fan of replay. I don't give a damn if it's slows the game down another hour. Give me a challenge flag or two."
3. The Home Run That Wasn't (New York Yankees 4, Kansas City Royals 5, Aug. 17)
I like how MLB now reviews home runs, but judging from this game, the umpires need a lot more practice at it. Billy Butler of the Royals was credited with a home run in the third inning, but as you can see in the video, it was close enough to review. Even after watching the replay, umpire Dana Demuth upheld the call, explaining the ball had hit the rail. What Demuth didn't know is that the ball has to go into the stands to be ruled a homer at Kauffman Stadium, meaning it should have been a double.
But since when could you expect the umpires to know the rules?
2. World Series Blunder (St. Louis Cardinals 16, Texas Rangers 7, Oct. 22)
There is no worse time for an umpire to badly blow a call than the World Series, when every play is carefully analyzed, but that's exactly what Ron Kulpa did in the fourth inning of Game 3. If you watch the replay, it's apparent that he missed an easy call at first base when Matt Holliday was ruled safe in what should have been a double play. The Cardinals took advantage of Kupla's mistake, and promptly scored four runs in the inning.
1. Bleary-Eyed Mistake (Atlanta Braves 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 3, July 26)
These teams had battled for nearly 19 full innings and close to seven hours when umpire Jerry Meals erroneously called Atlanta's Julia Lugo safe at home, which unfairly handed the win to the Braves. In fact, the mistake was so obviously that MLB felt compelled to apologize. If Meals finds himself umpiring another game that goes into the early morning, he better be prepared with a pot of coffee.
Floyd Saunders is a native of Minnesota and a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan, and a fan of all things baseball.