The dog days of summer are here. It's when many folks start complaining about the heat, but not about the pennant races that start to heat up. It's when teams make deals in the hopes of gearing up for a postseason run or to tear down rosters that have underachieved.
It's also the time when everything is magnified. The good, the bad and the ugly. Blown calls by umpires are certainly one of those things. A bad call at a critical time creates angst, frustration and a great debate that can last decades. If you don't believe me, just ask Don Denkinger.
No one in their right mind would put Monday's blown call at Fenway Park in the same class as Denkinger's 1985 World Series gaffe. But given the potential impact of Jerry Meals' mistake in the eighth inning of the Rays-Red Sox game, the 2013 playoff picture could be altered.
Hopefully, this is the last summer we'll be talking about and debating such misses.
Side note -- if not for Trade Deadline news dominating the headlines on Monday and Tuesday, Meals may have joined Bucky Dent on the short list of least popular sports figures in Boston.
This is how it went down: Meals blew a call in the bottom of the eighth inning that snuffed out the game-tying run for the Red Sox. Objections and ejections followed. So did a Rays win. Along with a postgame statement from Meals in which he admitted to making a mistake after he watched a replay.
So … replay works.
Tampa Bay took over first place in the American League East, while Boston fell into a Wild Card spot. With the one-game Wild Card game as part of baseball's postseason format, this is potentially a huge deal. I reserve the right to revisit this story on September 30.
Coincidentally, two summers ago, Meals was the home-plate umpire who botched a game-ending call at Turner Field. That mistake took place in the 19th inning and was, by far, more egregious. The Pirates were on the losing end that game. And following that marathon, they went into a tailspin that dropped them out of the playoff race.
Was it Meals' fault the Bucs collapsed? No. But the emotional difference between winning and losing a 19-inning game in the heat of the playoff chase is massive.
We know that Major League Baseball is working on expanding the use of replay for 2014. To what extent is still the $64 million question. Will fair or foul ball calls be reviewed? Will all scoring plays in question be reviewed? Will managers be limited to a certain number of challenges per game similar to the NFL?
Joe Torre and the folks tasked with exploring all options want to get the changes in the review process right. They should be applauded for that.
There is nothing worse than forcing a system into place that needs constant tweaks.
At the All-Star Game in New York, Commissioner Bud Selig addressed the league's progress in expanding the current system, which reviews home run calls.
"We have to be careful in our zest to improve things, not to affect the game as we've all known it," Selig said.
It's totally understandable and commendable that Selig is proceeding with caution. Protecting our game is of the utmost importance.
The flip side to this is that the game has changed in many ways, and MLB owes it to the players and fans to keep up. How we enjoy the game has changed, and how players prepare for the game has changed. Much of that change has to do with video technology, yet the only place it's not being used to the fullest extent is on the field.
Why shop at a gourmet grocery store if you're going to use an old toaster oven to cook the meal?
A bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.
Go inside any Major League clubhouse before or after a game and you'll see players analyzing their swing by advancing the video frame by frame by frame. Scouts do the same thing. Coaches are on board as well.
If a fan sitting on his loveseat in Oshkosh can do the same thing on his DVR to determine if Meals missed the call in Boston, it's time to change.
I keep my fingers crossed we get through the 2013 World Series without an issue.
We need replay in our game, not another blown call that our grandchildren will be talking about decades from now.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.