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Paul Hagen: Mets' latest replay home run anything but conclusive

THE VIEW from this shaded patio, iced lemonade firmly in hand, has consistently been in favor of using instant replay to arbitrate disputed home-run calls. The most important thing is to get it right, etc.

THE VIEW from this shaded patio, iced lemonade firmly in hand, has consistently been in favor of using instant replay to arbitrate disputed home-run calls. The most important thing is to get it right, etc.

Out in the real world, matters tend to be a little more complex. The latest reminder came Wednesday night at Citi Field in New York.

With the score tied in the bottom of the sixth, Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy hit a long drive to right that appeared to hit the warning track and then bounced against the wall. Adam Dunn retrieved the ball and threw the runner, Gary Sheffield, out at the plate.

Except that at the Mets' new park, there's an 8-foot overhang in right fronted by a yellow advertising sign. The umpires spent 5 minutes reviewing various replays and concluded that the ball had hit the sign on the way down, and awarded Murphy a two-run homer.

Crew chief Larry Vanover conceded that the ball had "disappeared" into the light background, but added that the umpires could nevertheless see that it changed direction. "That's how we made the call," he said.

Nationals manager Manny Acta made two valid points.

The first is that it seems unlikely that the ball would hit the sign coming down and then bounce back toward the fence after it hit the warning track. It's the baseball version of the Magic Bullet Theory.

The other is that the original call is supposed to be overturned only if there is conclusive evidence that a mistake has been made. If the video evidence is unclear, the original call is supposed to stand.

"Something has to be done because this was supposed to help make the right call, help the umpires," he said. "It's supposed to be a clear-cut home run. If it is so inconclusive ... then the call shouldn't be changed."

Acta was especially aggrieved because, 2 nights earlier, Sheffield was awarded a homer on a ball hit to left even though some replays suggested that a fan had reached below the yellow line and touched it.

For what it's worth, 12 home runs have been reviewed this year. Five of the calls have involved the Mets, four in the last week. And all were resolved in New York's favor.

Those who were worried that replay would take the human element out of the game can relax. It hasn't.

The hot corner

* The Houston Chronicle reported that during a team meeting, one veteran Astro begged his teammates to stop criticizing manager Cecil Cooper to the media.

* Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak hints that he's beginning to wonder if third baseman Troy Glaus will play at all this year. If not, he probably will consider options including Cleveland's Mark DeRosa and Colorado's Garrett Atkins.

Around the bases

* Twins catcher Joe Mauer has 11 homers and 32 RBI in May. Previously, Mauer had never homered more than five times in a month and his season high is 13, in 2006.

* Carl Pavano, ridiculed as the American Idle during his injury-marred time with the Yankees, is 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA in his last six starts for the Indians.

On deck


For Royals righthander Zack Greinke. Who else? Greinke, who next pitches Sunday, is 8-1 with an 0.84 earned run average. He's the first big-leaguer to have a sub-1.00 ERA after 10 starts since Juan Marichal was 9-0, 0.59 for the Giants in 1966.

There's more. He has five complete games, more than any other team and as many as the Royals had in all of 2007 and '08 combined.

Postscript: Marichal went on to have a terrific season, ending up 25-6, 2.23 ... and didn't win the Cy Young Award. Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73) did.


To Mets rightfielder Fernando Martinez. With one out and a runner on second Wednesday, Martinez hit a popup in front of the plate. Nationals catcher Wil Nieves dropped the ball. Martinez would have been safe at first, except that he didn't run until after the ball hit the ground.

Making it worse is that Martinez is a rookie who was playing in just his second big-league game.

The Citi Field crowd booed heartily. Martinez, at least, was remorseful afterward. "I promise that will never happen again," he said. "I promise that's not me."


0.85: Earned run average for Detroit's Justin Verlander in his last six starts.

5: Rays players put on the DL in the last week: shortstop Jason Bartlett, second baseman Akinori Iwamura, closer Troy Percival, No. 2 starter Scott Kazmir and lefthanded relief specialist Brian Shouse.

79: Career home runs hit by Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun as of Monday, the second anniversary of his arrival in the big leagues. The only player ever to hit more that quickly: Chuck Klein, 83 with the Phillies, 1928-30.

91: Losses the Nationals will end up with if they play .500 from here on.


One of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory will take place tonight when Matt Wieters will be in the Orioles lineup at Camden Yards.

Wieters, a 22-year-old catcher, was the Baseball America 2008 Player of the Year and the O's first-round draft choice. Baltimore is in last place of the AL East and it's been a while since the fans have had something like this to look forward to.

Manager Dave Trembley has jokingly referred to the team's top prospects (including outfielder Nolan Reimold, who was called up 2 weeks ago, and minor league pitchers Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz) as The Cavalry. But it's clear who's expected to lead the charge.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley, who has had his own issues with authority figures, on teammate Carlos Zambrano's flip-out Wednesday during which he appeared to bump umpire Mark Carlson, threw the baseball into the outfield and wrecked the dugout Gatorade machine with a bat: "That was pretty impressive. It was on a Bradley level."

PARTY POOPER OF THE WEEK: Sure, the most important thing is trying to win. But baseball can also occasionally provide great theater, drama that fans will remember long after they've forgotten the final score.

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu had a chance to create one of those moments Friday. He could have started Ken Griffey Jr. against Randy Johnson last Friday during interleague play at Safeco Field, matching up two of the Seattle's baseball icons.

And he whiffed, starting Mike Sweeney because Junior was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against the Big Unit. "It was a tough decision not to play him, but I have to worry about the whole team," Wakamatsu said.

Seattle won in the 12th, by the way, but the guess here is that it's an outcome that will be recalled, if it's recalled at all, as just another game.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Nationals rightfielder Adam Dunn has 16 homers. His team has 13 wins.

It doesn't appear there's ever been a player whose home runs exceeded his club's wins at the end of the season.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK: The Astros-Reds game at Cincinnati was delayed 2 hours, 3 minutes by rain with two outs in the top of the fifth on Monday. Normally an interruption of that length would mean a new pitcher when play resumed, but Reds starter Aaron Harang stunned almost everybody by coming back to get the final out. That made the game official and qualified him for the win.

Harang stayed ready by throwing four simulated innings at about 60 percent in the indoor batting cage while the tarp was on the field.


Marlins lefty reliever Dan Meyer is one of the few visiting athletes who should be allowed to comment on Philadelphia's reputation as the home of enthusiastic boobirds.

After all, he used to be one.

Meyer, who grew up in Woodbury, N.J., and attended five to 10 Phillies games a year at the Vet, admitted to the Miami Herald this week that his specialty was getting on opposing pitchers while they were warming up.

"When I was like 10, I harassed Randy Johnson," he said. "It's kind of an embarrassing story. I had a baseball and I wanted him to sign it for me. He was doing his work. Now, I understand why he ignored me. But at the time, I wanted him to sign my ball. So I went from being the nice kid to yelling at him." *