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Big League Stew

Tim Welke makes one of the worst calls you’ve ever seen in baseball

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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Jerry Hairston was ruled out on this play. (MLB.TV via FanGraphs)

The "worst call ever" is a term that's popping up quite frequently in the wake of umpire Tim Welke somehow deciding that Colorado's Todd Helton was close enough to first base on Wednesday and that Los Angeles' Jerry Hairston was out on the ol' 5-3 force.

I'm not sure I can go that far. It could have ruined a perfect game. It could have occurred in a crucial postseason game in October instead of on a getaway day in early May.

[Video: Magic Johnson flubs the name of iconic Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully]

But if we're talking on a pure "holy heck, what planet was Welke viewing the action from" basis? Then yes, it probably is the worst call ever. One that the 27-year veteran and member of four World Series crews is going to have trouble shaking from his reputation in today's instant world of iPads, Twitter and instant game highlights on your cell phone.

Not that you needed a MLB.TV replay to know that Welke completely booted this ruling in the sixth inning of the Rockies' 8-5 win over the Dodgers at Coors Field.

Watch it unfold in real time: _

In case you're somehow worse than Welke and missed the call on both the big screencap and that replay, let's go to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. He immediately argued the call by either staging a demonstration of the distance between Helton's left foot and first base or estimated the amount of Interent grief that Welke was about to get for the call.

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Seriously, after watching that play, the only explanations for making that call are that Welke was amazed at Chris Nelson's diving stop at third or that he got lost in this thinking about the dining options in his next city. We can't be certain, however, because an attendant at the umpire's room told the Associated Press that the umpires would not be commenting on the play.

Perhaps it's also possible that he could have written this off as a "neighborhood play" had Helton been a foot or so closer to the bag. But even the Rockies veteran first baseman had no trouble telling Troy Renck of the Denver Post that his foot was closer to the 970 area code of western Colorado than it was to the 303 or 720 codes in Denver. There's no way that he could have ruled that a gimme, no matter how great of a career Helton has had. (Plus, this isn't the NBA where the career achievements of a player are routinely figured into judgments.)

Welke's call ended the top half of the sixth inning instead of giving the Dodgers runners at first and second with two outs. Though Jason Giambi's walk-off three-run homer provided the final margin, who knows how things might have unfolded differently had the inning continued?

''It really doesn't matter at this point,'' Mattingly told reporters after the game. ''I think he knows he missed it. I think Helton told him he was off the bag. We had a chance to get a run there. I just don't think he realized he came off the bag.''

Of course, it's probably not cliche to say that no one feels worse than this about Welke and you do have to feel bad for the guy. His reputation wouldn't be getting raked over the coals if instant replay existed on a wider scale or if other umpires weren't afraid to overrule one of their colleagues every now and then.

Still, that's a call he has to make. And one that will deservedly go on his permanent record.

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