Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicks Dig The Infield Fly Rule -- Somtimes

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare Infield Fly, if Fair.
The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.
Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder, not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpires judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpires judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.
When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

I love the Infield Fly Rule. I love it because everyone knows about it, but no one really understands it. It's my go-to for smacking down knowledge on doofuses who don't believe that a chick can really understand baseball.

Whether you're a die-hard or casual fan, after Friday's Braves-Cardinals game, you've thought and heard more about the Infield Fly Rule than you ever expected. Probably more than you wanted.

Let's recap what happened: Braves had two runners on base with one out. The batter, Andrelton Simmons, lifted a pop up to short left field. Neither the Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma nor left fielder Matt Holliday caught the ball. Bases loaded with one out, right? Wrong! The Infield Fly Rule was called; batter's out and the runners go back to their original bases. Also, a fan riot ensues.

Infield Fly Rule?! In the outfield?! Really?!

Was it the right call? According to the rule, a ball "which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort" is called an Infield Fly. It specifically doesn't state where the ball should be caught, only that an infielder, or other player positioned in the infield, should be catching it -- as long as it's in fair territory. So, under the letter of the rule, it's not an incorrect call.

Did this call make a difference in the game? After I saw some replays, it looks to me like Kozma was camped under the ball, and when the umpire called the Infield Fly, Kozma believed Holliday was calling him off and he ducked away. If the umpire, Sam Holbrook, would have zipped his mouth, Kozma would have remained under the ball, and made the catch. Batter's out and the runners go back to their original bases. Just the same thing, without all the chaos afterward.

But (and it's a big but), with all that being said, I believe it was a bad ball. It wasn't necessary wrong, but it was poorly applied.

The spirit of the rule is to protect the base runners from the infielder intentionally dropping the ball and initiating a double play. That wasn't at all at risk of happening in Atlanta.

Also, what does "ordinary effort" really mean? Ordinary for whom? Even though the Kozma appeared to be camped under the ball at one point, I believe that it still took more than ordinary effort for him to get there. I'm not familiar with how he plays, but he seemed pretty speedy on that play.

Because this is an "umpire's discretion" call, no amount of appealing, or replaying, or robo-umpiring will change it. And it shouldn't. But the umpires need to make more sound decisions.

No comments: