October 6, 2012

Did the umpires get that infield fly rule call right?

Paul White says yes.

Watch replays closely and you'll see that Holbrook, the left field umpire, watches as shortstop Pete Kozma backpedals into left field. As soon as Kozma waves his arms to communicate that he's ready to catch the ball, Holbrook raises his arm to signal an infield fly.

In other words, the umpire waits until he's certain it's a play the infielder can make. Kozma apparently thought it was a play he could make.

Whatever caused him to suddenly peel off — was it when, amid the stadium noise, Holbrook accompanied his signal with a verbal call of "infield fly?" — Kozma suddenly changed direction, as infielders are taught to do when they believe they hear the outfielder calling that he can make the catch.

129 comments:

ndspinelli said...

The call was not only wrong, it was WAY too late. I watch all these games, as I do most, clinically..no dog in the fight[unlike Mike Vick]. I will pull for Oakland, however.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

At first I thought the call was wrong.

Once I took the time to watch the replay which shows the left field umpire call the infield fly AFTER the SS waved to catch the ball, I realized that the call was correct.

The left field ump's judgement turns out to be mostly right.

Bob Ellison said...

The infield fly rule is stupid.

AllenS said...

The timing of the call is what's most important, and as Nick pointed out, way too late. That took an extra baserunner away. Stopped others from moving to the next base.

Michael said...

It is the Infield Fly rule not the Infielder Fly rule. It was a bad call. A wrong call.

Michael said...

It is the Infield Fly rule not the Infielder Fly rule. It was a bad call. A wrong call.

Pastafarian said...

No.

They have to call it immediately, they can't call it at the last minute. And I'd love to see them turn two from there, which the rule is meant to prevent.

If a fly that deep qualifies, then half of all flies do, and we'll just call a quarter of all batters automatically out. Stupid call.

Maguro said...

Right or wrong by the rule book, that's a call that almost never happens on a ball to that location on the field.

AllenS said...

What part of Infield don't they understand?

rhhardin said...

Illustrated infield fly rule.

Donald said...

Bad call. Too deep. If the ball is hit so high that it's in flight long enough for an infielder to run back and catch it on the warning track, would that dopey umpire call it an infield fly?

ndspinelli said...

Don't Tread, The rule is not about IF an infielder can catch the ball. The rule is to protect runners from being doubled up unfairly by an infielder. An infielder can catch a ball, in the outfield, over his shoulder, w/o the rule applying.

ndspinelli said...

You also have to understand the personnel. The leftfielder, Matt Holliday, is a defensive liability. Infielders, knowing this, will try and make plays that Holliday should make. For even a decent outfielder, that would have been his ball.

David said...

The call was correct. The umpire properly wanted to see whether the infielder had a routine play on the ball. The infielder could have make the catch easily. It was a judgment call and the umpire showed good judgment in not rushing it.

Curious George said...

The call was most definitely wrong.

1) The umpire decision has nothing to do with the fielder calling for the ball. ZERO.

2) The infield fly rule requires a fly "which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort". As the fielder was in no position to catch the ball, this was not met. I doubt the SS could have made the catch, but he certainly couldn't with "ordinary effort".

3) "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." This certainly didn't happen. The umpire in not to wait until the infielder calls for the ball. He looks at the ball in relation to the infielder and makes the determination.

"Bob Ellison said...
The infield fly rule is stupid."

Hardly. Every pop-up in an IF situation would turn into a double or triple play.

Richard Dolan said...

The rule is stupid, you say? No way. The lawyerly majesty of the infield fly rule was magnificently explained in 1975, in The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule, published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. For those who are interested, it's just a google search away.

Bob Ellison said...

Curious George, the IF rule stands second to the offside rule in soccer as the dumbest rule in sports. If there were no IF rule, the base-runners would behave differently. Your prediction that double- and triple-plays would fall apart. Rules affect behavior in sports. Baseball is full of strange things-- balls bouncing this way and that way off outfield poles, dugout fences affecting attempts to catch infield pop-ups, etc. The notion that the IF rule somehow protects the integrity of the game is silly.

Curious George said...

"ndspinelli said...
You also have to understand the personnel. The leftfielder, Matt Holliday, is a defensive liability. Infielders, knowing this, will try and make plays that Holliday should make. For even a decent outfielder, that would have been his ball."

That has nothing to do with what should be called.

"AllenS said...
What part of Infield don't they understand?"

Despite the name, the rule specifically says that "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."

I take back what I said earlier, the SS may have been able to make the play, but not with ordinary effort.

ndspinelli said...

Curious, I've FORGOTTEN more about baseball than you know about baseball. Are you asserting if an outfielder catches the ball in the outfield that it has nothing to do w/ the rule? That's inherently incorrect.

Curious George said...

"Bob Ellison said...
Curious George, the IF rule stands second to the offside rule in soccer as the dumbest rule in sports. If there were no IF rule, the base-runners would behave differently. Your prediction that double- and triple-plays would fall apart. Rules affect behavior in sports. Baseball is full of strange things-- balls bouncing this way and that way off outfield poles, dugout fences affecting attempts to catch infield pop-ups, etc. The notion that the IF rule somehow protects the integrity of the game is silly."

Non of your examples have anything to do with the Infield Fly rule. With runners on 1st and 2nd, or bases full, and less than two outs, a fly ball that results in an Infield Fly would easily produce at minimum a double play, and sometime s a triple play. The runners behavior with an Infield Flay rule is only altered by the knowledge that they DO NOT have to advance on a ball that is not caught because the batter is out and therefore the force out is eliminated. Beyond that they can advance at their own risk...which is always the case. They come off their base enough to maximize being able to advance if the ball drops in, but not so much that they cannot return safely if it's caught.

You are an idiot.

Curious George said...

"ndspinelli said...
Curious, I've FORGOTTEN more about baseball than you know about baseball. Are you asserting if an outfielder catches the ball in the outfield that it has nothing to do w/ the rule? That's inherently incorrect."

An outfileder can make the catch in an IF ruling. They only requirement is that an infielder could also have made the catch with "ordinary effort".

But you made a different case, that the skills of the OF are part of the decision. They're not. In any way. Shape. Form.

William said...

Thanks Professor Althouse for offering up a low and outside pitch that offers much more entertainment value than the debate about job numbers

ndspinelli said...

The infielder was making a play that would be made by an outfielder if just about any other outfielder was present. An outfielder ALWAYS should take that ball because it's an easier play coming in than going out. A decent outfielder would have called off the ss. This is relevant paricularly when you see that the play was made a substantial distance from the infield. It's part of the craft of umpiring.

ndspinelli said...

And, what William just said!

Curious George said...

As an aside, the protest was pointless. Bad calls can't be protested.

And Braves fans are assholes.

john said...

Wouldn't have been a problem if the MLB umpires association had not been locked out due to stalled negotiations and if they hadn't been forced to use replacement umpires for these critical playoff games.

OTOH, and as probably a way to make things better from that blown call, we also witnessed the beautiful and touching grounder by Chipper Jones in his last at bat; normally incapable of even fast-walking to first, the Chip was given not one, but two, yes two! attempts to beat out that routine grounder, and yes! he beat that throw!. What a fitting tribute to the future hall of famer.

Matthew Sablan said...

I just told my roommate it is a stupid rule.

ndspinelli said...

I think another factor, which was pointed out by Darling, is that this call was made by a foul line ump. I don't know the umps history, but even umps who have been around for decades haven't worked many games in that role since it's limited to postseason and AllStar games. I would wager if that same ump was working a regular season game @ 3rd base, he would have gotten it correct. This guy had a perspective that he is unaccustomed to having.

Curious George said...

"ndspinelli said...
The infielder was making a play that would be made by an outfielder if just about any other outfielder was present. An outfielder ALWAYS should take that ball because it's an easier play coming in than going out. A decent outfielder would have called off the ss. This is relevant paricularly when you see that the play was made a substantial distance from the infield. It's part of the craft of umpiring."

I agree that it was a bad call, but it has nothing to do with the SS trying to make the play because the OF is a defensive liability as you claimed.

It also has nothing to do with who would have the easier catch. The outfielder can make a catch on an IF ruling and the batter is still out.

Give it up. You are wrong. It was a bad call simply, as I have said, because the SS couldn't make the play with "ordinary effort".

The "lateness" of the call is an indicator...if the ump has to wait until the last second to make the call, that alone speaks of the uncertainty of the catch. Bad bad call.

You don't know much about baseball for a self proclaimed expert.

John said...

The rule is poorly written and seldom enforced. So long as the ball is in the field of play and an infielder camps under the ball (and it is not a line drive or a bunt), the rule can be invoked. Further, if the ball is actually coming down in the infield and an outfielder camps under the ball, the rule can be invoked. Questions about timing relate more to that moment when the infielder stopped his movement into the outfield and camping under the ball. The rule was then invoked and then the infielder retreated away from the ball to allow it to fall.

Arguably, the infielder may not have retreated from encampment, he may had expected the outfielder to make the play - for whatever reason. Doesn't matter at that point as the call had been made.

ALH said...

Looked like a late call to me.

And what is going on with big champaigne celebrations after a 1 game wildcard "series" win?

Curious George said...

"John said...
The rule is poorly written and seldom enforced. So long as the ball is in the field of play and an infielder camps under the ball (and it is not a line drive or a bunt), the rule can be invoked. Further, if the ball is actually coming down in the infield and an outfielder camps under the ball, the rule can be invoked. Questions about timing relate more to that moment when the infielder stopped his movement into the outfield and camping under the ball. The rule was then invoked and then the infielder retreated away from the ball to allow it to fall.

Arguably, the infielder may not have retreated from encampment, he may had expected the outfielder to make the play - for whatever reason. Doesn't matter at that point as the call had been made."

It's enforced all the time. It is a common call. And the infielder was never camped under the ball. watch the replay. He never got within 10' of where the ball landed.

exiledonmainst said...

Terrible call. As a Packer fan, the Braves have my sympathy.

The Cardinals are, apparently, beloved by the baseball gods.

EDH said...

Scott Brown, call your campaign office.

Was the crowd intoning a fake Indian chant while beating drums?

If so, shouldn't they be crying with all the litter being thrown on the field?

"People start pollution. People can stop it."

ndspinelli said...

In theory an outfielder can make a catch w/ the rule being invoked..BUT NOT WHERE THE BALL LANDED! What are your qualifications. I coached baseball for 30 years along w/ umpiring games many of those years.

BaltoHvar said...

Wow! The SS DID have a catch, squared to the infield. He DODGED the ball believing the LF was going to catch it. The Baserunners are forced BACK to the base because it is a fly ball. The SS, squared up COULD drop the ball, throw to 3rd for the force then on to 2nd for the DP BECAUSE the runners are forced back the base to TAG UP and cannot advance until the ball is caught. On that play ALL of that was present, and the CALL WAS correct.

The FLIGHT of the ball MUST be observed by the UMP, and the OUT CALLED AFTER apogee.

The rule protects the offense.

BaltoHvar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PaulV said...

It was the 3rd base umpire's call. The added outfield ump is there to make call on trap and fair/foul call down the line. It must have been a replacement ump that screwed call.

PaulV said...

BaltoHvar, the runners had gone part way to get to next base if ball was not caught. There was no play at second or third because ball was too deep. They could not get one, no way could they have gotten two. [eople are covering up for "replacement" umps.

Ann Althouse said...

Let's look at the text of the rule, because I think a few of you are just using your own ideas of what you think the rule is (based on the name of the rule or whatever).

"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."

In this case, the shortstop, with ordinary effort, could have caught it, and it was not a line drive or an attempted bunt.

"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."

That doesn't apply here. Those are some additional times when someone is considered an infielder, operating in the infield, which reinforces the idea that it's about what infielders do, not where they are.

"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.”"

I know there's some question of this, but read the linked post. Don't assume you know that the umpire was late. Look again.

"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 umpire’s 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 umpire’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately."

Obviously, the umpire's judgment determines where the line is drawn. I know we're only arguing about the quality of that judgment, not whether it was final, but there aren't lines on the field about where the ball is that make it the "infield" (except when you're talking about someone other than an infielder being the one who's in the position to catch the ball with ordinary effort).

Patrick said...

Every year, my brothers and assorted friends get together for the opening od WI's deer hunting season. We don't hunt, we play cards, drink beer and talk smart. We talk politics, about 60% vs. 40% on the right/left side of things. The only time we get into shouting matches is when we talk about sports.

ndspinelli said...

Nobody who calls uniforms "costumes" has any place here. We don't need any pseudo intellectual horseshit. As I've said previously, you have an uncanny ability to take an interesting discussion and make it tedious. Why not add some Dylan lyrics?

BaltoHvar said...

Maybe part of the angst questioning the call stems from the fact that two things happened during the play that normally do not.

1. The fly was muffed;

2. The runners advanced.

That normally doesn't happen in conjunction with the IFR since play on the ball is normally routine and the fly is caught, chasing the runners back to the bag.

Patrick said...

When I started reading this blog, I never ever imagined that I would be given a lesson on the infield fly rule by the Professor.

They don't get this kind of shit at FDL or even Instapundit.

Ann Althouse said...

As White points out at the link, that last comment is important:

"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 umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder."

Note that Kozma, the shortstop, who should have caught it, suddenly stepped away as if the outfielder could get it. The rule has been structured so that the infielder and outfielder can't coordinate an evasion of the rule. The outfielder calls off the infielder, and then he, the outfielder fails to catch it. That tactic can't be permitted. And it kind of looks like Kozma was attempting that tactic, which shouldn't work and under the rules doesn't.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean, it kind of looks like Kozma, the shortstop, was part of a tactic like that, with the outfielder calling him off.

ndspinelli said...

The umpire is supposed to raise their arms IMMEDIATELY when making the call. I've watched the call..it was made way too late. There's a reason the ump MUST make the call immediately because baserunners are allowed to advance @ their own risk BASED ON THE IMMEDIATE CALL. Other point that have not been made is that the entire Cards team didn't think the rule applied. The pitcher's body slumped when the ball fell. The SS had a look of "I fucked up". Holliday threw the ball in quickly. And, that's normally the 3rd base umps call..and he didn't make it.

Finally, I'll go w/ Gary Darling..he's a Yale grad!!

Ann Althouse said...

Now maybe Kozma and the outfielder were just a couple bumbling clowns at that moment, but the rule must be structured so you can't pretend to be bumbling clowns to take an advantage.

Chip S. said...

there aren't lines on the field about where the ball is that make it the "infield"

Actually, there is the clearest imaginable boundary line. It's the borderline b/w the IF and the OF.

Obviously, this point doesn't address the rule's statement that a catch made in the area that is always called "the outfield grass" may still be covered by the IFR, but your statement is simply not true.

The main point about the IFR, IMO, is that when it's called it's almost always called w/in a couple of seconds of the ball being popped up. Umpires almost never take a "wait and see" approach to calling it. If this ump waited until he saw the infielder get in position, he did not make a standard call and--again, IMO, as this is a judgment call--he screwed up.

ndspinelli said...

Maybe..just maybe, a wily veteran shortstop would have the balls to try and deke an ump as you describe. He would do so w/ a good, veteran LF, w/ who he's played w/ for a long time. As stated previously, Holliday is a ham n' egger and the SS is a rookie. Step up your game Althouse, the big dogs are discussing here.

BaltoHvar said...

UMP was Holbrook - he's a Regular.

As a complete guess, I would also say that the UMPS have zones on the field they are responsible for. When the Outfield Lines past the Bags have Umps, they take the calls anywhere on the grass beyond the Skin. Fans may not understand the rules for jurisdiction with the two extra Blues on the field.

Chip S. said...

Good point, spinelli. It would've been an incredible gamble to let that ball drop in the hope that an ump would call it an IF in a winner-take-all game.

ndspinelli said...

Anyone here who knows baseball has seen infielders try to deke umps on this call. They're always transparent and umps can be seen chuckling often times. Again, umpiring is a craft. Just like being a lawyer. You have to know the rules/law, but that is just the foundation. There's MUCH more to it that only people who have real world experience understand.

leslyn said...

Go to the Sports Illustrated blog. The comments are at a higher level and they don't call each other "idiot," "asshole," etc, etc, yada, yada, ad infinitum--the lack of which name-calling and gratuitous insults really adds to the discourse. Plus they have good writers.

Outta here to today's installment of the IFR!

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Once the infield fly is called, the fielder doesn't have to catch the ball to put the batter out. Lazy?

Chip S. said...

This seems easy to resolve: Is this is also the norm at the MLB level:

UR and UL never calls the Infield Fly Rule, balks, nor make any rulings on the batter or runners like obstruction or interference.

"UL" refers to the left-field-line umpire in a 6-umpire configuration.

Chip S. said...

leslyn said...
Go to the Sports Illustrated blog. The comments are at a higher level and they don't call each other "idiot," "asshole," etc, etc, yada, yada, ad infinitum...

It looks like "civility bullshit" is the latest talking point for our resident lefties, no matter what the topic. The fact that no one in this thread used a single one of these terms to refer to any commenter here is simply not an impediment to someone w/ the lofty standards of leslyn.

The only close comment was that the Atlanta fans were "assholes". Oh no! We may never get any more Atlanta fans commenting here if this is not stopped forthwith!!

EMD said...

I like baseball on Althouse.

EMD said...

Was Leslyn actually employing the sarcasm?

EMD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ndspinelli said...

ChipS, For the win! Great job. Using a term that one person will understand, that link is DISPOSITIVE..IT WAS NOT THE UMPS CALL WHO MADE IT! There are reasons for these protocols and much of it has to do w/ perspective.

harrogate said...

Atlanta really killed themselves with horrible defense last night. Medlen actually pitched very well, as he has all year. But you can't make THREE throwing errors in a game with those stakes, and escape to get off scot-free.

And yet. Had the umpire not totally fucked Atlanta over in the 8th with that call, it may well be that we were looking at Atlanta jouissance in the making.

As a huge Braves fan I was disgusted with the obviously idiotic call, and a late call to boot. As a baseball fan since before I can remember, I have seen bad calls a'plenty; but if this wasn't the worst and most bizarre all rolled into one, it certainly is a contenda.

Bottom line, Atlanta cannot blame that moment entirely, but they have every right to feel robbed, because they wuz, indeed, robbed.

Horrible atmosphere for Chipper's last game, debris all over the field, fans losing their shit and acting like morons. I understand their anger and feel it myself but you don't do that. It spoiled the storybook close Chipper could have had, on that field, even in defeat.

Ah well. Such is life.

Captain Curt said...

The rule of thumb that I was taught on the "ordinary effort" distinction was that if the infielder could get to the ball in time to catch it while always facing home plate, it should be judged an infield fly. It looks like that applies in this case.

ndspinelli said...

harrogate, Some fans like to sing the blues about their teams[Cubs and Red Sox among them]. However, I have long had empathy for Braves fans, as they have been so close so many times. That is w/ the exception of Jimmy Carter and Ted Turner.

Bob Ellison said...

You're all idiots. Also assholes. There!

Meade said...

ndspinelli said...
"Curious, I've FORGOTTEN more about baseball than you know about baseball. Are you asserting if an outfielder catches the ball in the outfield that it has nothing to do w/ the rule? That's inherently incorrect."

That is exactly right. In Spinelli World.

Just as it is inherently incorrect (in Spinelli World) that JFK not wearing a hat to his inauguration DID NOT cause the collapse of the hat industry in America.

Astro said...

Bad or questionable calls don't bother me too much. They happen, but over time the odds are that things even up.
What I find bizarre is a 1-game, sudden-death playoff between two teams where one team had a 5-game better record than the other. In this case too much rides on 1 funny bounce, 1 bad pitch, or 1 dropped ball. You might as well flip a coin.
I can understand a play-in game when both teams have the same record. But this was a case where the teams should have at least a 5-game playoff. Sad to think a Hall-of-Famer like Chipper Jones has this POS game for his final appearance.

Bob Ellison said...

I don't know why or how, but this discussion makes me think of a soprano behaving as though she was just stuck in the abdomen with a sharp stick.

Bob Ellison said...

Well, maybe the discussion was not the proximate cause. Maybe I just wanted to link to that. >60 comments in, so it's kosher, right?

ndspinelli said...

Meade, We're discussing this play and call. What the fuck are you talking about?? At least your bride was discussing the subject of the post. What's your opinion on the call?

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BaltoHvar said...

I agree with Astro's premise, yet the irony yesterday was that indeed the AL Teams would have played since their records were identical.

Then if there were to be a 5 game WC then the waiting opponents would be off for a protracted period possibly affecting their games subsequent.

I wish that in order to compress the season that Scheduled Double Headers would be put back into the schedule to allow the postseason format to be changed. But complicating that is still the fact that there are odd-numbers of teams that make it into the post season. And also that further expansion would dilute the talent pool, and taint future record-breaking.

Meade said...

My opinion of the call matches David's, above.

My call on you, Nick? STEEEEE-RIKE THREE!!!

Ann Althouse said...

"Actually, there is the clearest imaginable boundary line. It's the borderline b/w the IF and the OF."

I'm looking at the text of the rule, and it's just not about the territorial division of the infield and the outfield. It's silly to bring up that we have names for these places on the field. The rule isn't about that. The rule is about the area covered by infielders, which includes plenty of what is in the area you call the outfield. Nothing hangs on where the dirt becomes grass.

Ann Althouse said...

On the subject of whether the rule is a good idea: What's wrong with letting the defensive side take maximum advantage of such a bad performance by the batter? Why protect the offense? There are other situations where the defense can get a double play and the batter has done something much more impressive than hit a big pop up? Why does the lamest performance get special protection? Is it that deliberately missing seems like bad form? Seems to me there are other "bad form"ish things that are part of baseball, like bunting and stealing.

Beldar said...

@ Richard Dolan: I second your recommendation of the Penn Law Review article, "The Common-Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule."

To give readers a hint, the first sentence reads something like this: "The Infield Fly Rule is neither a rule of law nor one of equity; it is a rule of baseball." From that first sentence hangs three footnotes, the first one being a footnote to the word "the," with a citation to a three-page portion of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It's a fabulous spoof of lawyers, academics, and especially legal academics.

PJ said...

Don't umpires get to choose their judicial philosophies just like ordinary judges? This guy is obviously a textualist -- he thinks it's his job to apply the rule as written, and to hell with the purpose of the rule or the utility or consequences of alternative rulings under the particular circumstances. (And don't talk to me about jurisdiction, ChipS and spinelli; you never get a real judge to admit he has no jurisdiction.)

Other judicial philosophies might have yielded different outcomes. An umpire who regarded the purpose of the rule as controlling might have decided that there appeared to be little danger of a double or triple play, so the purpose of the rule would not be advanced by invoking the rule. A utilitarian might have taken all sorts of circumstances into account, such as the likelihood of a riot (better favor the home team) or the bad feeling everyone would have seeing Chipper Jones end his career this way.

Then there are two more recently emerging judicial philosophies. A John Roberts-like umpire would have made the call based on what he believed was good for Baseball as an institution, with a view to his own legacy as it would be recorded by sportswriters and baseball historians. And a Barack Obama-like umpire would take into account which team had more strongly supported the umpires union in the last contract negotiation, granting that team a waiver if application of the rule would be contrary to its interests.

The Cardinals were lucky the textualist was out there.

PS, speaking as a Mets fan, let me congratulate Chipper Jones on an exemplary career which, from my point of view, ended not with the game, but with his typically gracious and self-effacing postgame interview.

Ann Althouse said...

I can see where you could say stealing and bunting are hard to do and there shouldn't be anything easy to do that resembles making a mistake, that is, a mistake-looking thing that you do on purpose. But so what? IF everyone knows what it is and why it's done, it becomes one more tactic that smart players use.

But stealing is something that, when it originally began was a loophole perceived in the rules, right? Didn't people at first say: Hey, you shouldn't be able to do that?

I know a big part of the rules and the changes over the years to the rules is making the game more exciting and really evenly matched between offense and defense. You can see why stealing is allowed.

Kit said...

Being that it's a judgement call, I'm fine with the call, but as a long time player and in fairness to those on the field, it should have been called sooner.

Baron Zemo said...

How could anyone in their right mind be an Atlanta Braves fan?

Baron Zemo said...

Spinelli is right.

The ump waited way to long.

Baron Zemo said...

How could anyone in their right mind be an Atlanta Braves fan?

Meade said...

MLB needs to create a Fans Flying Debris Down On Infield Rule.

Levi Starks said...

1) there's no such thing as ordinary effort in a playoff game
2) Either the outfielder or infielder could have made the catch
3) After the IFR call was made (and one can only wonder what the fielders were thinking when he saw the umpire raise his arm) neither was obligated to make the catch.

PJ said...

Not directly to your point, Professor, but still a good excuse to link my favorite stolen base story.

Levi Starks said...

It's clear that the reason the Umpire made the call was in fact to see what the fan reaction would be, In order to determine their worthiness. Clearly they failed that test.

Kit said...

Why protect the offense?

It seems to me that to not have this rule would be a much greater disadvantage to the offense than a steal or bunt is to the defense (2 outs vs. an extra base). You can defend a bunt or steal...what is the recourse to the runners on first and second? All they can do is to wait. This is why it needs to be called sooner (than last night), rather than later.

PJ said...
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Chip S. said...

I'm looking at the text of the rule, and it's just not about the territorial division of the infield and the outfield. It's silly to bring up that we have names for these places on the field.

What part of what I said was unclear to you? Re-read it and then think more deeply. Pay particular attention to this part:

Obviously, this point doesn't address the rule's statement that a catch made in the area that is always called "the outfield grass" may still be covered by the IFR...

Anyway, I have no idea why you still think there's anything to say aside about this. Here are the facts in evidence: (1) the umpires whose job it is to call an infield fly did not; (2) the umpire who called the infield fly exceeded his authority on the play.

It's only natural for umpires cover for each other after a screw-up, and of course MLB is going to say the call stands. So what?

ndspinelli said...

Discussing the reasoning for the rule is interesting, but obviously not relevant to what occurred last night. You do realize @ one time you could get a baserunner out by throwing and hitting him w/ the ball. The sport has evolved as all sports do. The infield fly rule is not one that is controversial. It does require judgement, as do many rules. Football fans know the judgement of pass interference is a tough one. The infield fly rule application can be tough sometimes. It wasn't a tough call last night, it was a blown call...akin to the call made @ the end of the Packer/Seahawk game. Again, that was not the LF umpires call, it was the 3rd base umps call, and HE DID NOT CALL IT! Basta.

ndspinelli said...

MLB has a rule about fans throwing debris..it's called a forfeit, game over. It was invoked in recent years w/ 10 cent beer night in Cleveland, and Disco Demolition A Comiskey.

Chip S. said...

I think we should have a discussion about the claim that JFK caused the demise of the men's hat industry.

mkotjansen@gmail.com said...
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ndspinelli said...

ChipS, I went @ it w/ Meade about hats some time ago. I made a mistake, which I was man enough to admit[he and Annie never admit mistakes]. I said JFK didn't wear a hat @ his inauguration and I was wrong. My more important point was that JFK didn't wear the ubiquitous men's chapeau that my old man and virtually all men did back in the late 50's/early 60's. The hat industry died shortly after JFK did..he was a trendsetter. Meade is such an idealogue he can't admit the truth that Kennedy killed the hat industry. I wasn't glorifying Kennedy, I despise that family, I was merely stating fact. From what I remember Meade's arguement was his Republican family kept wearing hats. That was apparently his entire world. It's incredible he brought up small mistake I made some time back in this thread. Small people are like that. Thanks for the Amazon link ChipS.

Bob Ellison said...

PJ, that's a great story!

ndspinelli said...

I'm sure you're glad Bobby V got shitcanned. I'm just concerned I'll have to see his smug puss on ESPN or MLB network. Who would you like to see as skipper?

ndspinelli said...

PJ, Interesting and unique perspective. So, how would Scalia have ruled on that call?

Chip S. said...

I want the Sox to hire Ryne Sandberg, but I have no confidence that they will.

PJ said...

Scalia says that was a good call (unless the language of the rule would have meant something different to an ordinary citizen reading it at the time it was adopted than it means to us today).

Chip S. said...

The story of JFK and the Hats is a nice example of the difficulty of teasing causation out of correlation. The questions that have to be answered include: Was there a pre-existing trend? If so, did it accelerate after JFK's election? If so, was JFK's election an event that occurred independently of the trend, or was it affected by the same social changes that were driving the trend? Or both?

I actually do think it would be an interesting thing to discuss, since it has no particular political implications that I can see.

ndspinelli said...

ChipS, Sandberg ws just signed by the Phillies as 3rd base coach. Charlie Manuel is going to retire in a year and Sandberg has the job.

Chip S. said...

I know about the Phillies job, but they've also said that they would give other teams permission to interview him for a manager's position.

Now, why he'd want to take over the Sad Sox right now is a different question.

Baron Zemo said...

The Red Sox have to bring back the manager who made them who they really are.

Don Zimmer.

ndspinelli said...

Baron, If the Red Sox hire Zimmer they'll have to keep him separated from Pedro Martinz on Old Timers Day.

Laurie said...

Baseball is stupid. Slow-moving game in an overly long season - if the game were anything near exciting, except in moments or in playoffs, MLB wouldn't have needed to create this superficial 1-game play-in. I tweeted yesterday, before the game & its horrendous call that they play 162 games (or whatever it's up to now) & decide they need this one additional game to decide who's worthy of the fourth playoff spot?! Ridiculous - I grew up going to games - saw about 40-50 games in person in 1969. As an adult, I moved away to cities without MLB but still watched on TV. Then discovered college & pro football - can barely tell you names of 20 baseball "stars". IF MLB thinks this manufactured drama will get me (& many others like me) back, they are sorely mistaken.

ndspinelli said...

Thanks Laurie. You see baseball is for the more intelligent. Now, I love football, but it just helps me get in touch w/ my animal side. Baseball gets me in touch w/ my chess side.

ndspinelli said...

Baseball is much better in person. Football is the best sport for tv..hands down.

Eric Jablow said...

@ndspinelli

Gary Darling? Yale-grad? Perhaps you mean Ron Darling, once a pitcher for the New York Mets? Got himself arrested in a bar-room brawl back in 1986? Threw an 11-inning no-hitter for Yale against St. John's in a college playoff game—unfortunately, the game went 12 innings? Read The Web of the Game, by Roger Angell, for a wonderful account of that one.

Baron Zemo said...

Don't feel bad Eric.

Nd calls everybody Darling.

Ron, Gary whatever.

It's his thing.

EMD said...

anything near exciting,

Baseball isn't exciting until it is!

ndspinelli said...

Eric Jablow, You are correct, sir. There is a ML ump named Gary Darling. Since I was thinking about a blown umpire call I confused the first name. Good trivia on Ron Darling, thanks. You probably know old man Bush played first base for the Bulldogs. Boola boola

Larvell said...

There should never be a triple play, unless the batter elects not to run out the pop-up. That's why the rule doesn't apply if there's only a runner on first -- it's assumed the batter will run it out, so they couldn't get a double play by intentionally dropping it. The double play would get the two base runners, not the batter.

Which also explains why the call sucked. It was so far out that it couldn't be fielded with ordinary effort, and hence gave no opportunity to double-up both baserunners.

donald said...

I'm an umpire. That was a horrible call. I don't care what level, somebody needed to be under that ball and it should have been called at the top of its arc.

harrogate said...

"From what I remember Meade's argument was his Republican family kept wearing hats."

Yeah, that sounds about like a vintage Meade argument right there.

Leland said...

I'm late to this, but I'm glad the Professor asked. Unfortunately, she answered with the same reading I came away with. The right call was made after the umpire determined that the infielder could have made the play with ordinary effort. That's what makes it an infield fly.

People who think the call is wrong probably are confused about what is an "error" in baseball. Errors being a judgement call made by the official scorer, not the coach pissed off that his player didn't make an attempt to catch a ball.

I Callahan said...

Somebody needed to be under that ball and it should have been called at the top of its arc.

I'm getting the feeling that a lot of people here didn't see the game, or were watching another game.

If the shortstop had not walked two steps forward and deferred to the outfielder, he would have been DIRECTLY under that ball. The call was made BEFORE the shortstop moved.

The only legitimate gripe is the lateness of the call; this affected the runners. Otherwise, this is a perfectly good call made by not one, but two of the umpires.

Please, those of you that are sure the call was blown, watch it again.

harrogate said...

In addition to the lateness of the call which is a huge problem, those arguing that it was the right call because the shortstop could have caught it with ordinary effort, are reaching in a big way.

I guarantee that those defending the call (and always with the expressed assurance that they know so much about baseball) don't ever remember seeing an infield fly signal invoked by the umpire that met any of these three conditions, let alone all of them: 1)the call was that late; 2)the call was made on a ball hit that deep; 3)the call was made with two fielders moving for the ball until the last second.

Again, the Braves cannot totally blame the umpiring for losing the game. But the infield fly rule call: it is ridiculous to describe that as anything but a bad call.

Pastafarian said...

Look, this is baseball, not constitutional law.

If it were constitutional law, I'd be in complete agreement with a literal interpretation like Althouse gave. (I wish she would save a little of that strict interpretation for legal analysis.)

But this is baseball, where the strike zone doesn't really follow the letter of the rules, or balls just under the chin would be strikes and major league games would average 1.5 runs per game.

We know what a strike is because of tradition, because we've seen thousands of them and we know how far beyond the limits of the population of called strikes a given pitch might be.

And I think everyone in the world will agree: this was the deepest infield fly ball they'd ever seen, by about twenty or thirty feet.

And we have precedent in baseball for examining "the spirit of the rule", where we consider the intentions of the original framers. They intended to prevent cheap double plays through dropping easy catches and creating force outs. That could not have happened here, it was so far out that they could never have turned two. This rule was made to protect offenses, not defenses. Why should we shield defenses from repercussions from their inability to catch the ball?

harrogate said...

Wrestling with this, and trying to be open-minded about it even though I am a Braves fan, it has occurred to me simple, albeit informal test, works well here:

Imagine a call had NOT been made there. Would there have been a SINGLE person watching the game, from the wonkiest rule book person to the people at the top of the MLB hierarchy, to most casual Althousian fan to the most zealous Cardinals supporter, to the Cardinals personelle themselves, thought: 'Hey! That should have been ruled an infield fly!'

You would have been amazed to have found three people total who would have thought that. And there's a reason for that. Goddammit.

donald said...

I've seen over a thousand applications of this rule at several different levels.

I would be having a real serious talk with my partner if he called that.

crosspatch said...

"The infield fly rule is stupid. "

No it isn't.

Imagine a pop to short with runners at first and second and 1 out.

Runners can not advance because they must tag after the catch. Shortstop intentionally lets the ball hit the ground, throws to third to get the runner at second and third baseman throws to second to get the runner coming from first. Without the infield fly rule, you can turn a routine pop into a double play simply by allowing it to drop to the ground uncaught.

With the infield fly rule, the batter is out, the runners may now remain on their bases and it doesn't matter if the ball is caught or not.

Basically the infield fly rule prevents putting the runners in an impossible circumstance by intentionally allow the ball to hit the ground uncaught.

gsgodfrey said...
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gsgodfrey said...

harrogate wrote:

"I guarantee that those defending the call (and always with the expressed assurance that they know so much about baseball) don't ever remember seeing an infield fly signal invoked by the umpire that met any of these three conditions, let alone all of them: 1)the call was that late; 2)the call was made on a ball hit that deep; 3)the call was made with two fielders moving for the ball until the last second."

It happened earlier this year with no outcry. Go to the 1:30 mark

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFG1yHrehGU

This was May 16, 2012, and met all three conditions that harrogate claims no could ever remember happening. Since it's the playoffs, there are more people who don't know the game and the rules watching.

People may not like the rule, but there was nothing unprecedented about how it was applied.

Larvell said...

You know one way I know the ball couldn't have been caught with ordinary effort? Because the shortstop didn't make the catch, and there's no way they would have called it an E6 if there was no infield fly rule. Also, because at the time the ump made the call, the infielder was already moving away from the ball, recognizing that it was not his play. In that video gsgodfrey cites, they mark the spot where the ball landed, and it was behind where the shortstop gave up (even if blind Harold Reynolds thinks otherwise - he clearly has trouble with the meaning of the word "peak").

harrogate said...

Larvell, exactly.

gsgodfrey said...

There are a lot of comments from people who don't understand the game and its rules.

An error is never charged when a fly ball falls between two fielders, even if ordinary effort by either would have led to an out. The fact that the shortstop thought the left fielder called him off is irrelevant to whether the infield fly rule applies.

The example in the video that I linked is almost the same as the playoff game. The only difference is the ball wasn't caught after the umpire made the infield fly call.

Larvell and harrogate can continue to ignore the example from earlier this season, but it doesn't help their credibility about whether the rule was applied correctly on Friday.

harrogate said...

gsgodfrey

I saw the clip and see why you think Harold Reynolds has solved this issue. But, if there had been no call at all, would you say you would have perked up and been something like "whaaa? that's an infield fly, why didn't someone call that?!" Seeing as how it is so routine and all, and you are so dialed in, the only possible implication is that you and Harold Reynolds would have both reacted exactly so.

Which of course is a laughable implication. Had there been no call you, like everyone else, regardless of baseball knowledge, would have thought of many things as that ball landed between the two fielders--but the infield fly rule wouldn't have been one of them.

Harold Reynolds can assure us that play happens all the time but we only notice it in the playoffs, and that don't make it so. This was a moment where an umpire injected himself into the game. He didn't beat the Braves, but he made it a helluva lot harder for them to come back.

gsgodfrey said...

harrogate

The first thing I asked my wife when I saw it live was whether the umps called an infield fly. That's a reasonable call and not unusual.

The umpire judged that the shortstop could have caught it with "ordinary effort". That's all that matters, not whether he made the catch or not.

If instead the pop fly had fallen onto the pitcher's mound because the shortstop thought he was called off at the last second, the infield fly would still apply.

Reynolds didn't just assure the viewers it happens all the time. He showed an example from the regular season that was nearly identical (the shortstop was even drifting backwards when he made that catch). The umpire made the unremarkable call of infield fly on that one too.

You don't seem to understand the difference between could have caught it with ordinary effort and did catch it. Only the first one matters to the umpire in that situation.

If you don't like the rule, then say so. But the rule was correctly applied.

SeanF said...

Augh, I wish I had seen this post this weekend. Now here I am commenting on it, and nobody will read or respond to my comment. :)

Larvell, errors are called for physical misplay only, not mental mistakes. A fielder who bails on an easy fly ball because he thinks another fielder called him off is never charged with an error, infield fly situation or not. That's a non sequitur

Also, way up there, Bob Ellison calls the IF rule dumb and says, " If there were no IF rule, the base-runners would behave differently. Your prediction that double- and triple-plays would fall apart."

But the point is that without the IF rules, there is no possible way the base runners could behave that would avoid the double play.