The infield fly rule

Oh God, the infield fly rule! It took me a while to learn this one, and I imagine that this morning, the Braves fans wish it never existed. And by the way, it does look like a bad call:

A week and a half after a blown call by replacement referees on “Monday Night Football” sparked a national outcry, baseball’s umpires ignited similar outrage Friday with a controversial call that marred the St. Louis Cardinals’ 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the National League wild-card game at Atlanta.

Trailing, 6-3, with runners on first and second in the eighth inning, the Braves appeared to catch a break when an Andrelton Simmons fly ball to short left field dropped between Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday after a mix-up over who had it.

A crowd of 52,631 roared, assuming the bases would be loaded with one out and Brian McCann, a .339 hitter with nine grand slams in 109 at-bats with the bases loaded, on deck.

But just before the ball dropped, left-field umpire Sam Holbrook signaled an automatic out because of the infield fly rule, which is designed to prevent a team from intentionally dropping a popup in order to get extra outs with more than one runner on base.

Atlanta Manager Fredi Gonzalez argued vehemently, claiming the ball fell a good 50 feet beyond the infield and could not have been caught “by an infielder with an ordinary effort,” which the rule requires.

Fans littered the field with hundreds of plastic bottles and other garbage, causing a 19-minute delay, during which Gonzalez filed an official protest that was later denied. Infield-fly rulings are not reviewable by instant replay.

4 thoughts on “The infield fly rule

  1. Being as I’m a baseball fan (I wanted to pitch for the Yankees when I was a kid), I watched the game – first horrified at Chipper’s monumental error, then horrified at the kid who didn’t run to first properly, and then horrified at that call. I still don’t understand it. The purpose of the infield fly rule, as I’m sure you know, is to prevent the defense from purposely dropping the ball in order to get a double play. These guys didn’t do that. They couldn’t catch the ball. Also, the call was so late as to penalize the runners anyway. And “infield?” I think not.

    I don’t know. There sure have been a whole lot of errors lately, starting with the Oakland/Texas last game. And Josh Hamilton appears to have some sort of vision problem.

    Oh well. The Braves made so many errors. They really weren’t up to the job. But still … from my perspective, a bad call. The game should have been replayed. Because that call could surely have affected the outcome of the game. That would have been a blast – and fair.

    Onward today to the crazy A’s and Posey.

  2. The rule *explicitly* states that there aren’t any distance limitations, the only issue is whether an *infielder* could catch the ball by ordinary effort. Since the Cards SS was standing underneath the ball with plenty of time to catch it, that qualifies. He missed the ball because he thought the OF called him off it (possibly mistaking the umpire’s call for the OF’s, per USA Today). But not because it was a particularly difficult play.

    On the complaint that the umpire’s call was too slow and confused the baserunners…the runners DID move up a base, so that’s immaterial.

    I’ve read umpiring books that discuss this, it’s pretty much a textbook call.

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