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.