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The Trickle - Batter's out

October 8, 2012 - Brian Ferry
The infield fly rule is a brilliant, and necessary, piece of baseball regulation. It was first proposed in 1895. I hear players played dirty back then. Probably would today, if they were allowed. 'Dirty' may not be the right word. 'Smart' might be better. (There's little chance of today's major leaguers playing smart, if you asked me.) The rule is not needed to keep players safe. It's intended to keep players honest. The heart of the rule is, in a play that should result in an easy fly-out in the infield, a fielder can't drop the ball intentionally get more than one out (the player can drop the ball, but it's still ruled as a fly-out, preventing the other base runners from having to try to advance). It only applies with runners on first and second, or first, second, and third, with less than two outs. Without the rule, an alert infielder could, probably with help from teammates, decide whether or not to catch the ball. If the runners were standing on the bases, the third-baseman could drop the pop-up, pick it up, step on third and throw to second for a double-play. If the runners did not hold position, the fielder could catch the ball and throw it to the appropriate base, again for a double-play. Triple-plays would work the same way, but with more time restraints. The umpire has to make the call as soon as the proper circumstance exists. That's kinda fuzzy. If an infielder's "normal effort" allows him/her to make a catch 200 feet from home plate on a particular fly ball, technically, the ball is an infield fly. In the case of a 2012 Braves-Cardinals Wildcard game, an outfield ump made an infield-fly-rule call in a crucial situation. The shortstop's strides took him fairly easily to where the ball would land in left field. The umpire made a late, but appropriate, IFR call. The shortstop them ducked out of the way as if he thought the left-fielder was going to make the catch. The ball landed, the runners advanced. But, with the IFR call, instead of bases-loaded with one out, there were runners on second and third with two outs. That's a big difference, especially in the eighth inning of a one-game playoff when the score is 6-3 in favor of the team in the field. Was there a chance the fielder could have let the ball land, pick it up, get it to third and subsequently to second in time for a double-play? Maybe, but I doubt it. Was it an appropriate call? Yes. Was it a good call? Probably not. What a wonderful game baseball is. Do you pick up that bunt rolling down the line and hope you can get the runner? Which runner? Or do you let it roll, hoping it will go foul and the next pitch won't end up with something worse? Do you catch that deep foul ball knowing that the runner will tag up and score or do you let it fall and give up an easy out to keep the runners where they are? Does your right-hander walk the lefty to get to the right-handed power hitter? Do you walk the best hitter in the world with the bases loaded and a two-run lead? Does the best hitter in the world ever sacrifice bunt? Do you have your number three hitter sacrifice bunt? Do you try to plate the runner from second on a weak single to left with one out?


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