It didn’t take long for the new playoff rules to spark controversy. Instead of the old way where the team that has the best record aside from the division winners plays in the Division Series, there is a one-game playoff, I guess between the next two best? I haven’t really explored it since the Yankees won the AL East and all is right with my world. One of these games was between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. I personally wanted the Braves to lose, I always want the Braves to lose (spits on the ground, pays a fine).
In the 8th inning the Cards were up by 3, the Braves had runners on 1st and 2nd, the Braves shortstop hit a pop-up to left field. The ball dropped between the Cardinals shortstop and the outfielder, bases loaded for the Braves – except – the umpire ruled Simmons out, citing the infield fly rule. As I understand it, the infield fly rule was instituted to protect the runners, players would let the ball drop then pick it up and get 2 force outs instead of just one out from catching the ball. Here’s rule, copied from SI.com
“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[emphasis added], 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 [emphasis added] 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’m certainly not a baseball guru, or even a baseball geek, but from my reading of the rule and the play, it seems to me the rule was misapplied, the runners didn’t benefit and the reason the ball was not caught was apparently there was a misunderstanding between the two players as to whose ball it was. There is no way of knowing if this affected the outcome of the game, the Cardinals were up by three and would probably have won anyway. All this has really done is just create controversy and shown how classy Braves fans really are.
They threw trash on the field. Cups, bottles, pizza boxes, basically anything they could get their hands on. The umpires congregated in the middle of the field, out of reach and the players hid in their respective dugouts. The Braves manager said he was “a little disappointed” with the fans who threw things on the field. Did the fans not realize the problems that could cause for their own team? The grounds crew came out and cleaned up the field. The Braves went on to lose the game and Chipper Jones said good-bye.
Now I’ll bid you adieu, and just say, “Stay classy Atlanta” 😛