Catch/transfer rule a big problem early in replay situations
Through the growing pains of expanded replay in the first few weeks of the season, the biggest problem in terms of the rules themselves comes on the catch/transfer rule -- especially in the outfield.
With the expansion of instant replay, there were bound to be some issues in the early going. That's part of the process of changing something, as common sense dictates. Many of the issues will sort themselves out over the course of the season. I'm very confident in this. One thing in which I'm not confident is the problems posed with MLB's interpretation of what constitutes a catch.
For example, Rangers manager Ron Washington was ejected after replay overturned the initial ruling here.
That's right, that is somehow not a catch by J.P. Arencibia. To me, it looks like Arencibia clearly had secured possession and control of the baseball in his glove and only dropped it once it got to his barehand.
"We've got to do something about it," Washington told reporters (yahoo.com). "I understand the rule and I understand their interpretation of it. I just don’t agree with it."
Here's MLB's statement on the rule, which they needed to clarify last week on a transfer play:
“Umpires and/or replay officials must consider whether the fielder had secured possession of the ball but dropped it during the act of the catch. An example of a catch that would not count is if a fielder loses possession of the ball during the transfer before the ball was secured by his throwing hand.”
And this is where Washington and I (and many others, I'm sure) don't like it. "The act of the catch," in my opinion, was completed once Arencibia caught the ball in his glove. Throw in that second sentence, however, and all of a sudden the umpires did correctly apply the rule in this case. They didn't do anything wrong. They are doing what they're told to do.
Some situations are much worse, though, especially in the outfield. Check this out:
Nope, not a catch. Dustin Ackley secured the ball in his glove -- remember, we can't say he caught it -- slid for a few feet and then dropped it when he went to go make a throw. Even the opponents were confused.
“I’ve been playing baseball for over 20 years now. If a ball goes in a glove, it’s always been a catch to me.”
And now, for the most egregious example to date:
Yes, that is somehow not a catch by Elliot Johnson. This one is absurd. I count at least three steps before Johnson hits the wall, holds onto the ball and turns around before then dropping it from this throwing hand.
Again, an opposing player agreed.
“I would assume they’re probably going to revise the rule,” Padres right fielder Will Venable said (bleacherreport.com). “Because if you’re telling me you catch a ball and you run six steps, and then before you get your footing and make the throw the ball slips out of your hand, if you’re telling me that’s not a catch ... ”
That's the problem. That's how it is being called. Seemingly an outfielder could secure a ball in his glove and run all the way into the infield before dropping the ball when he goes to take it out of his glove with his bare hand and the batter would be ruled safe. Let's think about how insane that sounds and then realize that is how it's being called right now.
To compound matters, the baserunners are left in no man's land while waiting to see when the outfielder is going to try and make the transfer.
It wouldn't be too difficult to make the rule discretionary. Just say the player attempting to make a catch has to have secured the baseball within his glove in order for it to be a catch. Reasonable people can see a catch and realize if the ball has been secured. Some can argue the discretionary calls at times but they already do that with the strike zone. I'd much rather it be open-ended than have plays like the Johnson one above be ruled as doubles.
Let's hope MLB takes a look at this sooner rather than later. It makes sense to have to complete the transfer at second base on a double-play situation and makes at least a small amount of sense in the Arencibia play (I guess). In the outfield, though, it's an embarrassment.
Please fix this, Major League Baseball.