Top MLB officials are continuing to discuss how to clarify the newly controversial transfer rule interpretation.
Which is to say, most likely and hopefully, they are going to blow it up.
An otherwise decent start to the MLB replay system has been hijacked at the moment by seemingly endless discussion about the new strict (read as stupid) interpretation of the previously ignored transfer rule.
It used to be that a catch was a catch.
Now somehow, someone in baseball has decided that a catch is only a catch if the ball never hits the ground, whether that be five steps or five seconds after the catch. It makes no sense, and it's threatened to make a mockery of the seemingly simple understanding that a catch is a catch.
So it's a nothing but a plus that Rules Committee bigwigs, umps and other baseball authorities are working on a means to define the transfer rule whereby it's understood by all. Which means they'll very likely go back to the way it was, or close to the way it was.
Because as things stand, no one gets it.
They are all now said to be at the drawing board to work on a “clear definition” of what constitutes a catch, a drop and a transfer. The transfer controversy is being referred to at 245 Park Ave. as an “unintended consequence.” And also, an unfortunate one.
The new replay system is actually off to a reasonable beginning, save for the occasional example of a few extra seconds here or there, and maybe a miss or two in the interpretation of the home-plate collision, plus of course all this transfer nonsense.
Transfer controversies have become commonplace on both the infield and outfield, but in a competition for which drop calls have been more ridiculous, most agree the ones in the outfield generally are the winners. One particularly egregious drop call saw Indians outfielder Elliot Johnson catch a ball hit over his head take a few steps, hit the right-field wall, bounce off said wall, take another step or two, then drop the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand. Somehow, that was ruled a non-catch on the field, and through replay, too.
Indians manager Terry Francona took the funny call in good humor, suggesting with a smirk he thought Johnson was being called for “traveling.” But others, understandably, haven't found the silly calls anything close to humorous.
I'm not sure who or why they decided that fielders now have to hold onto the ball forever for the catch to count, but folks in the game are starting to realize this makes no sense. And guess what, the written rule never said the ball can never hit the ground, anyway.
My best guess is that someone decided they wanted to take the judgment part out of catches, to remove the gray area and just make it black and white. So in other words, make it that if the ball hits the turf, whether it be two seconds after the catch is made or many more seconds, it is no longer a catch.
Fortunately, almost all players, managers, coaches, writers and fans who have been watching and/or playing baseball for years realized this make no sense. So MLB is determined to right this wrong going forward. It's been a blip on an otherwise nice start to the season, so there's no reason to continue on this course and have it spoil anything significant.
The likelihood is that the umpires will return to the previous interpretation of the rule, or something close to that.
And henceforth, a catch will once again be a catch.