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Erick Aybar and the Angels denied a double play thanks to a heads-up call by the ump

Jun 14, 2012, 1:30 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Los Angeles Dodgers Getty Images

Uncommon play in Los Angeles last night.

In the sixth inning, with a runner on first and one out, Andre Ethier hit a line drive to Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. Aybar dropped the ball, but had the presence of mind to pick it up, step on second base and throw it to first for the double play.  Or so he wanted everyone to believe.

Second-base umpire Sam Holbrook ruled that Aybar intentionally dropped the ball in order to start the double play. He called Ethier out but baserunner Juan Rivera back to first base.  It got a little dicey after that as C.J. Wilson walked the next two batters, but then James Loney flied out to end the inning.

This, by the way, is not the infield fly rule. That doesn’t apply simply when a runner is at first, there has to be runners at first and second or the bases have to be loaded. Rather, this is Rule 6.05 which defines when a batter is out. Specifically, subsection (l) says a batter is out when…

An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases.

Good call by Holbrook. I can’t remember this happening very often, and I’d be skeptical if it does, in fact, come up very often. Given all the flak we give umpires these days, it’s probably worth remembering from time to time that they have a LOT of things to think about in a game.

  1. DJ MC - Jun 14, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    This is definitely a time to give credit where it is due.

    Great call.

  2. theawesomersfranchise - Jun 14, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I figured the uncommon part was going to be that an ump made a great call.

  3. azzuri4 - Jun 14, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Is Erik Aybar related to Erick Aybar?

    • vallewho - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      and Gial Ackbar ?

      • ptfu - Jun 14, 2012 at 5:05 PM

        IT’S A TRAP!

  4. deathmonkey41 - Jun 14, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    But the call of whether or not the fielder intentionally dropped the ball is discretionary though, right? I’m sure Joe West would have gotten it wrong and then hah his chin/gullet wobble around as he argued with the manager.

    • Jeff J. Snider - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      Joe West was actually umpiring first base and was involved in the argument with Scioscia, but yeah, it’s hard to know if he would have made the same call.

      The funny part is that if Aybar had just caught the ball, he would have had the double play anyway, because Rivera was halfway to second base. I think that was the crux of Scioscia’s argument — “Hey, we were going to have a double play either way!” — but the umpires correctly ruled that regardless of anything else, the ball was dead the minute Aybar intentionally dropped it. Scioscia looked upset in the dugout, but it looked to me like he was more annoyed by the situation than mad at the umps for blowing a call.

  5. drewsylvania - Jun 14, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Good work Holbrook.

  6. Gonzo - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Chase Utley used to pull this prank all the time. And always got caught.

    RIP Chutley.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      Well, to be fair, he spent most of his time practicing how to drop his elbow to be hit by a pitch than working on perfecting the dropped doubleplay ball.

    • seanmk - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM

      i was going to say utley used to try and pull that off but the umps always just called the hitter out

  7. Jeff J. Snider - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Holbrook actually made another tough-but-accurate call an inning or two later when Juan Uribe made a lousy throw that Jarry Hairston had to lunge to catch. Holbrook correctly ruled that Hairston’s foot was still on the bag when he caught the ball. It was a VERY tough call to make in real-time, but slow-mo replays showed that he was correct.

  8. hisgirlgotburrelled - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Calling someone out at first when you watch the replay and the runner was out by inches is a good call… But this is just knowing the rule book and applying it correctly. I’ve seen this happen i think twice, both by SS “dropping” hump-back liners, easy enough to drop and pick up. I’m going to guess this was the case in the Aybar play?

  9. scatterbrian - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    I’ve seen Aybar try this play at least two times before and both were reversed. First time he tried to fight it, second time he hid a smirk afterwards.

  10. 32bigg - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Yes, good call, well done.

    But it’s his job to make the calls right. Giving him a pat on the back for performing nothing more than his basic duty is like buying a guy a beer for paying his child support.

    The standard should be higher.

    • 32bigg - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      LMAO! Lots of thumbs down. You kids have low standards, I hope you don’t manage other people.

      • ptfu - Jun 14, 2012 at 5:10 PM

        Actually, modern management theory suggests public praise for difficult or critical performance even if it’s just part of the job. I hope YOU don’t manage other people.

    • Cris E - Jun 14, 2012 at 4:41 PM

      He gets paid to be right like fielders get paid to catch the ball. But some plays are harder than others and most people clap when they see a tough play made. This was not a gimme and he did well. Lighten up.

  11. mdpickles - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    The umpires have been taking a beating on ESPN this week, good to see them get some credit.

  12. stabonerichard - Jun 14, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Yeah, this is an interesting rule that is meant to protect the baserunner(s) from conniving infielders.

    But the discretionary aspect of this rule only applies if the ball makes contact with the fielder. With a runner on 1B, if the batter hits a little pop up on the infield (a bunt being a common example), an infielder can deke the runner by being in position to catch the pop up (which keeps the runner close to 1B to avoid being doubled up) but letting the ball fall to the ground, scooping it up throw to 2B for the force, and on to 1B for the double play if the batter didn’t hustle down the line upon seeing the pop up.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      Was just going to ask about this, as I specifically remember Carlos Delgado doing it once. You could clear see him check the batter to realize the batter wasn’t running, let it drop in front of him and start the double play.

    • dmccloskey10 - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:27 PM

      Correct, but the fielder is only going to do this on a popup, so if the batter is running, he most likely won’t get doubled up. If there is more than one runner forced, the play will be subject to the infield fly rule.

      • stabonerichard - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        Yep, as long as the batter runs on contact the deke doesn’t really work. But of course guys often do not hustle out of the box, especially on a ball hit/bunted in the air on the infield, so that’s where things can get interesting.

        If I recall correctly, Luis Castillo used to be especially aware of this type of scenario. Even on big league pop ups, while tracking the ball he’d also keep an eye on the batter, and if he wasn’t running (and there was a guy on 1B) I’m pretty sure there was at least one instance where he let the ball drop so he could start the DP.

      • ptfu - Jun 14, 2012 at 5:17 PM

        Sometimes a fielder will want to do this even if the batter is hustling. If you have a lumbering batter and a speedy baserunner, then dropping the ball means you are effectively substituting the slow baserunner for the fast one. I can’t imagine this comes up all that much but it’s there if a fielder needs it.

  13. jimatkins - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    I just hope Holbrook doesn’t get tainted by being on the same crew as Joe West. Nice to hear about a smart call once in a while.

  14. stabonerichard - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Yep, very similar to Aybar’s shenanigans last night, but MLB has to draw the line somewhere in terms of how/where discretion fits in the rulebook. So if an infielder doesn’t make contact with the ball prior to it hitting the ground, nothing can be assumed.

    Sorta like how a double-play is never be assumed… so even if a middle infielder makes a piss-poor throw to 1B that prevents the backend of a DP from being completed, it won’t be scored as an error (unless the poor throw allowed the batter to advance an additional base).

  15. LairBee - Jun 14, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    When are we going to see umpires rule that a batter didn’t make any effort to avoid being hit by a pitch? That’s in the books but it never (or very rarely) called.

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