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Umpires stand by Sam Holbrook’s infield-fly rule call

Oct 5, 2012, 10:05 PM EDT

Sam Holbrook AP

Surprisingly enough, Sam Holbrook did talk to the media Friday after his infield-fly rule call that caused the Braves to protest Friday night’s game against the Caridnals.

Disappointingly, he defended his call, saying he’d make it again after viewing the replay. He also said that the other five umpires on the field all agreed with the call.

Whether they agreed with the timing of Holbrook’s call might be another matter entirely. While it certainly appeared that Andrelton Simmons‘ popup was too deep into the outfield to be called an “infield fly,” that’s still a judgment call. That Holbrook called the infield fly so late, and may have distracted shortstop Pete Kozma in the process, into the play was the real problem here.

  1. ninjasports - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    NL Division Series preview ->

  2. chew1985 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    Why do so many among us, and ESPECIALLY authority figures in our society, refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes?

    That ball landed closer to the outfield wall than it did to home plate. Pure stupidity; and another embarassment for true baseball fans.

    • ezthinking - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:18 AM

      Well a true baseball fan knows the rules and plays by them. A biased prick whines about a false slight that may or may not have changed the outcome.

      If you’re the Braves, don’t throw the ball all around the field and you’re in the game.

      Try getting Chipper to actually run out the last ball he will ever hit. Watch the replay. Not only did he dog it, he was actually out. Sweet example for the young’uns.

      A fitting end to Chipper’s career; all kinds of promise – the bare minimum of follow through.

      Bye-bye Braves and bye-bye Chipper. I hope your Cooperstown speech doesn’t mention playing hard; you certainly didn’t play that way tonight. I though more of you than this.

      • Marty - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:57 AM

        After all that bandwidth, it’s ironic that you turn out to be the biased prick.

      • ezthinking - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:14 AM

        Bandwith? Use yours and find out what “irony” really means.

        and where’s the bias in observing that Chipper jogged to first after the fans were pouring their souls to him before he swung? Jog it out after that love?

        His team needed the base runner …………. and he jogged. The umps gave the bag to him, but it was truly sad to see.

      • tpogar1 - Oct 6, 2012 at 3:42 AM

        you might be the numbest motherfucker i have ever met. winners lead by example ur clearly one of the bigges Losers out there. theres a reason why 50 people think ur a douche and 7 dont. statistics say it all hot shot. if this wasn’t for the internet id have a lot more to say.

    • trollintrollintrollin - Oct 6, 2012 at 3:58 AM

  3. bringbackkosar - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    good thing MLB uses six umpires for the post-season, huh

  4. raggamffin - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:17 PM

    or learn the rules ass hats. its when the INFIELDER is about to make a catch. not when a catch is about to be made in the infield. makes no difference where the catch takes place.

    • mavajo - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:19 PM

      The point is, the rule was invented to prevent the defense from being sneaky and forcing a double play. In other words, it was created to PROTECT the team on offense. This was a misapplication of the rule. They took a rule that’s intended to protect the offense, and instead screwed them with it.

      It’d be like calling back a touchdown pass in the NFL because the defense committed pass interference. It makes no sense.

      • hardballtalkusername - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:28 PM

        Exactly mavajo, there was zero chance that they turn two on that play; therefore, the infield fly shouldn’t be called. Terrible judgment by the umpire and if the other 5 “agreed,” than why didn’t the third base ump make the call too (which is who usually makes such a call)?

      • dgrowe213 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:11 PM

        So why not set infielders in the outfield and make every pop fly an infield fly rule.

    • cur68 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      Learn some manners, first.

    • catskinnerd11r - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:05 PM

      You are an idiot

  5. Carl Hancock - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    I don’t necessarily agree with the call, but I want to point out a piece of misinformation that seems to be repeated over and over again.

    I keep seeing people mention that the ball was hit far too deep for the infield fly to be in effect…

    Sorry, but the infield fly rule has nothing to do with the ball leaving the infield or how far into the outfield the ball must travel in order for an infield fly rule to be called.

    It has to do with the infielder making a play on the ball, even if he’s at the warning track when he does so. Distance doesn’t matter. It’s his level of effort that comes into play.

    While I don’t necessarily agree that it was the right call, Kozma had no problem getting to the ball so the umpires obviously felt the level of effort necessary for the shortstop to get to the ball was out of the ordinary and therefore called the infield fly rule on the play.

    Trying to claim that the ball was hit too deep for the infield fly rule to be called simply shows your ignorance to the rules of the game you are a supposed expert of.

    • jgreiner9 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:59 PM

      3 things.

      1. the infield fly call isnt particularly made because the infielder exerts an unusual amount of effort. its a call where the pop up is usually caught routinely, so that an infielder cant let it drop for an easy double play. it protects the offense, not the defense.

      2. with that being said, yea you could be right that distance doesnt matter but unless that fielder has an absolutely cannon of an arm and can possibly make the quickest double play turn in all of baseball, its not realistically going to happen. so distance is a factor, there was no way they could possibly turn a double play on that ball dropping, and he is absolutely correct by saying its too deep.

      3. it sounds like you dont totally know have a full understanding of the roles either, so id quit claiming people ignorant if i were you.

    • shynessismyelguapo - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:11 PM

      Harold Reynolds just showed a bunch of similiar plays in which infield fly was called. Agree with it or not, it’s not unprecedented.

      • mrwillie - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:13 AM

        Except they caught it.

      • shynessismyelguapo - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:27 AM

        …but, the infield fly rule is called *before* the catch is made, that’s the point of it.

        Also, there is the argument that Kozma mistook the ump yelling it out as Holliday calling him off (which may help explain why he bizarrely peeled off at the last instant). Kozma said he thought he heard Holliday calling him off and umps vocalize their calls in addition to using signals.

        For the record, it was an *awful* call. Terrible, horrible, no good very bad call. But not totally and completely insane.

    • mattcerrone - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:38 AM

      Umm, distance from the infield does matter when making the catch. I can reliably say you will never see the infield fly rule called when a fielder settles in under a flyball on the warning track.

  6. nlfan865 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    yeah great journalism there Matt….what in the hee haw do you think the umpires are gonna say….Please….This Just In…The Cardinals lineup stand by the decision of the Umpires!!! and NFL Replacement Refs call them as they see them!!! Bottom Line this one game Playoff is the STUPIDEST IDEA IN MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY since the selection of Bud Selig as MLB commisioner!!!

    • shynessismyelguapo - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:28 AM

      The one game playoff is the worst invention of the Selig era since…well…the Wild Card itself!

      • 18thstreet - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:25 AM

        The purpose of the one-game wild card is to give an advantage to the division winners. Both Baltimore and St. Louis enter their series at a disadvantage, having started one of their best pitchers. Meanwhile, the opponents are well rested.

        I’m fine with it. It’s made winning the division a valuable prize. The crapshoot nature of the NL game, I think, is going to distract people from the purpose of the extra wild card.

        I think it’s improved the regular season — not because more teams have a shot in October (that’s a downside for me, but a plus for the people selling tickets), but because the best teams can’t start coasting too early.

  7. vincentbojackson - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    Holbrook compounds his mis-application of the rule by not admitting his mistake. Just when I thought my opinion of him couldn’t get any lower.

    Not a fan of either team, but I feel cheated out what could have been a classic game if they just let the players decide it.

  8. mrwillie - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    Of course he did. What’s his alternative? To say he is incapable of doing his job at a time when his job is of the utmost importance because it is a ridiculous one game playoff?

  9. kellyb9 - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    I understand the spirit of the infield fly rule, but I feel as though the fielder should still be compelled to actually *make the catch*. If they don’t, the runners should advance…. takes all the ambiguity out of it.

  10. linedrivehit - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    Yeah… and the NFL “confirmed” that Seattle DID score a touchdown and Green Bay did NOT intercept the ball. /roll eyes.

  11. Stiller43 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:01 PM

    This guys clearly a clown. Im an impartial bystander, and that was a terrible call. 50 feet into the outield and the infielder is rushing and fumbling to get to the ball – NOT an infield fly

  12. hisandherpes - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    A little dose of reality for the people (person) defending the call. If the rule was designed to prevent a bush league double play, and the umpire properly applied the rule, then why did Ross and Uggla literally walk to second and third when the ball hit the ground? Has anyone ever seen a ball that landed halfway between the infield dirt and the warning track called an infield fly? That said, Chipper emptied his own locker in the 4th. Holbrook simply made an interesting game unwatchable.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:37 PM

      I am not real sure what this means but I think could be a profound statement…
      “Chipper emptied his own locker in the 4th.”

  13. smftrdr - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Holbrook called it at the peek of flight while Kozma was under it. Unconventional? Yes. Wrong? No. Check your rule book before you go up in arms.

    • jdd428 - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      Check the replay again. The ball had long passed its peak when Holbrook made the call. His arm went up immediately before Kozma peeled off, less than a second before the ball hit the ground. It was no more than 25 feet in the air when the call was made and that’s not anywhere close to its peak.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:27 AM

        Kozma was still moving — albeit slowly — at the moment it was called. That’s what ticks me off. Well, it’s on the list.

    • halfthemoney - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      I Would call this the correct execution in the wrong situation. And maybe the rule book should be updated to address post season addition of outfield umpires, specifically that an infield umpire makes the call. That would alleviate all the issues with the depth of the SS.

  14. hungryjack1 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    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, 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.

    I believe the rule does state clearly the infield, thus the infield fly rule

  15. hisandherpes - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    The ball was on the way down when Holbrook’s arm went up. Koumas was never under it. Stunning that anyone, even a Cards fan would try to spin this blatantly, historically terrible call. Stuck with the ” one call doesn’t make a game, the Braves (literally) threw this one away line.

  16. weaselpuppy - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    The call was when the ball was on it’s way down, no chance it was at it’s PEAK…the 3b umpire didn’t make the call til after he did….either can make that call….that’s why I think the call itself is in question…even if not, the call was VERY late.

  17. DailySpew - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    The only relevant detail about the distance of the ball is the angle the shortstop takes to get it. He goes hard over his right shoulder on the dead run, and the reason this is not an infield fly rule is because at no time is he camped under the ball, ever. His feet are never set, his body is never square. He is in constant motion tracking a ball he’s not under and ultimately drops.

    I have zero preference for who won this game, but this is clearly not an infield fly, especially given that the call is supposed to be made quickly, preferably when the ball is at its apex. That’s because that’s enough time for an infielder to make an intentional drop and enough time for fielders to be alerted. This ball was in the air for 6 seconds, Holbrook makes the call after 5.5. It’s a huge error; just have the guts to admit it for once.

  18. stlouis1baseball - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    It matters not. This call (albeit incredibly horrible)…did NOT cost the Braves the game.
    Hell…the 2 run dinger by Ross in the 2nd was bogus. The ball was literally almost out of Lohse’s hands when the dude calls for time. It was so late…dude swung at strike three (and the 3rd out). Take away those 2 runs and the Braves score ONE RUN. The Cardinals played a clean game.
    The Braves didn’t play a clean game. If the Cardinals don’t put the ball in play, if they they don’t get runners on base and apply that pressure…the Braves don’t boot those balls or otherwise throw them away.

    • kellyb9 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:51 PM

      … says the guy with the username StLouis1Baseball.

      • thefalcon123 - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:31 AM

        …who also happens to be right.

        The score was still 6-3. What changed:

        No call: 6-3, 1 out, bases loaded
        With Call: 6-3, 2 outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd.

        The first option is much better, but they odds for the Braves was still pretty long.

      • nps6724 - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:37 AM

        The run expectancy (’93-’10) for bases loaded, 1 out: 1.631
        The run expectancy (’93-’10) for 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs: 0.626

        That’s a pretty big difference.

      • thefalcon123 - Oct 6, 2012 at 10:00 AM

        So, there is a good chance the Braves would have scored some runs and still been losing? That’s what you’re saying. *The Braves odds are winning were still pretty long!*

        Using Hardballtimes Win Probability calculator, that call changed the odds of the Braves winning from 18% to 6%. Those are still really, really, long odds.

  19. drewnichols81 - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    3 errors, 12 men LOB. huh wonder why they lost, huh what? you say they still had a chance to tie the game after the iffy call. wow they really got screwed by other forces beyond their control

  20. thraiderskin - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    It was a hack call, but in the end, that one call isn’t what cost the Braves the game. It did however play a large role. That rule is definitely up there for the worst in all of sports, right behind the tuck rule.

  21. normcash - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    1. The call was probably wrong…but it wasn’t a blatant miscall—his judgment was that the shortstop
    could have caught the ball. Personally, I think more than ordinary effort was required. I backked up
    my DVR and counted about 14-15 running steps that the shortstop took. Seems to me that’s more than “ordinary effort”, but reasonable minds may disagree.

    2. He did make a late call, but that had no bearing on anything—both runners moved up.

    3. Atlanta didn’t lose because of this call—even if he doesn’t make it, MAYBE they get one more run
    the way the next ABs panned out.

    4. Atlanta lost because of poor fielding.

    • nps6724 - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:43 AM

      You can’t assume the following PAs would go the same way, especially in this case where there was a huge delay and a pitching change (due to the delay). But even if it unfolded as it did, McCann’s walk would’ve plated and run and Prado would’ve had the chance to hit with the bases loaded.

      The Braves stunk, but that call killed pretty much any chance of a comeback barring a miracle.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 6, 2012 at 9:20 AM

      I don’t think it helped having a stop of play due to a fan riot, either.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:29 AM

        Sure, but does anyone believe that fans in any city would behave differently? If you think so (and I’m not talking to you, Koufax), you’ve deluding yourself.

        Fans are assholes.

    • jdd428 - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      Even after the call, the Braves had a chance. Motte comes in and shows no control; he walks McCann and went 3-1 on Bourn.

      So what does Bourn do? Instead of taking the fifth pitch and forcing Motte to put the next one in the zone or walk in a run, the SPEEDSTER (Lou Brown: “Every time you hit one in the air you owe me 20 push-ups.”) tries to swing for the fences to give Atlanta the lead. Of course he misses and then strikes out to end the threat.

      TAKE THE PITCH. Sure, maybe it’s a called strike and maybe the Braves still get nothing. But all the pressure is on Motte there. If you get the call and draw the walk, momentum is solidly in the Braves’ favor with the lead down to two runs and the bases still loaded.

  22. hardjudge - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    One thing is apparent, baseball needs to do away with umpires in the outfield. The last couple of seasons the outfield umpires have made some horrific calls. Lets help the umps out and decide how far out an infield fly should be and put a line on the field. In the same vein help eliminate balks by putting the 45 degree line on the field. And in a closing comment I hope Josh Hamilton enjoys his new team whoever it may be.

  23. ericellers - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    Omg, what a blunder! Now I know the braves scuttled their own ship but as that inning was going it looked like momentum actually would have shifted making it entirely a different ball game?

    If I were to make a blunder like that at my job I’d be collecting unemployment, their union is so strong these turd heads can get away with it and practically never have to answer for their epic failures( joe west) they circle the wagons and wait for us to move on to other things? Funking sad really.

    • nbjays - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:23 AM

      Of course… because Chipper, Simmons and Uggla didn’t butcher their jobs or have epic failures tonight? SMH

      The Braves fielding was horribad all game… 3 unnecessary errors and only a good play by Freeman prevented Uggla from airmailing another throw to first.

      One bad call by the umps was only ONE of many people blundering at their jobs in this game.

      You are right about one thing… it IS sad. And if you want to bitch about unions, nothing is worse than the players union.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        “Nothing is worse than the players union.”

        Well, that and human trafficking. I’m sorry — did I go off topic? That was rude of me.

  24. nofunleague - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    Carl Hancock explains the rule perfectly and 36 morons give him a thumbs down. Learn the rules morons. You 36 were probably the first to bitch at the Replacement refs. for not knowing the rules.

  25. gugurich - Oct 6, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    Since umpires have little experience working that deep along the outfield line, I think he may have lost track of where he was and made the call like he was near third base. Unless he truly believes he didn’t screwup, he’s gutless for doubling down on his mistake.

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