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Isn’t this why we have an infield-fly rule?

Jul 24, 2013, 8:01 PM EDT

Ernesto Frieri

With the Twins down 1-0 to the Angels, runners on first and second and none out in the ninth today, Justin Morneau hit a little popup to the right of the mound. Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, employing some quick thinking, let the ball drop and turned it into a 1-3-6-3 double play. He followed that up with a walk before striking out Chris Herrmann to end the game.

Which is all well and good for the Angels. But why do we have an infield-fly rule if not for this exact situation?

Here’s a link to the video.

Obviously, the umpire’s argument here would be that the ball wasn’t up in the air for long and that Frieri wasn’t camped under it. Which is true. It also doesn’t matter:

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.

All the infield fly rule needs to be brought into effect is for a fielder to be able to catch the ball with ordinary effort. That certainly applies here. Frieri had the ball in his sights the whole way and made the decision to let it drop.

The whole spirit of the infield fly rule is to prevent exactly what happened in the ninth inning today. Ted Barrett’s crew blew it by not making the call and possibly cost the Twins the game.

  1. edelmanfanclub - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Wow.

  2. missthemexpos - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    With all the bad calls made this season, lets at the very least hope for no pay raises next season for any of these umpires and maybe some back to school time to refresh their baseball rules IQ.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:13 PM

      Wait till you see the double play that Laz Diaz just called to end the Pitt-Wash game. It’s unclear if he called the runner out for leaving the base path, which might be legit, but if he saw a tag, the camera needs a new lens.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:26 AM

        I saw it. I saw in real time no tag was made. I too thought it was for out of the baseline (which he probably was, but you never see it called in that spot), but after the game it was clear the ump said it was a tag. Which it was not. Not even close

  3. jayscarpa - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    How can umpires not know the infield fly rule? What a shame.

    • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:38 PM

      I think maybe it wasn’t called because the ball didn’t go up that high…which isn’t in the rules and therefore should not apply to the play. But umps can be dumb like that.

  4. fearlessleader - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Thank you!!! I watched this as it happened and couldn’t believe my eyes; nor could I believe how mildly Ron Gardenhire reacted to it, considering that it cost his team a decent chance at tying the score or taking the lead against Frieri, who hasn’t done much else right the last two days.

    I suppose the universe is all balanced now after the NL Wild Card game, though (sorry Craig….).

  5. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    Wait a second, isn’t there also a rule that a player can’t let the ball drop like that to “trick” the players? Pretty sure we discussed that last time an infield fly rule issue was brought up.

    • Brian Murphy - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      Fairly sure there is no rule for this trickery. I’ve wanted to see more infield popups dropped with the infield-fly rule in play. When the ball hits the ground, the runners can try to advance at their own risk but don’t have to. See if the players know the rules. If it’s a harmless, lazy popup, what’s the worst that could happen?

      • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM

        In 299 out of 300 times this were to happen, the umps would call the infield fly rule and the ball would be dead and the hitter out. I’ve seen players do precisely what you describe, and they don’t fool the ump…except apparently this time.

      • Glenn - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:50 PM

        There is umpire discretion any of these plays. An infielder would never be allowed to let a soft liner drop and then turn a double play.

      • rcdck - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:59 PM

        Sabatimus, the ball is still live if the infield fly rule is invoked: “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.”

      • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 11:35 PM

        My bad on the dead ball.

  6. rbj1 - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    If only someone had compiled all the baseball rules on paper and then assembled all those papers together in one thing that I shall make up a word for and call it a book. Or a rule book if you will, something that umpires could carry with them and consult if they are not 100% sure on a rule.

    • Francisco (FC) - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:46 PM

      They’re too busy consulting the unwritten rules to bother with the written ones.

      • km9000 - Jul 24, 2013 at 11:17 PM

        Are there are even any unwritten rules that even the best umpires would need to bother to know?

      • Kevin S. - Jul 25, 2013 at 7:08 AM

        The neighborhood play?

  7. bendover09 - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    When you get into family run businesses this is the outcome you receive. Instead of picking the right man for the job they decide to pick their knucklehead cousins/sons for the job. In my opinion, ump/ref/official all professional sports work under, Vegas.

  8. ramrene - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    The umpires called the play correctly.

    The rule is to prevent the defense from gaining an unfair advantage over the offense. If the offensive team is doing everything it is supposed to be doing by letting the ball fall the defensive team can still double up two runners by letting the ball drop.

    In this case, the offensive team wasn’t doing everything it was supposed to, mainly Morneu was half assing it jogging to first base. If Morneu is running full out, as he’s supposed to, he’ll beat the play at first and at best the Angels get one runner out.

    During a true infield fly situation, the fielder is under the ball and with ordinary effort can catch it. Because the ball is hit reasonably close to the infield at least two runners, assuming they’re doing their jobs correctly, will be taking very small leads, so when the ball falls the fielder will have ample time to double up two runners not including the batter-runner.

    This was just a case of the Angels taking advantage of an opportunity afforded them due to Morneau’s lack of hustle. No more, no less.

    Understanding of the rule, it’s intent, and application is a good first place to start.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:47 PM

      The 1-5-4 DP was in order as well, just because the pitcher decided to make a play to first and Morneau dogged it a bit doesn’t make this not an infield fly.

    • notsofast10 - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      WRONG WRONG WRONG!! You neither watched the play or read the article. It was a 1-3-6-3 double play meaning that Morneau was the first out recorded as Frieri picked up the ball and immediately threw him out at first. It wasn’t Morneau’s “lack of hustle” that afforded them the play.

      Very cocky statement for being DEAD wrong!!!!!!!

    • flamethrower101 - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      And what if Morneau was running at full strength and Frieri caught it mid-air? He gets doubled off at first anyway? Lose-Lose.

      • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 11:37 PM

        Maybe true, but irrelevant to the OP.

    • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:43 PM

      What crap. The pitcher blatantly decided to let it drop, and it wasn’t a line drive or a bunt.

      “Understanding of the rule, it’s intent, and application is a good first place to start.”

      Yes, it’s definitely a good place for you to start.

  9. friarbifur - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Perhaps the author and all of you “disliking” ramrene’s comment should consult with some umpires about the intent and application of the infield fly rule. That ball was not a fly ball for the purposes of the rule, and no decent umpire at any level of baseball would even consider calling infield fly there – and no coach who actually understands the rule would expect it.

    • tjwilliams - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      Perhaps you should actually read the rule book. A “fly ball” is defined as “a batted ball that goes high in the air in flight.” The only other option here is a line drive, which is “a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to a fielder without touching the ground.” It wasn’t a line drive, and without any other types of hits, that means it must be a fly ball, since it went “high in the air in flight.”

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 25, 2013 at 8:08 AM

        The infield fly rule will also be called on hard hit line drives as well. Just last week Utley caught one around his calf area and dropped it on purpose to try for the DP. The infield fly rule was invoked right away and the batter was called out, there was no double play. I laughed as Chase tried to trade an error for an out. I almost wanted to pinch his cheeks, aww how cute…

      • gahfwehfweh - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        Jonny 5, while I didn’t see the play you’re referring to, it sounds as though the applicable rule is actually the Intentional Drop Rule, or 6.05 (l), which says that 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.” The definition of an Infield Fly specifically excludes line drives.

  10. holleywood9 - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    If a line drive is deliberately dropped the batter is out and runners return. That is essentially the infield fly rule! Sooo…. Counterpoint.

  11. ramrene - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    Let me go back to the beginning because too much confusion is reigning.

    The intent of the rule is to protect one team from having an unfair advantage over the other.

    The infield fly rule protects the offensive team when a given situation arises where if all base runners are doing exactly what they’re supposed to the defensive team still benefits unfairly.

    During an infield fly situation i.e. runners on first and second or bases loaded a fielder who is UNDER THE BALL and with ORDINARY effort can catch the ball the umpire will call and signal infield fly rule indicating the batter is out. All baserunners may advance at their own liability.

    If there was no Infield Fly Rule in that given situation runners would typically take a step or two or even three off the base unsure of the fielder’s intention of either catching the ball or letting it fall. If the fielder chooses to catch the ball the runners would hurry back to their bases but if there was no rule to protect the offensive team fielders would let balls fall all the time then start double plays because the runner’s leads would not be far enough to allow them to advance to the next base before being thrown out due to the batter becoming a runner hence the need for protection.

    In the Angel game the fielder (in this case the pitcher) was not under the ball hence the first requirement for application of the rule nor did the batter do what he was supposed to which was hustle to beat out the play.

    There is a certain amount of judgement that the umpires have to apply on this type of call. In my opinion the umpires called the play correctly. It was just a very smart play by the pitcher but could have gone in a different direction. If the pitcher lets the ball drop and it takes a weird bounce he may not have gotten anyone out and the outcome and of course follow up discussion would have gone in an entirely different direction.

    In this case, the pitcher took a risk and it paid off for him due to Morneau’s lack of effort.

    This most certainly was not a situation for the Infield Fly Rule to be applied.

    • wlschneider09 - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      Very good, you’ve used many more words to reduce confusion. That always works.

      And you’re still wrong.

    • bkunza - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:54 PM

      Wow It’s not that hard, just read the rule. It doesn’t say you need to be underneath it. Here is the rule:
      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.

      Little leaguers everywhere are confused by the ruling of the umpire. He clearly let it drop to turn the double play. Just about any Little leaguer could have easily caught that ball let alone a major league pitcher. Lack of hustle had nothing to do with it. You need to watch more baseball, I’ve been a coach for 27 years.

    • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:46 PM

      “Under the ball” is not in the rules. Why are you still trying to prove yourself right when you’re actually digging a further hole with inaccurate information?

    • schroedee - Jul 24, 2013 at 11:45 PM

      NO NO NO NO……. The call was Blown! The reason you get an unfair advantage, by letting the ball drop, is because of one simple answer… You can not advance from 1st base or 2nd effectively…No running will get any lead if a easy lite pop up occurs, they have to return to the bag in order to advance, or get thrown out not returning in time (to get that lead). The Defense could throw to 3rd then to 2nd… and leave first for last… as a force… If the runners were stealing I doubt very much the pitcher wouldn’t have caught the ball… Thus the runners would have returned and the man at first would have been out… The play didn’t go that way because they went to first then tagged but would have been much dirtier going to third then second, and if Morneau was really dogging it a triple play… This is why it should have been Called immediately so the runner have no decision on to weather to sacrifice advancing or returning to base… The argument that it wasn’t high enough is stupid. Stupid because the speed and angle at which it was heading toward the pitcher is what matters… What you have them do sprint to 3rd and 2nd… They catch it EASY triple play……

    • notsofast10 - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:31 AM

      “Morneau’s lack of effort”

      Who the hell are you to wrongly call out a player for “lack of effort” when you don’t even understand a basic rule of baseball???????

      You probably think it was Mauer’s fault for being so selfish and going back home instead of playing with the team! Heck I am sure his wife could have handled the birth of his twins on her own…right?

    • buddaley - Jul 25, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      Please look at Schroedee’s rebuttal carefully. If the infield fly is not called, it does give the defense an unfair advantage because it sets up a simple 1-5-4 DP. The fact the pitcher did not take that option was his mistake, but once that ball was popped up that option was the problem the rule is meant to avoid.

      If the rule applied when there was only a runner on 1B-which it does not-then your point about hustling to 1B would apply. In fact, the rule has virtually nothing to do with the batter’s effort. It has to do with making it impossible for the 2 or 3 runners on base to make a reasonable decision about running. Morneau’s effort is irrelevant-except of course if it had resulted in a triple play, which has nothing to do with the rule anyway,

      Think, what could the runners have done? That ball was obviously easy to catch, even for a non-professional. If they ran as if it were a ground ball, they would be doubled up. If they did not run (with no infield fly call), and he let it drop, they would be doubled up. Only if the call is made, can they decide whether or not it made sense to run or not. Thus the risk becomes the defense’s choice since they have an out in their pocket but if they risk dropping the ball, it might get away from them and allow the runners to advance.

  12. Joe - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    This is the opposite of the IFR that was called in the Cards/Nats game in the playoffs last year, when the Cards’ SS busted his ass out to (not-so-)short left field and failed to make the catch, but the umps called the IFR regardless.

    That was a terrible call, because in that instance there was no way in hell the Cardinals would have turned the double play even if a Molina was running. But the umps called the batter out. If THAT’s in infield fly, then this sure as heck was.

    • brentsalish - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:56 PM

      Joe, that call was absolutely right in the Cards game. While you’re right about the original intent behind the rule, the rule as written says nothing about intent. An infielder could have caught that fair ball with ordinary effort, and the shortstop was in fact camping under it when he got spooked by something, thinking he was being called off. (It was probably the ump yelling “Infield fly,” which with all the crowd noise might have been hard to distinguish from “Mine, mine!”)

    • hollywooddawg - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      It was the Atlanta-St Louis game….

  13. brentsalish - Jul 24, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    As a Little League umpire, I’d say that this play could have been called either way. It’s not a line drive, but it’s barely a fly ball either. Players and announcers sometimes call this a humpback liner. It looks like the first base umpire starts to raise his hand to call an infield fly, then decides against it. (Once he makes the verbal call, there’s no going back, so he presumably said nothing.) The home plate umpire has a bit of trouble picking up the ball, not surprising on a broken bat looper, but any umpire can call an infield fly. It’s instructive that none of them did, suggesting there was nothing obvious about this play. Personally, I probably would have called it, but if I were a base ump I might have glanced at the plate ump to gauge his reaction first. The runner on first made the mistake. If he simply returns to the bag, the only out they get is either the batter (at first) or the 1B runner (forced at second), but they can’t get both.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      Wouldn’t they tag the runner forced to advance to 2nd and then step on 1st to retire the batter?

  14. lewjast - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    As I have always understood it, when men are on first and second and the batter pops up a batted ball in the infield the batter is out, and the runners do not advance…what were the umps thinking…let alone the broadcasters who should know the rule as well…BAD CALL!!!

    • sabatimus - Jul 24, 2013 at 10:47 PM

      Given people like Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver, Joe Buck etc, I don’t expect broadcasters to know the rules.

  15. artisan3m - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    The infield fly rule is left to the discretion of the officials to call it ~ but there is nothing that prevents runners from trying to advance. The batter is automatically out when the rule is invoked but runners may attempt to advance and do so at their own risk ~ by rule. That’s what’s “in the book” but I didn’t see the play in question so I will not voice an opinion on either the officiating or players that got picked off.

    • artisan3m - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:25 AM

      I have subsequently seen the play and in my unsolicited opinion, the officiating crew flatly blew it by not immediately invoking the infield fly rule. This play resulted in a fly ball by any measure, it could be caught with ordinary effort, and should have been immediately called by the umpires. Any infield umpire can make the call ~ it is not reserved for the plate umpire. By calling it, the base runners would have reacted differently. By not calling it, their attempt to advance was the direct result of officiating error. I’ve never called MLB but 16 years of officiating college ball (same rules) gives a bit of insight.

  16. jamesup - Jul 25, 2013 at 2:50 AM

    The umpires simply made the wrong call. That happens every once in a while and so is not cause for great excitement. The infield fly rule should have been called as soon as the ball was popped up close to infielders who could easily make a catch. James

  17. bravojawja - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    If Frieri were as smart as the announcers wouldn’t shut up about, he would have thrown to third to get the lead runner. A 1-5-4 double play would’ve been the smartest play.

    Actually, the umps calling the infield fly would have been the smartest play, but I guess none of these guys were on the field for last year’s NL Wild Card game to know better.

  18. kalinedrive - Jul 25, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    You can argue all you want about whether the infield fly rule should have been called (and it should have) but the pitcher throwing to first base was the stupidest thing about the play. Now you’ve got a rundown to get the second out, and guys throwing the ball back and forth (because apparently nobody but catchers learn to run at the runner instead of throwing it past him when he’s still halfway down the line) and any number of mistakes could happen. Getting a force out is always preferable to chasing and tagging a runner.

  19. mattvandy - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Abolish the rule! The infield fly rule needs to go away. It’s contrived, it’s hard to understand, it’s not an instinct reflex by players or umpires. Plus, why is there protection for a batter popping up. Popping up is bad, why are the consequences for a pop up to the pitcher automatically less than a ground ball to the pitcher. Let Frieri and others take the risk and let it drop, and let’s see what happens. If everyone hustles it should get interesting. Just get rid of it.

    • rmcd13 - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Tax laws are contrived and hard to understand, so let’s just eliminate all taxes too!

      • mattvandy - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        Agreed, let’s eliminate tax laws and implement the Fair Tax. What’s your hang-up with the infield fly rule? It’s just weird and usually causes more harm then good. Why are you opposed to punishing popups?

  20. jrickbray - Jul 27, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    As an Atlanta Braves fan, I learned last year that the infield fly rule actually takes place in the outfield when the infielder runs to a spot in the outfield, then immediately stops and runs back towards the infield all the time never showing that he even knows where the ball is……

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