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When is a catch not a catch? When it’s dropped on the transfer

Apr 9, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

Major league umpires have changed the way the “transfer rule” is interpreted this season. We’ve seen it a few times already so far, but the upshot is that even if you catch a ball and have it in your glove for a long time, if you drop it when trying to transfer it to your throwing hand, you aren’t credited with the catch.

No, I am not exaggerating. Because this play happened in today’s Indians-Padres game, and even after Indians manager Terry Francona challenged it, it was upheld as a no-catch:

That seems rather silly to me. Elliot Johnson clearly had the ball for several steps after his catch. He could have run the ball in from right field personally while not taking it out of his glove and it never would have hit the ground. Only after trying to transfer it did it come loose. Why this is not a catch is utterly baffling to me.

This is not the first time this new interpretation has come into play — Josh Hamilton was a victim of it recently was well — but it’s certainly a perplexing one.

  1. blabidibla - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    That was a catch. This is bullpucky. He had it for a two seconds then went to transfer the ball.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      New rules state the player must retain possession in his bare hand, and may not involuntary drop the ball. Technically this was a correct call. It’s a stupid rule, but it is the rule MLB has decided they want.

      • blabidibla - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:26 PM

        I understand the rule, but I agree it’s not well thought out. Still bullpucky.

      • moogro - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:09 PM

        Wow, you just made that up. It’s a catch.

        MLB network just did a great recap with Ripken where they’ve blown this rule 4 times already this year.

        The actual rule:

        A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. It is not a catch if a fielder touches a fly ball which then hits a member of the offensive team or an umpire and then is caught by another defensive player. “”If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught.”” In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.

        After the ball disappears into the glove, is caught, and the glove closes, it is a voluntary and intentional act when the fielder opens the glove and transfer it into the throwing hand.

      • sabatimus - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:04 PM

        moogro, according to MLB Network, the verbiage of the rule you posted has been changed. I wish I could find the right link to show you.

      • sabatimus - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:09 PM

        Ok here it is, from :

        Rule 2.00 [Catch] provides that, “In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught.”

        It’s somewhat unclear if this is an actual change in the rule or a change in interpretation. Either way, it sucks.

      • moogro - Apr 10, 2014 at 5:49 AM

        Oh wow, thanks for the correction. A rule change (clarification) on April 9, 2014. Wow. A catch is not a catch unless it is caught successfully a second time by the fielder’s throwing hand. A hypothetical would be to juggle the ball into the infield from the outfield with one glove hand and throwing at any base you want to to take advantage of whatever the runners are doing. Either way, this is not baseball as it’s ever been played before. Between this and the silly replay challenge crap (I think it’s intentionally bad to ban replay), the video replay umpires still missing calls that we can all see, baseball is floundering right now. It’s too bad/ The games are great.

      • moogro - Apr 10, 2014 at 5:51 AM

        Sorry, you’re right. The rule changed in the off-season. Wow.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 10, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        It’s ok, I didn’t know myself until this article was posted and I was forced to perform some research. This “little” change is actually a major change and was not well reported or emphasized at all. MLB is the ones dropping the ball on this one.

  2. largebill - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    The replay crap is a mess. First you have the manager challenge silliness and now this BS. The entire justification for replay is it is imperative to get every call right. However, getting every call right is no longer important if a manager was over ruled on a previous replay request that game. Now, suddenly a catch is no longer a catch. Looks like, just as in football, replay will actually lead to worse officiating.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      The issue has nothing to do with replay. The rule was quietly changed in the off-season. The umpires have been calling this correctly according to the letter of the rule. See my comment below for additional information.

  3. mkd - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    The Hamilton thing was ridiculous and I say that as a Mariners fan. When McClendon came out to challenge it was so obviously a waste of time…I can’t believe he’s just going to throw away his challenge on this totally clear cut…what the hell? they overturned it??? Hooray for the Ms, but yikes for logic.

  4. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    By the new letter of the rule, the umpires were correct in this case.

    Click the link for a very in-depth discussion. Apparently this has already come up 4 or 5 times this season. The upshot is that if the player drops the ball involuntary at all, it’s considered a non drop. This applies to turning a double play at second as well.

    “The release must be voluntary. Additionally, this interpretation has been merged with a tag of a base as well on the front end of a double play attempt. He must secure the ball in his throwing hand before it will be deemed secure possession was made.”

  5. holleywood9 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    Sellig needs to step in and fix this before the managers go crazy. I woulda been tossed immediately

  6. jbriggs81 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    Something similar happened in the Red Sox and Rangers game the other night at second base. The call on the field was that the runner was safe as the ball was never “caught,” despite it being quite clear that the ball was dropped on the transfer. The call was upheld on replay.

    It’s frustrating enough to have a bad call made against you, but it’s gotta be even worse when they get it wrong on replay!

    • Francisco (FC) - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:44 PM

      Sadly they got it right. MLB CHANGED THE RULES! Now, you need to have the ball in your throwing hand before it’s declared “caught”.

      • sportsfan18 - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:23 PM

        uh, for HOW long? If an outfielder catches the ball one handed (with his glove hand) and it’s the 3rd out and he’s jogging in from the warning track and THEN voluntarily takes the ball out of his glove with his throwing hand and DROPS it…

        HOW is what I typed different than what happened in the game? Just a matter of time. At SOME point, it becomes a catch.

        How about all the double plays we see where either the 2nd baseman flips it to the SS or vice-versa and they catch the ball and touch 2nd base so the runner is out but the DROP the ball trying to get it out with their hand to throw to first?

        I know, I know this is not a batted ball into the air. But common sense dictates that the ump calls the runner out at 2nd base if the infielder had the ball and ONLY dropped it AFTER touching the base when he went to grab the ball with his throwing hand and dropped it.

        What about an infielder throwing the ball to the first baseman to get the runner out and he catches it and then sees the runner on 3rd breaking for home plate. The first baseman hurries to get the ball out of his glove to try and throw the runner out at the plate and drops the ball.

        according to this fly ball rule, the runner would be SAFE at first base because he did NOT catch the ball.

        What’s my point? There is NO consistency by MLB when it comes to CATCHING the ball.

        A fly ball NEEDS to be caught to be an out.

        A thrown ball to the first baseman NEEDS to be caught to be an out (before the runner gets there of course).

        A thrown ball to 2nd or 3rd base on a force out NEEDS to be caught for it to be an out.

        A catch is a catch is a catch. So an infielder may drop the throw AFTER CATCHING it and the runner is out.

        An outfielder CANNOT drop the fly ball AFTER CATCHING it when he is getting the ball out to throw it.

        There is a lack of common sense about all of this.

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 10, 2014 at 8:47 AM

        Don’t shoot the messenger. I find it as ridiculous as everyone else. But it’s MLBs fault not the Umpires.

  7. blabidibla - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    Kills the rare, but spectacular play when a SS snags a hard line drive and then tries to glove flip it to the 2B in an attempt to double off the runner on second without a transition to the throwing hand. Technically a non-catch.

    • sandwiches4ever - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      Well, if the second baseman caught it on the fly off of the flip, that would actually be a catch.

      • blabidibla - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        True, Just occurred to me as well. It would be scored as if the SS never touched the ball.

      • dan1111 - Apr 9, 2014 at 5:11 PM

        However, it may decrease the likelihood that they try this play. Because now they have to give up a safe out for the chance of a double play.

      • - Apr 9, 2014 at 6:06 PM

        It would still be scored 6-4. Just like when a ball glances off the pitcher’s glove and a fielder makes the play.

  8. ch0psuey - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Padre fan and have to agree that was a catch, was expecting it to be overturned on replay. Denorfia needed just a little more Oppo-power to get that one out tho.

  9. Kevin Gillman - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    It’s the dumbest rule I had seen to be honest, and I believe it will be changed after this season. However, it didn’t hurt the Indians, thank goodness. The runner tagged up, went to third on the out, I mean play. Trevor Bauer only gave up 1 run, and Denorfia didn’t score, who hit the ball. So the run was going to score from third anyway, no harm, no foul.

    • blabidibla - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:37 PM

      Ummm, no. Denorfria would have been the second out. As Cabrera scored on a ground out, end of inning with no score. – that is if you assume nothing changes on the subsequent at bat.

      • Kevin Gillman - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:44 PM

        How is that possible when Denorfia was the second batter? Check the lineup, 2nd and 3rd, 0 outs.

      • blabidibla - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:47 PM

        UGGH, I’m all over the bad observations today. My mistake.

      • Kevin Gillman - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        Okay I checked just to make sure, and Denorfia was indeed hitting second. So he and Cabrera were on base. Smith, the third hitter had a ground ball, drove in a run, but was retired. Alfonso struck out, that would have been the third out, but it doesn’t matter because Chase Headley hit a ground ball to Swish to end the inning. Minimizing the damage.

      • Kevin Gillman - Apr 9, 2014 at 5:03 PM

        No problem

  10. stlouis1baseball - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    I had no idea this rule was changed. Turrible…turrible…turrible.

  11. glennsyank13 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    I don’t know whats so new about this rule. Transfer completing the catch has been the case for a long time in MLB. That said, I can’t wait till a fielder catches the ball and runs in and drops the ball on the mound straight from his glove.

  12. sfm073 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Baseball is turning into football. Ridiculous time wasted on challenges and new rules and rul changes added each year.

    • kardshark1 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:50 PM

      Actually, time is being saved. Instead of coaches hobbling out to the field to argue for 3 minutes, they just challenge instead of grand standing.

      And even if no plays are overturned all year, it’s nice to know that a bad call in game 7 of the World Series can be corrected.

  13. jcmeyer10 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Craig just glossing over the Braves burned an American flag today.

  14. kardshark1 - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Maybe I’m some super genius or something, but just like in football, I can tell within 4 seconds of watching replays what actually happened – as can about 98.5% of the population. Yet somehow that 1.5% that can’t always ends up being the ones determining the outcome. The HR by Donaldson last year in Oakland that was ruled not a HR by the crew chief comes to mind. You could ask 1 million people if that was a HR or not and 999,999 of them would say it was after watching the replay for 3 seconds. That one that wouldn’t, the umpire. I don’t get it.

  15. adventuresinfresno - Apr 9, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    They got Josh Donaldson on it a few days ago too.

  16. kalinedrive - Apr 9, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    This is the kind of thing that makes me scream obscenities. And then people say I have an anger problem. No, you have a rationality problem. If you weren’t so bleeping stupid, I wouldn’t be angry. Hey, I didn’t invent the phrase “kill the umpire!”

  17. stupidusername - Apr 9, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    All that time spent talking about “banning” home plate collisions, which in the end looks like nothing was changed, how was this not mentioned? How was this rule passed? They must have said ‘you know what, the NFL makes money and their rules about what is or isn’t a catch is weird and controversial, let’s mimic them.’

  18. crackersnap - Apr 9, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    Bases loaded, hit and run, soft liner to SS. SS gloves the ball on the fly, tags a runner off base with his glove, and then goes to throw to first to double off another runner for a triple play. In the process of transferring the ball to his throwing hand he drops the ball. How many outs? None?

    • moogro - Apr 10, 2014 at 6:05 AM

      Nice. Stupid rules are guaranteed to lead to stupid problems later. They institute replay, which is prefect to see catches, and then abdicate, by making a rule where the ball transfer seals the deal. Weird.

  19. steelhammer92 - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    The MLB is trying to emulate the NFL.. The NFL still doesn’t know what a catch is either.

    • sabatimus - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      Exactly: It’s MLB’s version of the Calvin Johnson Rule.

  20. seanwasamarine - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    Who the hell is in the replay booths? Angel Hernandez and CB Bucknor?

  21. westerly75 - Apr 9, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    this happened to Tigers (vs Baltimore) too.
    mngr brad ausmus even consulted with joe torre afterwards

    this seems to be a pretty significant change in the rulebook. it’s very odd how the change is catching so many by surprise.
    …and was there really a problem that needed to be fixed?

  22. stoicpaisano - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    This clown needs to learn how to bunt. Better yet, Francona can make the right move and PH Morgan to bunt as he should’ve done today. Hopefully this situation is alleviated when Bourn comes back, but they wasted a very encouraging Trevor Bauer start. Johnson needs to GTFO to Columbus.

    • Kevin Gillman - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:58 PM

      Yeah, that changed the course of the game more IMO than the immacable “catch”, at least with a runner in scoring position, you never knew what could have happened.

  23. sabatimus - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    MLB Network put up the text of the rule. It appears to be a combination of the Calvin Johnson rule and the (Tom Brady) Tuck Rule. In other words, get rid of it.

  24. hateonlyhatred - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    So now MLB is following in the steps on the NFL by making it difficult to tell what a catch is. That’s just great. This is just a stupid rule. It makes zero sense. A catch is a catch and there is no need to make it convoluted.

  25. billsfanaddict - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    not like this, not like this… the lawyering of interpretation has gone too far the day that this is not a catch.

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