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Major League Baseball abandons the strict interpretation of the transfer rule

Apr 25, 2014, 12:06 PM EST

Transfer rule

Baseball’s new interpretation of the transfer rule — aggressively calling no-catches and no-putouts when a fielder drops the ball transferring it from his glove to his throwing hand — has caused no small amount of controversy. Plays that used to be considered catches or putouts aren’t anymore and people have gotten cranky about it.

Be cranky no more, folks: Major League Baseball has announced that, starting tonight, umpires will revert to the old, common-sense approach of determining whether a catch is a catch as opposed to the strict interpretation they’ve been employing. Now, as it always used to be, a catch, a force out or a tag will be considered legal if a fielder has control of the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after opening his glove to transfer the ball to his throwing hard. Under the new interpretation at the start of the season, players had to actually get the ball to the throwing hand. Here’s how Major League Baseball is defining the rule per its press release:

The Committee has determined that a legal catch has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, “Catch”), or a valid force out or tag has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, “Tag”), if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand.  There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it be ruled a catch.  If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer.  The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer.

The impulse for the now-defunct strict interpretation was an innocent one — we have replay now, and if you are going to review a handful of plays where the transfer rule comes into play, you have to have a bright line standard — but implementation was a problem. Kudos to Major League Baseball for doing something it hasn’t always done: admitting to a problem and fixing it on the fly, rather than waiting for the next offseason.

  1. kaspauf - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Winner winner chicken dinner!

  2. themuddychicken - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Can’t believe they fixed something this fast.

  3. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Just goes to show just HOW unpopular this change was. MLB literally changed the rules in the middle of the season. What was an error yesterday is an our today.

    Not complaining in the slightest, the rule was stupid and needed to be fixed, just marveling in the rare occasion.

  4. temporarilyexiled - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Good.

    And it’d be nice if they’d at least consider ways to get rid of the neighborhood play at second base that don’t injure middle infielders (if any such ways exist). Making the double play a bit less common would be a good thing. A small nod to keeping innings going in this new, pitcher-friendly world.

    On another subject, my fondness for bad puns, should we be upset at a pitcher for being too obvious in his display of pitch?

    • anxovies - Apr 25, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      Baseball has been played under written rules and on-the-field unwritten rules such as the neighborhood play for over a century. Both are equally valid. the written rules set a framework for the game and the unwritten conventions dictate how the game is played from a practical and common-sense view. The neighborhood play avoids dangerous collisions and preserves the double play. The limits are understood by the players and umpires and are rarely abused. The use of pine tar on cold nights is tolerated in consideration of the safety of the batters and to avoid long innings where there is a parade of walked batters. High def TV and instant replay have exposed the unwritten conventions to fans who were not previously aware of them. I think we should do what generations of players, umps, sportswriters and knowledgeable baseball fans have done, accept them as practical solutions and move on. That’s probably too much to hope for.

      • temporarilyexiled - Apr 25, 2014 at 7:02 PM

        Have to disagree, at least in principal. Maybe there’s no other way to protect middle infielders. But if it’s at least possible to consider no more neighborhood play, please explain how the double play is something we’re supposed to preserve. Sure, it’s cool. But isn’t it only cool if two outs are actually earned on the same play rather than a phony representation? And now that pitchers are dominant, isn’t this (rather than certain foreign substances in, and not just on players) a good way to balance things out? As for technology shining a light on things, we’re all dealing with it now, whether we like it or not. There will continue to be changes. The short, infamous life of the change in the interpretation of the transfer rule shows us that really bad changes won’t last. And never making any changes is also bad. Just because baseball has been around for a couple of centuries doesn’t mean the rules of the game should be frozen in time.

  5. serbingood - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    And now Oakland must be thinking that MLB will be able to make a decision on their moving! After all the critical transfer rule has finally been addressed and replay is up and running and PED is no longer haunting MLB. Now it’s Oakland’s turn for a decision, right?

    • mpzz - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      The answer is Portland.

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        I thought the answer was 42?

      • Steve A - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        The city that lost a AAA team for an MLS team…

      • clydeserra - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        no.

      • bravojawja - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        And that MLS team regularly sells out its stadium and is hugely popular in that town. Sounds like they made the right choice.

  6. miguelcairo - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    Awesome move by MLB.

  7. adventuresinfresno - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Ok, what happens to all those game changing plays when the bizarre overinterpretation was in place? I can think of 3 for the A’s alone.

    This idea was poorly thought out to begin with and in place for long enough to affect games which may have an impact at the end of the year.

    • crackersnap - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      And the Red Sox. And the Angels. It is what it is. Send Selig an email on it.

  8. dracko19 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    Now, if only the NFL could use the “common sense” application to the Calvin Johnson rule, the world could once again be in harmony. It’s nice to dream.

  9. moogro - Apr 25, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    Replay IS the bright line standard. Making the fielders slow the action down by showing a complete transfer to the other hand is superfluous and non-nonsensical. There should be an explanation as to how two or more thinking people discussed this and then what happened was allowed to happen.

  10. unclemosesgreen - Apr 25, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    Great – about time.

    Now, as to pine tar, blah blah blah blah maybe next year

  11. officialgame - Apr 26, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    The rule is a joke and embarrassment to MLB. A little league game has more contact and if baseball isn’t carefully they continue to lose more young fans.

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