The St. Louis Cardinals were beating the Atlanta Braves fair and square in the National League wild-card game on Friday until the bottom of the eighth inning.
Then the game erupted into chaos.
The infield fly rule is, by design, supposed to keep things in order.
MLB's official language on the infield fly rule: twitter.com/BleacherReport…— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 6, 2012
This keeps infielders from purposefully letting the ball fall close to the bag, then quickly doubling up runners. It's actually meant to help base runners.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Braves were losing, 6-3, with one out and runners on first and second base. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a pop fly to shallow left field. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma went out for the catch, but right before the ball got to him he bailed, supposedly because he thought left fielder Matt Holliday called him off.
Now, there are two trains of thought on this play.
The umpires were correct if you take everything literally.
As Jayson Stark of ESPN noted:
Rule says rule IF fly rule applies to ball that "could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder." Doesn't matter if it lands on OF grass— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 5, 2012
In that case, the infield fly rule could conceivably be called if an infielder misses a catchable ball on the warning track. The umpires were within the parameters of the rulebook on Friday.
Of course, that defeats the whole purpose of what the rule was designed for.
How does that help base runners?
It doesn't, and it's no wonder controversy erupted after Friday's ruling. Just imagine if an umpire called the infield fly rule out in deep center field.
It's easy to blame the umpires in Friday's game (which is understandable because they had the authority to overrule the infield fly rule in this case), but what this really shows us is that the actual language of the rule needs to be changed.
Perhaps the Braves wouldn't have come back on Friday against the Cardinals if that rule wasn't put into effect, anyway (they would have had the bases loaded with one out), but if a rule's language actually allows room for its purpose to be erased, then what good is it?
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