Infield Fly Rule: Controversial Ruling Slows MLB Postseason Momentum

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 6, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 05:  Bottles and cups are seen on the field after they were thrown by fans after the home fans disagree with an infield fly ruling on a ball hit by Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves in the eighth inning while taking on the St. Louis Cardinals during the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Momentum generated by a thrilling finish to the MLB regular season was halted in the very first playoff game by the controversial "Infield Fly Rule" call in the do-or-die wildcard matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves.

First of all, check out the blasphemous call for yourself.

Andrelton Simmons should have loaded the bases to key the eighth-inning, one-out rally at home for the Braves, but umpire Sam Holbrook had other ideas.

A ball that landed between Cards shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday should have counted as a classic bloop single. Instead, it cost Atlanta a chance at extending its season, and the career of future Hall of Fame inductee Chipper Jones.

There is a rather extensive list of problems with this public relations nightmare for the game of baseball.

The sport is already losing its traction as "America's pastime." It may be safer to play than American football, but it is akin to watching paint dry by comparison, especially in its failure to tailor the game to the contemporary time period.

Modern technology has done wonders for the world, yet baseball lives in a dark age of bang-bang judgment calls that don't warrant a review. Thankfully, according to a July report by ESPN New York contributor Ian Begley, commissioner Bud Selig wants to expand instant replay.

Whether it would have had any bearing on this outcome is slightly unclear, but to not utilize all the resources baseball has at its disposal—and all the money flowing through the game—to not do everything possible to ensure a quality product and make every call as accurate as possible is ridiculous.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but if Holbrook had a chance to look at the instant replay in real-time of his judgment call, would he possibly justify what he saw the first time around?

He clearly misjudged the depth of the pop-up by Simmons, as the ball traveled far beyond the infield.

According to the rule itself, the "ordinary effort" made by an infielder to catch the ball is covered by the rule. Here is what's wrong with that: the infielder was well into the outfield, and delegated the responsibility of the catch to Holliday, who Kozma believed had a better beat on it.

If it's up to the umpire's "judgment call," why is the player's judgment not taken into consideration? Kozma made the judgment that he couldn't catch it and Holliday could. Again, the infielder believed an outfielder can make the catch more easily.

How in the world is that an "ordinary effort" sort of play for the infielder to make?

Bad calls happen in sports. It's inevitable, but this was not even close. No wonder Atlanta fans threw debris on the field when they realized the call actually wouldn't be reversed.

The American League pennant race and East division made the end of the season more interesting than most in recent memory, but the debacle at Turner Field on Friday night thwarted that positive momentum. It sucked the excitement out of the fresh, new wildcard format.

Unfortunately, the genius format change to the playoffs will be overshadowed by one bad call, and baseball has the power to improve accuracy in such circumstances in the future.