Baseball Should Encourage Creative Thinking, Abolish Infield Fly Rule

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Baseball Should Encourage Creative Thinking, Abolish Infield Fly Rule

"Game Seven, folks, bottom of the ninth.  Couldn't have a better script for our Armed Forces Radio.  Cubs up 4-3, but the Rays got the bases loaded, nobody out!  I can't hear myself think in this dome.  Maybe I ain't thinking.  Aybar leads off third, Zobrist at second, Riggans on first.

"Wood on the mound for the Cubs now, Gross batting for the Rays.  First pitch to Gross.  He swings.  Pops it  up in the infield, near the mound maybe, Wood may take it, maybe Theriot.  All runners edging off.  Aybar breaks late for home!  CUBS LET IT DROP!

"Theriot scoops, throws home!   OUT!  Solo throws to third!  OUT!  Ramirez to second!  OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT!  TRIPLE PLAY!  CUBS WIN!  CUBS WIN!  They gambled and won!  Rays weren't ready for the drop play!"

"What?", you say.  "That can't happen."  But such exciting plays indeed could and would happen, if baseball had not diluted itself back in 1895 with its infamous Infield Fly Rule. 

This is a recommendation that the Infield Fly Rule (IFR) be repealed and annihilated, canceled and terminated.  Such decisive action would instill new dimensions of strategy and tactics into the game of baseball.

If the game situation imagined above were to occur this season, a routine infield fly with none out and the bases full, there would be no excitement whatsoever.  Invoking the IFR, at least one of the umpires would lift an arm and shout something similar to: "Batter out if ball is fair."  Each base-runner would loiter at his respective base.  The batter would not bother to run toward first base.  The ball would probably be caught by an infielder, but even that minimal action wouldn't be necessary.  Certainly no fast thinking would be required of anyone.  It would be just another sleepy baseball moment.

Why not require infielders and runners alike to enter into a game of wits as an infield fly is in the air?  Permit the infielders to let the ball drop to the ground and try to force base-runners.  Allow runners to engage in their own gamesmanship, feinting or actually running to the next base, confusing the infielders.  Challenge managers and coaches to conceive strategic moves for all such situations, and to convince their players to recognize those situations and implement the proper tactics.

If we are to continue to protect base-runners with the Infield Fly Rule, perhaps we should protect them even further by prohibiting the ground-ball double play or triple play.  A "Ground Ball Rule" (GBR) might permit only one force-out to occur on any batted ground ball.  Why should all those poor base-runners be made vulnerable by the batter's weakness?

Both the facetious GBR and the all-too-real IFR are strikingly similar to government protection of monopolies under communist or socialist governments.  But athletes are natural competitors, entrepreneurs if you will, and they thrive on challenges and opportunities, just as do free citizens in a free-market capitalist society.

With no Infield Fly Rule,in that bases-loaded, none-out situation, tying run on third, an infield fly perhaps should trigger runners to break immediately from second and third, while the runner at first stays put.  If the breaking runners can reach home plate and third base quickly enough, the best the defense can get by letting the fly ball drop is a double play, and the tying run would stand.  Of course, if the infielders perceive in time what the base-runners are doing, they can catch the fly ball instead, and end the inning by retiring the breaking runners also.  Fast thinking and immediate reaction by all would be essential (something like football).

Perhaps in 1895 baseball was played by dullards for whom spontaneous analysis would have been a difficult task.  Such is not the case today.  Baseball is played by multi-millionaire businessmen, by university students, and by bright young Little Leaguers.  They don't need the Infield Fly Rule.  Neither does the game itself.

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