2011 World Series: Did Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre Hit Foul Balls?

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2011 World Series: Did Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre Hit Foul Balls?
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There were two plays in last night's games that worked for the Cardinals. The first, and far more critical is the Lance Berkman hit that drove in two runs. The second, while not as immediately impacting, was the ball that appeared to foul off Adrian Beltre's toe. Both calls went in favor of the Cardinals and have some Rangers fans up in arms. 

Here is the most literal game of fair or foul that you'll ever see. 

The Lance Berkman hit has gotten more attention from the Rangers fans than from the national media. Berkman hit the ball sharply, and it bounced up off the line. A puff of chalk dust is clearly visible on the bounce of the ball, leading Rangers' fans to feel that it should have been called a foul. 

However, this is in large part a misunderstanding of what constitutes a foul ball. According to the official Major League rule, a foul ball is defined as such: 

A FOUL BALL is a batted ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that bounds past first or third base on or over foul territory, or that first falls on foul territory beyond first or third base, or that, while on or over foul territory, touches the person of an umpire or player, or any object foreign to the natural ground.

Based on the rule, there are certain things that will make a ball foul: First, a ball that settles on foul territory between home and first base. While the ball did hit between home and first, it did not settle there. The second is a ball that "bounds past first, on or over foul territory." This ball did neither of those things. Third, if it touches "any object foreign to the natural ground" which the ball clearly did not. 

 

The definition of a fair ball is:

A FAIR BALL is a batted ball that settles on fair ground between home and first base, or between home and third base, or that is on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base, or that touches first, second or third base, or that first falls on fair territory on or beyond first base or third base, or that, while on or over fair territory touches the person of an umpire or player, or that, while over fair territory, passes out of the playing field in flight.

The relevant portion here is "on or over fair territory when bounding to the outfield past first or third base," which Berkman's ball was. 

The misconception is that any ball that hits foul territory at any time is considered foul. This is not true. Just as a fair ball can roll foul between home plate and the corner bases, it can also roll fair. The operative word here is settle versus bounding. 

The ball struck the foul line but it did not settle in foul territory in bounded into fair territory, beyond first base, and by rule is therefore a fair ball. This was the correct call.

On the other hand the call against Beltre was clearly a foul ball as, by rule, it struck a player. That should have been called a foul. 

Now, ironically this argument actually alludes to the other argument. There was no question whatsoever as to whether the ball hit out of bounds with Beltre, it obviously did. However the ball did bound into the field of play, which is why it was called fair. 

The reason that Beltre was arguing that it struck his toe is that that is what made it a foul ball. If the ball had not struck his toe, but hit the ground in foul territory, and then bounced in to fair territory, the correct call would be a fair ball. 

That's why what Beltre and Washington were arguing was that the ball hit Beltre. That's why the heat sensor cam was seeing whether it hit Beltre. That's why that's what all the conversation was about. There was no dispute or question as to whether the ball was in play. In fact, if the ball had been in fair play when it struck Beltre, Beltre would by rule have been called out for runner's interference. 

The call was incorrect in that the ball did strike Beltre, not because it hit in foul territory. 

However, while this was a wrong call, it should be noted that this was not nearly as pivotal a play. Berkman's hit (and it was a hit) resulted in two runs scoring. Beltre's call was relatively minor as it would have been the difference between an out and a strike. 

Combine this with the fact that Motte has been nearly perfect in the postseason, giving up just one hit in nine innings worth of work and no runs. That comes out to an opponent batting average of .036.  

Additionally his last two innings in the regular season were perfect as well. Considering that he got Nelson Cruz to ground out on the next play, even if Beltre had managed to get to first, it would have resulted in a double play. 

Of course it is true that "anything can happen" there's a lot of distance between anything "can" happen and anything "will" happen. There is little likelihood that the difference in the game was the result of the bad call, and has more to do with Alan Craig's clutch pinch-hit RBI. Hopefully, this resolves the confusion. 

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