If you aren’t familiar with the infield fly rule, there’s no need to get into it here – simply consider yourself fortunate. But the next time you see it happen on a baseball field and you wonder “What the hell was that?” – remember me.
Here’s what would happen without the infield fly rule: As the ball is descending and a fielder is camped under it, he along with help from his teammates would have to decide whether to catch the ball or let it drop. Catching would mean an easy out. But letting it drop intentionally may result in a double play or forcing a good baserunner out while allowing a slower, less efficient one to reach base.
That’s a lot to consider in a relatively short period of time and that’s not factoring in the logistics. Where will the ball land (Grass? Dirt? Mound? Infield? Outfield?) In which direction will the spin take it? How high will it bounce? How far of a throw is it to get the lead runner? Will you have time to turn two?
That’s a metric ton of strategy and quick decision making on the fly occurring over the course of about five seconds – enough that most of us would be watching intently to see how it plays out.
If the infielder decided to simply catch the pop-up, that sure would have been an interesting five seconds or so.
If the infielder decides to let the ball drop, all hell would break loose. At least two baserunners would be running like their hind parts were on fire and the fielder would have to grab a ball with a hell of a lot of spin and a lot of bounce quickly, then make a hard accurate throw. A second fielder would have to make another hard accurate throw quickly if turning two.
That’s a lot of action and a pretty damn exciting play.
Here’s what happens with the infield fly rule:
An umpire brings all of the above to a halt.
No action. The batter goes back to the dugout, next batter, please.
By the power of Alexander Cartwright’s hand-scribbled journal, explain to me why we literally choose no action over action?
Yet quite ironically, the only time there is action is when a runner takes off if the ball is dropped because he either a) doesn’t understand the rule, or b) didn’t hear the umpire on the other side of the filed make the call. Hell, just the fact that it’s usually only one umpire, maybe two, that call it and not necessarily the ones closest to the ball tells you the rule is far too vague and open to interpretation anyway.
Trust me: Eliminate the infield fly rule. You’ll create more action.
Seriously. Are you really going to miss Michael Kay verbally stumble around the broadcast booth waiting for someone to explain to him what just happened when an infield fly rule is called?
Didn’t think so.
Did I miss something? Let me know.
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