This needed to happen.
Much like New Coke, and the TV show based on the Geico Caveman, the new transfer rule in baseball was a disaster from the start and needed to go away as soon as possible.
That end came on Friday afternoon when Major League Baseball released a statement from the “Playing Rules Committee” providing a revamped view of how umpires should handle a situation when a fielder loses possession of a ball when attempting to transfer it to his throwing hand from his glove.
The committee’s new interpretation was discussed and agreed upon by MLB, the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association.
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The official language was this:
The Committee has determined that a legal catch has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, “Catch”), or a valid force out or tag has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, “Tag”), if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it be ruled a catch. If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer.
Even though the writing isn’t poetry, it basically clarifies that a catch and the transfer are two separate actions.
It seems so logical. And yet for the first month of the season, umpires were using this interpretation:
“Umpires and/or replay officials must consider whether the fielder had secured possession of the ball but dropped it during the act of the catch. An example of a catch that would not count is if a fielder loses possession of the ball during the transfer before the ball was secured by his throwing hand.”
That muddled mess of thinking led to dozens of overturned calls upon instant replay review. Clear catches were called drops, outs were reversed, and games were changed.
So now it’s fixed. What were Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon’s thoughts on the change?
“None that I can talk about,” he said with a shake of his head. “I wish they would have changed it about a week ago.”
McClendon was referencing a costly out that was reversed in the ninth inning of a loss to the Marlins on a transfer call.
Kyle Seager, who was charged with the drop on that play though it was clear he caught the ball, was happy he wouldn’t have to worry about the situation again.
“At least it’s changed,” Seager said. “I’m not sure why it got that way. But that game was a tough one for us. Who knows what might have happened.”
For Dustin Ackley, the fear of the transfer rule made him hesitant on catches and throws in the outfield. A converted outfielder, Ackley became noticeably deliberate when getting the ball out of his glove on a catch and throw.
“I remember specifically a play in Texas where it was a pretty deep fly ball with a runner on third. I think Michael Choice hit it to me. I remember I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to throw this guy out at the plate, so don’t try and do anything stupid and try to run in and drop the transfer.’ You were definitely conscious of it.”
If there is anything that frustrates a baseball player, it is having to do anything more than react. Nothing frustrates players more than having to slow down and think about doing something on the field that should be second nature by repetition.
“It’s something that was real and you had to think about because you can’t make that mistake and cost your team an out,” Ackley said. “I’m definitely happy they changed it. I felt at some point it was going to get changed. I didn’t know when. I’m just happy we don’t have to deal with it anymore.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373
On Twitter: @RyanDivish