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Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Baseball announcers really do not understand the Infield Fly Rule

I am watching the ESPN broadcast of Angels-Rangers and am stunned by how badly the announcing crew does not understand the Infield Fly Rule. In the bottom of the fourth, the Angels had first-and-second/one-out when Albert Pujols hit a pop-up halfway between home and the mound. The catcher could not play the ball which drifted away from him and fell to the ground. The catcher threw to third for what he thought was a forceout, but the third-baseman did not tag the runner. But the home plate umpire declared that runner safe, because the first-base umpire had invoked infield fly, removing the force on the runners. At the end of the day, the Angels had second-and-third/two-out.

But the announcing crew started talking about the play and the IFR and it was somewhat amazing to hear them be so wrong about:

• They complained that the umpire had not called it until the ball was about on the ground. That was factually wrong, as a wide-angle replay from the left side clearly showed the first-base ump raising his fist when the ball was at its highest point or had just started to descend.
• They complained that the umpire did not invoke as soon as the ball was in the air. But the ump cannot call it as soon as it is in the air, because he has to determine that it is playable with ordinary effort. Sometimes that means waiting for the ball to almost come down to the ground. At a minimum, it means waiting for the ball to reach its apex and see whether someone can catch it with ordinary effort. On that point, I am not sure the call was correct, as the ball was drifting away from the catcher and might not have been playable with "ordinary effort."
• They kept insisting that it was obvious this was an infield fly and there was no judgment involved that would cause the umps to have to think about it. But the question is not whether the ball is on the infield, but whether it is playable with ordinary effort. That involves judgment.

From watching seven years worth of IFR plays, I have listened to a lot of announcers guessing (wrongly) about the rule). This was among the worst conversations I have heard.


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