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A Bobble in Real Time is a Catch in Slo-Mo

What Happened? Rich Marazzi:

The Marlins beat the Tigers 5-4 in 11 innings on Tuesday night. A costly overturn of a “no catch” on the field call could have contributed to the Tigers’ defeat.

The Tigers were batting in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and third and one out when Ronny Rodriguez hit a fly ball to left field. Marlins’ left fielder Harold Ramirez struggled with the catch and the umpires on the field ruled “no catch.” Both runners tagged-up on the play, and advanced to the next base with Nick Castellanos, the runner on third, scoring the tying run.

The Marlins challenged the “no catch” call on the field and the call was overturned in NYC. The Replay Official allowed the advance of both runners. When the game resumed the score was tied 4-4 but the Tigers now had two outs instead of one and lost a runner.

Baseball Rules Academy Collected Information and Comment

After polling a few Major League umpires, the consensus is that before Official Replay this play is not ruled a catch. But of course, the use of slow motion video introduces a new way for arbitrators to judge every play.

Ron Gardenhire was ejected (80th career) for arguing the reversed ruling from Replay Center in New York. “I wasn’t arguing,” Gardenhire said. “I was just explaining to him, when you slow everything down it’s obvious to see where the ball might have stopped, but it was continuous play where he was bobbling it and he never had control of the ball. That’s exactly what I was explaining to him and he said, ‘I know, Gardy. I called it.’ So where do you go from there?”

Replay Center Uses Ultra Slo-Mo

“We all saw what happened in fast speed,” Gardenhire said. “Then you slow it down and it looks like it might have stopped in the glove for a second. But (Ramirez) never really controlled that ball. It ended up on the ground. I just wanted to make that point. He never controlled that ball.”

Rich Marazzi Expert Interpretation

  1. According to Rule 5.09 (a) (1), “In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release is voluntary and intentional. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught” There is not set amount of time a fielder has to hold the ball.
  2. Page 83 of the MLB Umpire Manual adds, ” A legal catch has occurred if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove and drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. A legal catch does not require that the fielder secure possession of the ball in his throwing hand when making the transfer.”
  3. Prior to 2014, the voluntary and release requirement, commonly called the “transfer,” was interpreted in different ways by the umpires. Some said the fielder had to be taking the ball out of the glove with his throwing hand while others said as long as the fielder’s throwing hand was going into the glove, it met the requirement. Whatever, there was wide disagreement among the umpires regarding the transfer rule to legalize a catch.
  4. As of 2014, the transfer rule was relaxed a bit. The current interpretation is the fielder must be intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer. In the above play, did Ramirez meet that requirement?
  5. In my opinion Ramirez never had complete control of the ball. Therefore, anything he did with his glove after that is irrelevant. I was surprised that the call on the field was overturned.
  6. Is it possible that the crew in NYC made their decision based on a slo-mo observation?
  7. When evaluating complete control of a catch, in my opinion, the slo-mo distorts the play because it lengthens the time the fielder is holding the ball.
  8. I communicated with a major league umpire about this on Wednesday. He said that such plays are reviewed in real time as well as slo-mo. I would hope that there is more of an emphasis on real time.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant:  Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, D’backs, Dodgers, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, the FOX Regional Sports Networks, ESPN, the White Sox TV announcers and WFAN radio.

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