The Orioles pulled off a strange triple play at the expense of the Red Sox in Boston’s 5-2 win on May 2. With runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the eighth, Jackie Bradley Jr. skied a popup behind shortstop. O’s shortstop, J.J. Hardy, called off right fielder Joey Rickard before the ball fell between both players.
Confusion plagued the Sox runners. Hardy quickly fired to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who tagged Mitch Moreland as he stood a few steps off of second base, then stepped on second to force out Dustin Pedroia, and threw to Chris Davis to record the third out at first on Bradley, who quite never touched first base. Thinking the Infield Fly Rule would be invoked, Bradley peeled off and headed to the dugout just before reaching first base.
Schoop wisely tagged the runner (Moreland) who was a couple of feet off second before stepping on the base. By doing this, Pedroia was retired and it kept the force alive. If Schoop had tagged the base before tagging Moreland, it would have removed the force.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “We anticipated an Infield Fly being called at some flight of the baseball but the umpires ruled it was a non-routine effort.” He also stated that the umps said that the wind was not a sole factor.
You can argue two sides here:
Why the IFR Should Not Have Been Called
Apparently the wind was a contributing factor as it did pick up strongly in the later innings, which most likely contributed to Adam Jones not catching a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh. The fact that Hardy, an excellent shortstop, did not catch the ball, indicates that the fly was not an “ordinary effort” play and the umpires used good judgment.
Why the Infield Fly Rule Should Have Been Called
Hardy was fairly close to the infield and facing the infield. He gave every indication he was on top of the play which would meet an ordinary effort standard. According to Moreland, the runner on second, Hardy was yelling, “I got it” When it appears that a major league infielder is camped under the ball, most would consider that ordinary effort. Because the purpose of the rule is to protect the runners, the umpires should have erred on the side of caution and made the call.
Runners Reaction and Responsibility
Such plays as the one above place umpires and runners in an awkward position. Runners can only react to the umpires “call” or “no call” when the IFR is invoked, or not invoked. While the ball is in flight, the farther out the fielder goes, the greater distance the runners can leave the base and hedge toward the next base. The call is not made until the ball begins to descend on its downward flight. It is at that point that the base coaches and runners must be alert to the possibility of a “no call” and gain some distance to the next base. This will place them in a better position if they need to or elect to advance. If a runner remains on the base, they are inviting a possible double or triple play, if the IFR is not called. If the IFR is called and the ball is not caught, the runners would be in a position to advance, if they choose. There certainly was no excuse for Bradley Jr. to quit on the play. He should at least have occupied first base in case Pedroia was forced, which he was.
In my opinion, Pedroia initially played it perfect. He was about 35-40 feet toward second while the ball was in flight before returning to first. However, if he stayed almost midway between first and second, he could have advanced to second, the base he was forced to advance to when the ball fell to the ground. Even if Moreland remained at second, Pedroia had the right to the base because Moreland was forced to go to third and did not. If both were tagged on the base, Moreland would be called out but it certainly is better than a triple play from the Red Sox point of view. Moreland could not gain the distance that Pedroia did but if he was several feet off the base when the ball dropped to the ground, he could have attempted to advance to third. The worst case scenario is that the Orioles would have recorded one out on the play-maybe a force at second or third. Of course, that’s if Jackie Bradley, Jr., touched first and stayed there.
From this corner, it would be productive for coaching staffs to meet with their players concerning “no call” IFR situations. In my opinion that scenario is an underrated part of the game that needs more attention. Based on the arguments I made above, I’ll let you make your decision as to whether or not the IFR should have been called. Whatever you conclude, let’s not forget the responsibilities of the runners in this situation. They certainly can minimize the damage that may or may not have been caused by the umpires.
You can view this play by going to the link below
Infield Fly Rule Main Points
An Infield Fly is a fair ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when first and second or first, second and third base are occupied with less than two outs. Bunts and line drives are not included in the rule.
The purpose of the Infield Fly Rule is to protect the runners from fielder deception or trickery. The call should be made on any fly ball that can be caught with ordinary effort by an infielder. This of course is umpire judgment. An outfielder can make the catch of a declared Infield Fly as long as the fly is one that can be caught by an infielder.
The batter is automatically out when the Infield Fly Rule is called-as long as the ball remains fair.
Runners are not required to run when the call is made whether or not the ball is caught or dropped.
Runners should position themselves to possibly get to the next base in situations where the IFR is called or not called.
Runners may run at their own risk. If the ball is caught, they must tag-up. If the ball falls to the ground, runners do not need to tag-up. If the IFR in not invoked and the ball drops, runners must advance.
There is no force play when the rule is invoked. Therefore, if a runner attempts to advance to the next base, he must be tagged.
Wind and poor weather conditions may warrant the umpires not to invoke the Infield Fly Rule but sun is not a factor. If a fielder loses the ball in the sun after the Infield Fly is declared, the call remains in effect.
If a declared Infield Fly falls to the ground untouched, it is a fair ball if it settles in fair territory before home and first or home and third base.
If a declared Infield Fly falls to the ground untouched and settles in foul territory before first or third base it is a foul ball.
If a runner is struck standing on the base by a batted ball that is declared an Infield Fly, he is not out. If he is off the base and is struck by an Infield Fly, he is out as well as the batter.