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Commentary: MLB dropped the ball on catch-and-transfer rule

SEATTLE — We start with the rule interpretation that is completely disrupting the game of baseball.

How can a simple play – like catching a baseball – create such an uproar? It’s happening now.

Three times in Mariners games in the last week alone, we’ve seen an outfielder make a certain catch – only to drop the ball in the transfer from his glove to his hand. Every time, it’s been ruled a non-catch – a break for the team at-bat. It’s part of the new “Secured Possession Rule.”

On Tuesday, following one of these unique rulings, Major League Baseball officials said, quote “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.” End quote.

Based on this, they’re essentially saying this. “Hey, look at me! I just caught the ball! You see? It’s in my glove. I got an out. Everyone mark your scorecards. I’m even gonna do a little dance to celebrate my catch. I’ve clearly got possession – and I’m showing it to you before I throw it back to the pitcher. Ok, I’m gonna throw it back to the pitcher now. (drops ball) Oops.”

You’re now gonna tell me it’s not a catch? That’s ridiculous.

The backlash from players and managers alike hasn’t been surprising at all. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was upset when a runner was ruled safe at second base after Ben Zobrist dropped the ball during the transfer to his hand. Said Maddon: “He was absolutely out. You could easily discern that he had the ball in his glove with his foot on the bag, and the runner is out, period.” Apparently not, according to the new interpretation of the rule.

I’ve got an idea to show Major League Baseball how off they really are. If there’s no one on base, the outfielder should make the catch – stroll to the infield and drop the ball into the umpire’s hand. Eliminate the transfer completely.

By being this absurd – it’s showing how absurd the new interpretation of a catch really is.

I applaud the MLB for finally digging itself out of the dark ages by using instant replay. But for a sport that has ruled a catch a particular way for more than 100 years, the new “secured possession rule” reminds me of trying to reinvent the wheel. In most situations, it’s just not necessary – and only raises more confusion than clarity. A catch – is a catch. You can see it. We can see it. But apparently Major League Baseball can’t see it.

Again, instant replay was the right choice. But we’re learning that other rules changes also came with – well – a catch.

A new catch and transfer rule that lacks common sense.

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