Heading into Friday’s Braves-Cardinals showdown, the general concept of play-in Wild Card games was pretty controversial in itself. Coming out of Friday's Braves-Cardinals showdown, there was still a lot of controversy – only the new controversy stemmed from something that actually happened during the outing.
In the eighth inning, with St. Louis up 6-3, Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball that looked like it would fall straight into Pete Kozma's glove. Problem was, it didn't. For whatever reason, he couldn't make the catch. (Him not making the catch, by the way, was probably stranger than the eventual ruling.)
Just when it looked like all was lost (and by all, I mean Kozma's dignity), umpire Sam Holbrook signaled an infield fly and ruled Simmons out.
Check it out:
The fans in attendance were understandably ticked off about the decision, but viewers at home were mostly just confused. Here is what the infield fly rule is, per MLB.com:
"An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out," says Rule 2.00 in the definition of terms. "The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule."
A further comment on that official rule spells out the complexity of making the call.
"The umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder -- not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines," it says. "The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire's judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire's judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately."
So, was it the right call? Yeah, it kind of seems like it was. According to the rules noted above, an infield fly is a fair fly ball that can be caught by an infielder “with ordinary effort” (and all of the other stuff as specified). In this case, Kozma should have made the play. He was in position to make it “with ordinary effort.” For all intents and purposes, this was a pretty blatant example of when the rule should in fact be applied. (Some folks disagree, though.)
Given how the game ended it’s understandable that Braves fans would be mad. Totally understandable. (There was at least one other horrible call made against their squad far more egregious than anything that may or may not have happened here.). That said, it really looks like the infield fly, in this particular situation, was the right call.