A fun thing about watching a baseball game is you can count on seeing an outstanding fielding play or an unusual circumstance during any given game.
It happened Saturday night in the bottom of the fourth inning at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in the game between the Albuquerque Isotopes and our OKC Dodgers.
As I sat with my friend Casey Harness, the infield fly rule was called on a popup by OKC’s Kevin Pillar with runners on first and second base.
Albuquerque’s first baseman attempted to field the high popup, but it bounced off his glove. The umpire’s fist and thumb were already up signaling an out. The runners never moved.
I’ve witnessed many similar situations at games throughout the years, but can’t recall when an infielder missed the ball with runners on base and the infield fly rule was invoked.
It’s not that I was unaware of the infield fly rule or knew that it was in effect on a popup with runners on base and less than two outs. Read more about the infield fly rule here.
It’s that it is so rarely invoked because fielders at this level rarely misplay a popup in the infield like that.
Casey, who is a long-time Dodgers season ticket holder and has attended far more games in recent seasons than me, questioned the call. Why was the batter out before the ball even hit the ground? Why weren’t the runners running?
Well, if the fielder purposely dropped the ball and there was no infield fly rule, the Isotopes could have easily turned a double play. Maybe a triple play if things fell right.
Casey was not satisfied with that answer.
“This is archaic, unnecessary and downright confusing,” he said.
OK, but baseball was created in the 1800s and the rules were developed long ago. They (mostly) make sense to me.
Turns out, Casey has other ideas to make the game more interesting. He’s been watching a lot of women’s softball because the OU women’s team has been so dominant in recent years. Especially this year, when they are still undefeated and currently 36-0.
“Why not eliminate the pitching mound so pitchers don’t have the advantage of throwing downhill?” Casey opined at one point during the game. “Softball pitchers don’t need that advantage.”
“Are you going to let them move up to 43 feet?” I asked?
“Sure, if they want to pitch underhand.” (Smirk).
OK, Casey, you’ve gone a bridge too far.
Instead of the infield fly rule or the pitching mound, we could be arguing over the dramatic infielder shift that has gained popularity in recent years. If you squint at the photo at the top of this post, you will see that there is only one infielder to the left of second base.
The shift is designed to take away hitting lanes for left handed batters and has a lot of detractors. Rules changes may be soon coming.
Meanwhile, let’s enjoy softball for what it is and let baseball continue to entertain us with its sometimes quirky rules like the one that results in an automatic out when the ball is put in play.
We can live with the infield fly rule.