MLB clarifies ball-transfer rule in light of recent instant replay developments

Jim McIsaac

As expected, yesterday MLB announced a clarification to the ball-transfer rule.

As expected, yesterday MLB announced a clarification to the ball-transfer rule.

Here is some official language:

The interpretation was discussed and agreed upon by MLB, the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association, and beginning with games starting tonight, it will be the guiding principle that umpires use in ruling on the play.

The committee's determination is that an out has occurred whenever a player has complete control over the ball in his glove, and if he drops the ball after opening his glove, it will still be ruled an out. There is no requirement to successfully remove the ball from the glove for it to be an out. -Spencer Fordin, MLB.com

This is excellent for a few reasons.

First it shows both a willingness and ability to spot and deal with problems occurring early in the new instant replay era. Secondly, it is a clear and easily decipherable rule clarification that jives with the intuitive understanding of the play.

As opposed to the NFLs "through the process" clarification, this decision doesn't muddy things further and create a new understanding of a catch counter-intuitive to what we had believed before. When the ball goes in the glove an out is recorded, any transferring error has no effect.

And, as mentioned, this move coming so quickly into the season shows a tremendous flexibility on the part of MLB that many (myself included) have been arguing they lacked for much of the past...y'know 200 years.

It's nice to see now that baseball has joined the 21st century, they also seem prepared to move at 21st century speeds. It sends a message to detractors that they are willing to work with people on making the system better and that should foster a more fruitful debate.

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