11:33 AM, Apr 22, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
As I noted a few weeks ago, the introduction of widespread instant replay into major league baseball threatened to do serious damage to how the game is played and enjoyed. That damage arrives in ways that replay's proponents simply failed—or refused—to countenance.
Baseball is a game of rules both written and unwritten. And even written rules have been shaped and influenced (as all written rules are) by the real world that they're intended to govern. For example: most baseball fans probably haven't spent much time pondering, "what is a catch?" At least, they surely did not stop and consider it at the level of detail long set forth in Major League Baseball's official rules:
A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. It is not a catch if a fielder touches a fly ball which then hits a member of the offensive team or an umpire and then is caught by another defensive player. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.
Rule 2.00 (Catch) Comment: A catch is legal if the ball is finally held by any fielder, even though juggled, or held by another fielder before it touches the ground. Runners may leave their bases the instant the first fielder touches the ball. A fielder may reach over a fence, railing, rope or other line of demarcation to make a catch. He may jump on top of a railing, or canvas that may be in foul ground. No interference should be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk.
If a fielder, attempting a catch at the edge of the dugout, is “held up” and kept from an apparent fall by a player or players of either team and the catch is made, it shall be allowed.
Perhaps you skipped that long, tedious explanation—and for good reason. By and large, a catch in baseball was like Justice Potter Stewart's famous definition of obscenity: "I know it when I see it."
That is not to say that a "catch" is completely undefined, but rather that in real-life, with players in motion—especially in lightning quick double plays—the umpires, the players, and the fans were comfortable with a basic sense of what a catch looks like.
And even more importantly, the umpires, players and fans had to be comfortable relying on that basic sense, because umpires had to call baserunners "out" or "safe" based on their best judgment of fast-moving plays, on the spot.
At least that's how umpires used to make their calls. But now, thanks to instant replay and high-definition cameras, these plays are now being adjudicated after the fact, in microscopic detail.
Which means that when an umpire tries to evaluate whether a player, in the words of the official rule, "secured possession" of the ball in flight and "firmly held it," demonstrating "complete control of the ball" until "voluntarily and intentionally" releasing the ball, a lot of plays that seemed like (and thus were called) "catches" in the pre-replay era are now the subject of intense discussion and debate ...
In the middle of games.
As umpires stand around with headphones on, waiting for the official instant replay decision from a headquarters in New York.
And while the players stand around on the field.
To its credit, Major League Baseball anticipated that the introduction of replay could cause these sorts of fundamental problems, and so league officials formulated new guidance to try to help define a "catch' more objectively, so that umpires could call runners out or safe in real time.
Will he, won’t he, should he be in the Hall of Fame? Apr 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 30 • By EDWARD ACHORN
Do we really need another book about Pete Rose?
12:28 PM, Apr 9, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
As the Boston Red Sox collected their World Series rings last Friday, Boston faithful had much to be thankful for. And among those to whom they owed more than a little thanks was Bill James, the team's official analytical guru, who enjoyed an increased role in team decision-making after the team fell to pieces in 2012.
3:49 PM, Mar 31, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
In The Great Debate and elsewhere, Yuval Levin describes the fundamental difference between conservatives and progressives, rooted in the debates of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine:
1:27 PM, Nov 27, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Everyone could use a nice government subsidy and bailouts aren’t just for broke car companies and derelict banks anymore. Baseball teams need that same kind of taxpayer love. No surprise then, as Mark Segraves of NBC’s channel 4 in Washington reports:
Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
What if everything we think we know about the history of baseball is wrong? What if despite the carefully cultivated image of its manly origins—long mustachios and tobacco-juice-stained vests—it was a game played by women as well as men? What if the game was invented 100 years before Abner Double-day allegedly took bat to ball? And, perhaps most astonishing, what if our national pastime was first played in England?
Is the Atlanta Braves' Andrelton Simmons the best ever?3:36 PM, Sep 16, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
Of the 39 most awesome jobs in America, only the nine members of the Supreme Court have lifetime tenure. Major League Baseball’s 30 shortstops, on the other hand, are always looking over their shoulder. Every ground ball in the hole, every slow roller dribbling past the mound, every relay throw from the outfield is another test, another risk to be replaced by some slick-fielding Dominican phenom lighting up Double-A ball. Still, it’s safe to say that Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons’s job is his for some time to come, for the 24-year-old has established himself as the best defensive shortstop in the game. Indeed, some are already wondering if, in only his second year of big league ball, Simmons has entered the pantheon of baseball’s greatest glovemen, taking his place among the likes of Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, and Mark Belanger.
Dead trees, junk cars, and dim, dim streetlights.11:06 AM, Sep 4, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press, writes about some of the obstacles in Detroit's way if it is to show its best face come the "invasion by the nation’s media in October for baseball playoffs and, hopefully, a World Series."
How one national pastime (baseball) has been injured by another (the law).Sep 2, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 48 • By EDWARD ACHORN
For decades, the lords of big-league baseball scrambled to protect their antitrust exemption, warning that the professional game would fall apart if the owners could not conspire against free markets to run it their way. Most of all, they wanted to protect the reserve clause, under which a player was bound to one club as long as that club wanted him rather than permitted to sell his services to the highest bidder.
1:58 PM, Aug 6, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
Monday night, Alex Rodriguez singled in his first at-bat of the season—which for Rodriguez may end as early as Thursday, when Major League baseball intends to enforce its 211-game suspension of him that will include the remainder of the 2013 campaign and all of 2014. With the 12-time All-Star third-baseman turning 38 on Saturday, it may be that a ballplayer once believed capable of breaking many of the game’s most famous records has now entered his last week of big-league baseball.
12:31 PM, Jul 14, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Baseball has a way of distracting us, at least momentarily, from the routine stuff. Both the boring and the distressing. Santiago found it easier to bear all those fishless days by reading about the "Great DiMaggio" who, as all fans know, was famous for going so many days hitting safely.
10:21 AM, Jul 6, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Because of the way in which baseball links the generations it has been a channel through which vital traits of American character are instilled. The health of baseball concerns all of America, and the health of America — perhaps especially the American family — finds itself reflected in the state of our national pastime. Baseball is a mirror of American liberty and of the virtues necessary to sustain it."
—Diana Schaub, "America at the Bat," National Affairs, Winter 2010.