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Why Sam Holbrook made a bad call with the infield fly rule

While many people were initially outraged over umpire Sam Holbrook’s decision to call the batter out on the infield fly rule in the eighth inning of the Braves-Cardinals wild card game on Friday, many later became open to listening to the explanation of the rule and even accepted Holbrook’s call. Though I agree that his call is acceptable based on the way the rule is written, that still doesn’t change that it was a bad decision to apply the rule in that situation.

Those who believe Holbrook made the right call are failing to apply common sense and losing sight of the purpose of the rule.

The infield fly rule is designed to protect the baserunners for the team that is batting.

Say there are runners on first and second and one out, and the batter hits an easy pop up to the third baseman. The runners on first and second will remain close to the base because the expectation is that the third baseman will make the easy play, and they don’t want to be doubled off first and second. Knowing that the runners are standing close to the bag, a savvy field could drop the pop up on purpose, tag third, and throw to second for the force out. That would be taking an easy pop up and turning it into a double play.

The infield fly rule was put into place to protect against fielders using tricks like this.

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Braves fans litter field after controversial infield fly call (Video)

The debut of baseball’s one-game wild-card playoff format was marred by a mess that would make the NFL’s replacement refs cringe.

The Braves-Cardinals game Friday night was delayed in the eighth inning after Atlanta fans began littering the field with debris in protest of a call that went against their team.

With the Braves trailing 6-3 with one out and men on first and second, Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons hit a pop fly to left that fell between Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday. However, left field umpire Sam Holbrook called the infield fly rule right before the ball dropped — halfway out into the outfield.

Instead of bases loaded and one out, Atlanta was left with men on second and third with two outs. The fans were so upset they began littering the field with debris, causing an 18-minute delay. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez protested the call. Atlanta’s next batter, pinch-hitter Brian McCann, walked to load the bases, but Michael Bourn struck out to end the inning, and the Braves went on to lose 6-3.

Tough way for Chipper Jones’ career to end, especially after he railed against the one-game playoff format last month. Braves fans won’t forgive the umpires for this call anytime soon.

Here’s the official definition of the rule per MLB rules:

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Zack Greinke ejected after spiking baseball in first inning (Video)

Zack Greinke was ejected in the first inning of Saturday’s Brewers-Astros game after spiking a ball following a close call at first base.

With a runner on third, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hit a ground ball in between first and second to score the run. First baseman Corey Hart made a diving stop to field it and tossed to Greinke who raced to first. Greinke touched the bag at the same time as Altuve, so first base umpire Sam Holbrook called Altuve safe.

Greinke turned around and spiked the ball, likely because he was frustrated with the call and/or giving up the run (Carlos Gomez misplayed a ball in center to give Jordan Schaefer a triple to lead off the game). Holbrook immediately ejected Greinke, who had only faced two batters and thrown four pitches.

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke came out to discuss the call with Holbrook and was ejected for arguing.

The questionable ejection put the Brewers in a horrible spot because it meant the bullpen would have to pitch almost the entire game. It also came at a bad time for Milwaukee as Greinke is being mentioned in trade talks, and the quick ejection prevented interested teams from being able to see him pitch.

It’s also worth mentioning that Holbrook is part of umpire Joe West’s crew, which is notorious for questionable calls.

Here’s a video of Greinke talking about the ejection after the game. He says he was mad at himself for making a mental mistake on the play:

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