NEW YORK (AP) — For more than a century, baseball seemed to know when a catch was a catch. Then expanded instant replay came along this season, and no one seemed to be sure.
The sport's Playing Rules Committee clarified the meaning of when a fielder catches the ball before trying to transfer it from his glove to his hand for a throw, trying to defuse a controversy that left managers and players puzzled in the season's opening weeks.
With umpires watching slow-motion replays in a New York control room, several plays that routinely have been called outs in the past had been ruled drops. Starting Friday, possession was defined as having complete control of the ball. The committee said fielders may drop the ball after intentionally opening their gloves to make transfers.
"I understood that if you went by the rule in the book, you had to call it a certain way. But it had been called another way for 100 years," New York Mets centerfielder Chris Young said. "It's amazing that Major League Baseball stepped in now so fast and stopped it so quickly. All it took was a couple of miscues. I think it's great call, for sure. I'm really glad they did it now, rather than waiting until after the season to evaluate it."
Calling this a "common sense interpretation," MLB Executive Vice President Dan Halem said the committee decided "as long as the fielder intentionally opens his glove with the intent to take the ball out, that piece of the rule is satisfied."
"Somebody told me that I think the definition of catch in our Official Playing Rules was written in 1953 perhaps, and obviously it wasn't written with the precision of instant replay in mind," Halem told the Associated Press Sports Editors.
MLB said the committee, chaired by New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, determined "a legal catch has occurred ... if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand."
"There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it be ruled a catch," the committee said. "If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer."