David Freese walked and took second on a sac bunt in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's game between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels in Nationals Park. In the next at bat, Raul Ibanez lined a pitch from left-hander Ross Detwiler to Adam LaRoche at first base. LaRoche made the catch, but tried to quickly pull the ball from his glove in an attempt to double Freese up off second. LaRoche dropped the ball while transferring it from his glove to his hand and under the strict interpretation of the rules umpires were working under until today, Ibanez was called safe at first in spite of the fact that LaRoche clearly caught the ball first.
Two batters later, Ibanez scored the Angels' fourth run of a game they would eventually lose 5-4 when the Nationals rallied in the bottom of the ninth.
After the game, which ended on a walk-off single by LaRoche, the Gold Glove-winning first baseman was asked about the call on the play and he was blunt in his assessment of the strict interpretation of the rules which called for a clean transfer from glove to hand.
"I've said it before that play, that it's one of the worst rules I've ever heard of," LaRoche told reporters. "I don't feel like it's baseball. I think the umpires are smart enough to make judgement calls. And we've kind of handcuffed them to have no choice."
Apparently, MLB's Playing Rules Committee agrees. Effective immediately.
Beginning w/ games tonight, umpires will enforce the "transfer rule" according to these standards: pic.twitter.com/VuxeYYDtwR— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) April 25, 2014
As MLB.com's Spencer Fordin wrote this afternoon, Major League Baseball has now provided, "..a clearer interpretation of the play that occurs when a fielder loses possession of a ball while trying to transfer it from his glove to his throwing hand."
Here's what the report says:
"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.
"Also, if a player drops the ball while attempting to remove it from his glove in order to make a throw, the umpire will determine whether he had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. If the ball has been caught and controlled, it's an out even if the player drops the ball in the process of transferring it."
Starting tonight, "... it will be the guiding principle that umpires use in ruling on the play."
Imagine that, common sense prevailing.
• Here's the Nationals' lineup for tonight's game with the San Diego Padres: