It’s amazing how fast baseball took a great idea and made it horrible. Last week’s Braves-Nationals Wild Card game didn’t really come down to the ridiculous infield fly rule call on a pop-up to the outfield that cost the Braves a bases loaded with one out situation and a run home, a game they eventually lost. But that’s what it will, and undoubtedly should, be what it’s remembered for. The call was as bad as the one on Monday Night Football that screwed the Green Bay Packers out of a win a few weeks ago, only this one wasn’t made by some scrub off the street (who still thinks he got the touchdown call correct – he didn’t).
The worst part about the call that gives the Braves every right to feel that they got screwed too, even though they left a ton of men on base throughout the game, is the absurd reaction it received. And no, I’m not talking about the Braves fans who littered the field with garbage after the call. Although, if it had happened in Philadelphia we all know the idiot machine that is the national media lead by guys like ESPN’s Michael Wilbon would still be yapping about it.
I’m talking about the umpires who had the ability to look at the play on replay and still got it dead wrong. I’m talking about the TBS broadcasters, some of whom are just awful by the way, analyzing the infield fly rule with an eye on protecting Major League Baseball by coming to the conclusion that it could technically be called on a ball that goes to the warning track, which is complete horse-bleep. I’m talking about Major League Baseball and the supposed Mr. Integrity, Joe Torre, denying the Braves official protest immediately after the game foregoing their own due process because playing the game from the point of the erroneous call the next day – which is damn well what should have happened – would have messed up the TV schedule.
The infield fly rule is meant to protect base runners from an infielder purposely dropping an infield pop-up (you know, the kind Jimmy Rollins hits about once a week) in order to get a double-play by getting the force out on the guys on base who rightly don’t run because they would have to tag up after the catch if they chose to run. That is extremely unlikely to happen on a ball hit to the outfield, and all but impossible barring a fluke on a ball hit to the freakin’ warning track, which is precisely why it’s the infield fly rule.
The one-game playoff for two Wild Card teams in each league was and is a great idea for baseball. It restores the importance of winning the division in the longest season in sports and still keeps more teams and their fans interested in the playoff race in August and September. MLB just can’t muck it up because they don’t have the stones to overrule their umpires with the use of replay, especially when everything is magnified without having a 3 or 5-game series.