The folly of baseball's recent spate of poorly-thought-out rule changes was put on display again during Sunday night's nationally televised game when Orioles shortstop Ryan Flaherty clearly caught and possessed a double-play relay before having the ball slip through his fingers as he tried to pull it out and throw it to first base. Both runners were ruled safe, and the play was pivotal in a seventh-inning comeback by the Red Sox.
Under the new transfer rule, which was instituted along with the new instant replay format, the fielder must maintain possession of the ball throughout the play, which is supposed to take the on-field interpretation out of what used to be a tricky call for the umpires.
It does that, but it’s still ridiculous, since it unnecessarily changes the way the defensive game is played and creates situations like the one Sunday night that very well may have cost the Orioles an important divisional victory. If the call is so tough for the umpires, well, then it should be reviewable on a case-by-case basis.
Need more proof that the "secured possession" concept was a mistake? There are reports that Major League Baseball officials may revisit the rule in the near future, which will be small consolation to any team that loses a game during the regular season because of it and then falls a game short of a playoff berth.
Here’s a thought. Maybe Major League Baseball ought to fully evaluate an important set of rule changes before rushing them into a new season and then wondering whether that was really the right thing to do. Baseball had survived for a very long time without this new system, so it probably could have gotten through the 2014 season while MLB took its time and made sure to get the implementation of it right.
Everybody knows that the replay system was not adequately tested during spring training, and now it's clear that all the rules changes should have been vetted more carefully to avoid the need for mid-course corrections.