COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins had a great opportunity for a ninth-inning rally ruined Wednesday, July 24, when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim turned a double play after the umpires didn't invoke the infield fly rule. The umps called it wrong, but the players involved reacted incorrectly as well.
In the fateful ninth, the Twins had Doug Bernier at first base and Clete Thomas at second base with no outs. Justin Morneau swung at a 1-0 pitch from Angels closer Ernesto Frieri. Morneau hit a short popup between the pitcher's mound and first base that Frieri went to catch.
However, at the last second, Frieri let the ball drop. He then picked it up and threw Morneau out at first base. Bernier took off for second base when the ball was dropped and was eventually tagged out in a rundown for a double play.
The infield fly rule was supposed to prevent a double play on a popup. With runners at first and second, or in a bases loaded situation, and less than two outs, the runners have to stay at their bases when the ball is in the air. If a fielder drops the ball, it could result in an easy double play as the players will often have little chance to reach the next base in time.
Umpire Shows Lack of Knowledge of Infield Fly Rule in Minnesota Twins Game
Umpire crew chief Ted Barrett told the "St. Paul Pioneer Press" that "… the fielder has to get comfortably underneath the ball to catch it. That's the criteria that wasn't met."
However, the official major league rulebook says nothing about a fielder needing to "get comfortably underneath the ball to catch it." The rulebook states that, "An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort."
The last three words are the important part here. Frieri clearly could have caught the ball with ordinary effort. For one thing, if he had dropped the ball and not recorded an out, he would have most certainly been charged with an error. "With ordinary effort" is a phrase commonly used when scoring a play a hit or an error, so if a play would have been an error, then an official scorer would be declaring that the play should have been made with ordinary effort.
That four umpires showed poor judgment in not invoking the infield fly rule is bad enough. Barrett telling the media that he was looking for something that's not even in the rulebook is far more troubling.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Throw to Wrong Base After Infield Fly Not Called
The frustrating part for Twins fans is that Frieri didn't even take advantage of the missed call like he should have. After letting the ball drop, he should have thrown to third to force out Thomas. Third baseman Alberto Callaspo then could have thrown to second to force out Bernier.
Frieri's mistake meant the Twins had the potential tying run at third base with two outs instead of at first base with two outs. Unfortunately, Chris Herrmann struck out to end the game, so it ultimately didn't matter.
However, it could have been far worse for the Angels if Bernier hadn't also made a mistake. Once Morneau was forced out at first base, Bernier was not required to go to second base. He could have gone back to first base. It could have easily led to the Twins having first and third and one out, which would actually worse for the Angels than if Frieri had just caught the ball and kept the runners at first and second with one out.
Of course, this would have required some very quick thinking by Bernier in a very unusual situation. About the only way for him to be safe at first would be for Bernier to get behind Trumbo and stay just a few inches off the bag until the forceout of Morneau was recorded. Then Bernier could have instantly touched the bag to be safe.
This would also require Bernier to anticipate Frieri throwing to first base, which was the wrong base in that situation. Once Frieri started to throw to first base, Bernier might have been able to react in time to get back to first base, but it would have to be a very quick reaction. Any base runner's instinct is to run hard to the next base as soon as the ball hits the ground in a force situation.
In the end, no one got this right, but it was the Twins who had at least one more chance to extend the game stolen from them.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
More from this author:
- Sports & Recreation
- Minnesota Twins
- Doug Bernier
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- Ernesto Frieri
- Justin Morneau