ST. LOUIS -- Eight days after the Cardinals benefited from this month's stricter interpretation of the transfer play, Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee on Friday announced clarification as to how the rule should be applied.
The committee determined "that 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." In other words, if a player drops the ball while taking it out of his glove, he is already ruled to have recorded the out.
During the first few weeks of the season, umpires, following instructions laid out to them with the implementation of expanded instant replay, were often calling a baserunner safe in such situations where the ball was lost on the transfer. The Cardinals saw this work in their favor in a game against Washington on April 17.
"It's always been one of those hazy [rules]," manager Mike Matheny said. "They were really putting a lot of pressure on the umpires. There were a few times we had a throw across the field, the first baseman catches it, and he's four steps into the dugout before he finally goes in and grabs the ball and then the umpire raises his hand [to signal out]. They were doing their job [in waiting for the transfer to be made], but it was a tough interpretation of the rule. Now, there's probably going to be some hazy situations, but I think it's a little more like what we were accustomed to."
This rule clarification also states that if a ball is dropped while a player is removing it to make a throw, the umpire will determine if the player secured it in his glove before the transfer. If so, the out was made.
"I think clarity on this is probably going to help everybody involved," general manager John Mozeliak said. "There was probably just too much subjectiveness prior to that and frustration just because of past history. So I think from a player standpoint, uniformed personnel standpoint, they're probably happy."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.