At the heart of the matter is when a ball is ruled caught or a tag (force out) made and, accordingly, when release is voluntary and intentional. Prior to 2014, attempted voluntary release qualified as acceptable for an out call (e.g., a flip or drop "on the transfer"). With the advent of replay review and the new catch/transfer rule interpretation in 2014, this phrase was eliminated from HW and replaced with an interpretation that the fielder must retain possession of the ball in the transfer. For Replay Officials, this meant less gray, more black & white.
|The Rule 2.00 Catch interpretation has changed.|
Prior to the 2014 season, umpires interpreted Rule 2.00 [Legal Catch], as pertains to a transfer, using the following criterion: "A ball will be ruled caught when the momentum of the catch is completed and the player voluntarily releases the ball" (MLBUM).
In 2014, the interpretation for a legal catch or tag received the following addition:
In determining whether a fielder drops the ball “while in the act of making a throw following the catch” in accordance with Rule 2.00, the umpires will determine whether the fielder obtained possession of a ball in flight but dropped the ball while in the act of making a throw during the momentum of the catch. For example, if the shortstop, in an effort to turn a double play, throws to the second baseman, who drops the ball while in the act of drawing back his arm to make a throw to first base, the second baseman shall be adjudged to have had secure control of the ball and thus the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught by the second baseman. However, it shall not be adjudged to be a catch if, while in the act of making a throw during the momentum of the catch, the fielder loses possession of the ball in the transfer (e.g., flip from the glove) before he secures the ball with his throwing hand.The Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School added the following:
The "flip" itself is not deemed a voluntary release, even though it may be a voluntary action. This is an update you will find in the 2014 Rules and Interpretations Manual. We have removed the exclusive interpretation offered for a number of year providing that it only be an attempted voluntary release. This is no longer the case. The release must be voluntary. Additionally, this interpretation has been merged with a tag of a base as well on the front end of a double play attempt. He must secure the ball in his throwing hand before it will be deemed secure possession was made.No more, said MLB. Securing the ball with the throwing hand has been eliminated from interpretational jargon. Going back to the future, baseball will again allow a drop during the transfer to be considered a catch as long as the fielder has made the catch and dropped the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch.
Press Release: Playing Rules Committee reviews interpretation of transfer play (MLB)
Related Post: New 2014 Rule Interpretation: Catch/Transfer Explained