Wednesday, June 9, 2021

No Catch - AZ Fielder Drops Ball After Colliding with Wall

With two outs and two on in the 2nd inning of Wednesday's Diamondbacks-Athletics game, A's batter Mark Canha hit a fly ball to deep left-center field. Arizona outfielder Ketel Marte attempted to catch the ball, which entered his glove, but after colliding with the wall, dropped the ball, ruled no catch/safe by 3B Umpire Mike Muchlinski. Upon Replay Review as the result of a challenge by D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo, the call was confirmed as an RBI triple (no catch). Should it have been?

In order to answer this question, we turn to the Official Baseball Rules' Definition of Terms: "A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in their hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing they do not use their cap, protector, pocket or any other part of their uniform in getting possession."

So far so good, but key to this play is the sentence that follows: "It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following their contact with the ball, they collide with a player, or with a wall, or if they fall down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drop the ball. It is not a catch if a fielder touches a fly ball which then hits a member of the offensive team or an umpire and then is caught by another defensive player."

Thus, because Marte after colliding with the wall dropped the ball, it is not a catch. Much like falling to the ground, the fielder must complete the act of catching the ball in order to receive credit for such a catch.

There is no magic "two steps" rule or similar football-esque vernacular regarding a catch. Instead, this is the metric umpires are given: "In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that they have complete control of the ball and that their release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught."

To be judged as voluntary and intentional, the ball's release must satisfy a key criterion: the fielder meant for the ball to fall out of their glove. During a throw—the "dropped on the transfer" provision of the rule—the fielder voluntarily opens their glove to retrieve the ball and the release of the ball is intentional in that sense, even if the end result (dropping the ball) is not.

In the Arizona-Oakland game, Marte does not intend to release the ball in this fashion after colliding with the wall and, the fielder not having demonstrated complete control to the umpire in the immediate aftermath of and while still under the effects of momentum from his collision with the wall, 3B Umpire Muchlinski properly rules the play a dropped ball (via safe mechanic), a call affirmed via Replay Review.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Marte drops ball after collision with outfield wall (OAK/CCS)


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