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  1. Fantastic idea. You’re first objection is the strongest, I think – if there is a slow runner at first and a fast runner at second, the defense would benefit from dropping the ball and forcing the fast runner so that the new runner on 2nd would be less likely to score on a single. But like you said, this is already done, and probably wouldn’t be all too common, nor would it present that much of an advantage to the defense.

    My only other question would be about how fly ball is defined. If the batter hits a soft liner to the SS, who lets it drop, does the rule apply?

    Comment by Matt Hunter — October 10, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  2. This idea sounds great until you actually try to write a rule covering it. What is a “fly ball”? Well, it’s a ball that hasn’t bounced yet. But you can’t write a rule saying “no two forces on a fly ball, defined as a ball that hasn’t bounced yet,” because the defensive chicanery the infield fly rule is intended to stop involves letting the ball bounce BEFORE doubling off the two runners.

    It’s not a coincidence that all your examples involve popups. Popups are the easy case. What happens if an infielder MIGHT be able to catch a liner, but instead takes it on a short-hop and tries to turn a double play? The current infield fly rule says that’s fine. As far as I can tell, your rule would bar a double play in that situation, which is silly.

    Comment by Paul Thomas — October 10, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

  3. Why even have an infield fly rule? Every offense knows that a fly ball in the infield area is either (a) a sure out, or (b) an opportunity for the defense to pull off a sneaky double or even triple play. If MLB repealed the IF rule tomorrow, I don’t think anything would change. Runners would know that whenever an infield fly is hit, they should just stay put. The fielders could drop the ball intentionally, but nobody would be off a base to tag, and there would already be an out at first (dual occupancy of a base), destroying the force. Or they could catch it. Either way, one out: just like as if the IF rule had been in effect.

    Alternatively, any batter who hits an infield fly could just run way out of the base paths, interfere with the catcher, or do any number of stupid things to get himself out intentionally. Again, destroying the force, and again, resulting in the same outcome: one out.

    It seems like a futile effort to try and regulate this stuff. There’s always room for judgment errors; subjective margins. Why not just make the potential consequences of an infield fly a part of game strategy for offenses to avoid with their own cunning, rather than a wild card for the poor umps to have to call. Everyone’s happier.

    Comment by jtloughney — October 11, 2012 @ 2:06 am

  4. jtloughney, in your example it would be a double play. That’s the whole point of a force out. The runner is FORCED to advance a base. The double-occupancy only applies if there isn’t a force situation. So in the case you mention, they’d throw to 3rd first (one out), and then 2nd (2nd out).

    Personally I think a better solution would be to establish a distance from the IF. Quite literally, draw a line in chalk in the OF. Umpire can signal IF fly if he feels the ball is high enough – so a true pop-fly and not a bloop. If the ball then lands behind the line, it is *not* an IF fly; runners can advances as much as they want, and the batter is safe. Sure, there will be some confusion the first year or two of implementation, but no matter what rule change there will be. And of course this can be tried out in the minor-leagues for a year to see how difficult it is to implement.

    Comment by Mike K — October 11, 2012 @ 8:06 am

  5. Interesting ideas, but I suspect this may be a “better the devil that you know” situation. You’re talking here about replacing a very long-standing rule that, on extremely rare occasions, results in an apparent injustice, with one whose consequences, for better or worse, are still completely unknown — and don’t tell me there won’t be any consequences, in baseball there are always consequences to screwing around with the rules. If there was a systematic problem with infield flies, rather than a loud, indignant reaction to one arguably blown call in one high-profile game, it might be worth taking the chance on those consequences. I see no evidence that that is the case.

    Comment by Bad Bill — October 11, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

  6. I have a hunch this rule would cause even more problems than the current iteration because of the vagaries of what a “fly ball” is. What if a batter tries a bunt with men on 1st and 2nd and no outs and the bunt gets up to eight feet off the ground before it drops on the infield? Is that a “fly ball” on which to call an infield fly, or can the pitcher try to turn a 1-5-4 DP because the runners were holding their bases?

    Comment by Nathan — October 12, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  7. I like it, tho I never had much of a problem with the current rule either.

    Comment by Spank — October 12, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

  8. Here is the relevant rule:

    7.03
    (a) Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 7.03(b) applies.
    (b) If a runner is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner and two runners are touching a base to which the following runner is forced, the following runner is entitled to the base and the preceding runner shall be out when tagged or when a fielder possesses the ball and touches the base to which such preceding runner is forced.

    So, in other words, Mike K, you’re right. Dual occupancy wouldn’t kill the force, because in that situation the defense would have to tag the batter-runner for the force to die. They’d probably prefer the double play. If the batter-runner would just pass the guy on first, though, the force WOULD die (Rule 7.08(h)), and there would be no IF fly issue. It’s a difference of one step (standing on the base v. stepping toward second).

    Basically, if we repealed the IF fly rule, we would be requiring the batter to “commit suicide,” either by exiting the base paths, passing a preceding runner, making “a travesty of the game,” or doing any number of things (see generally Rule 7.08-10). The result is the same as under the current rule, except the onus of putting the batter out of his misery falls on the batter himself, not the umpires. Actually, there are ways for other members of the batting team to sacrifice their batter (although some of these result in other outs as well).

    Oddly enough, this approach might create some potential for breaking up OTHER double plays as well. What would happen if, in a traditional 6-4-3 situation, the batter charged the shortstop instead of running to first, and the runner on first stayed put? Well, if the umpire ruled the batter out for exiting the base paths and abandoning an effort to run the bases BEFORE the ball made its way to second, the force would be off and a tag would be required. If the runner on first in that situation just didn’t run, the offense might avoid a double play.

    I’m sure trying this in non-IF fly situations would garner some League attention, but I still don’t see a problem with forcing players to assign themselves the out in an IF fly scenario. It takes an imperfect officiating call and turns it into a relevant strategic decision. I can’t find anything in the rules that suggests this isn’t possible right now.

    Comment by jtloughney — October 12, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  9. decent idea.

    better idea – let the lead runner call infield fly. Booyah. That way if they call it wrongly, they hurt themselves, instead of the umpire hurting them.

    The umpire would merely have to determine if it was properly called by the runner or not.

    Since it protects the runner, then it’s their own fault if they mess it up.

    Comment by Joeiq — November 24, 2012 @ 8:52 am

  10. Just take away the rule completely. If the batter wants to avoid a DP, he can simply pass the guy on first. The batter would be out, and nobody would be forced (taking away the DP possibility).

    Comment by Bo — January 7, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

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