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Infield Fly Proposal

117 years ago, in response to an epidemic of infielders intentionally dropping popups to attempt double plays instead, the National League adopted the infield fly rule, and with some minor adjustments, the rule has survived to the present. Like many remedies from the 1800s, the intent- protecting the offense from chicanery- was good, but the implementation- calling their batter automatically out- was fraught with problems.

First, and most obviously in light of recent events, even when the defense can’t make the play, the rule intended to protect the offense punishes them by giving the defense the out anyway. Second, any time a fly ball can be intentionally dropped for a good shot at a double play, the offense should be protected from that, but because the play requires calling the batter automatically out, the rule as written can’t be invoked liberally. Third, and related to the second, the umpires have to make a judgment call based on the trajectory of the ball, the position of the fielder, environmental factors, and anything else they consider relevant to determining “ordinary effort”. That leads to late calls and inconsistent application.

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