People who think Sam Holbrook was right to enforce the infield fly rule in the 8th inning of the NL Wild Card Game on Friday night:
1. Those who don’t understand the definition of “ordinary effort,” as written in the infield fly rule.
2. Sam Holbrook. “Once that fielder established himself, he got ordinary effort,” said the umpire in a haze of self-righteousness after the game.
People who think Sam Holbrook was wrong to enforce the infield fly rule in the 8th inning of the NL Wild Card Game on Friday night:
1. The Atlanta Braves.
2. Everyone else.
This is one of those horrible umpiring calls that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. (It’s not like the Jeffrey Maier game; nothing is like the Jeffrey Maier game.) Down three runs in the 8th inning — and having played poorly for the first seven innings — it’s supremely unlikely the Atlanta Braves were going to come back against the Cardinals on Friday night, even if Holbrook made the right call. They stunk, they deserved to lose, the end.
What burns me is the reaction to the mistake.
Let’s start with Holbrook, who falls into that category of misunderstanding what the word “ordinary” means in the context of the infield fly rule and baseball itself. Here was the scenario on Friday night: In the 8th inning of a road playoff game, St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma had to run about 20 feet behind his position, call off a charging Matt Holliday, and attempt to catch a fly ball — all while the Braves fans were loudly jeering. There was nothing “ordinary” about that play — a play which often seems to result in miscommunication and mental error during the regular season, let alone the playoffs. If the infield fly rule is a judgement call — and it is — then there is no reasonable judgement that could deem Kozma’s predicament, as presented on Friday night, as “ordinary.”
So where does that leave us? Well, where it always leaves us: With terrible umpires making foolish calls that put themselves in the middle of important games. (Whether this is because of the umpires’ egos, incompetence or both is up for debate.) This is baseball. This is sports. We should all be used to it by now.