Transfer play rule adjusted (updated with player reaction)

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche got his wish.

Major League Baseball announced today that the Playing Rules Committee has adjusted how umpires should apply the official playing rules in plays when a fielder loses possession of a ball attempting to transfer it to this throwing hand.

The new interpretation of the transfer play will begin with games tonight.

Here is the official announcement of how umpires will enforce the rule according to these standards:

"The Committee has determined that a legal catch has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, "Catch"), or a valid force out or tag has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, "Tag"), if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it be ruled a catch.

"If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer."

This change in the interpretation of the transfer play would have helped LaRoche Wednesday night against the Angels.

With Raul Ibanez at the plate and a man on first in the ninth inning, a low floating pop up to LaRoche was caught by the first baseman. But when he tried to transfer the ball in his glove to his throwing hand he dropped it. The umpire ruled no catch and Ibanez was safe due to the fielding error.

It was clear that LaRoche caught the ball, but under the old interpretation of the transfer rule the catch was negated and all runners were safe.

"I have said it before that play that it is one of the worst rules I ever heard of," LaRoche said. "I don't feel like it is baseball.

"I think the umpires are smart enough to make judgment calls. We have kind of handcuffed them to have no choice now. You have to come out with the ball clean. It doesn't make sense. So yeah, it is frustrating. Especially in a close game, where that could have ended up costing us. Hopefully we get that rule changed sooner than later."

LaRoche got his wish today, MLB changed the interpretation of the transfer play. Now we will see how umpires call the play from now on.

It is impressive that the Playing Rules Committee acted so quickly with the change in a game that usually requires years and seasons to make adjustment.

Outfielder Nate McLouth was pleased that the Player Rules Committee decided to return the transfer rule back to the original interpretation.

"The fact that they changed is great," McLouth said. "People can go back to the way they have been doing it forever. Especially for the middle infielders, when they got a runner bearing down on them and they are trying to turn a double play and they are trying to get rid of that ball as quick as possible, you don't want them to hesitate at all, cause there is a chance for injury there.

"I am sure that is where the biggest change is going to occur, those guys can let their double play turns rip and not worry about the transfer rule."

What is bothersome to some players is all the errors that were called, like LaRoche's error in the ninth inning Wednesday, are still on record and could have lost games for teams because of the transfer play early season alteration.

"Unfortunately, you can't go back and change that," McLouth said. "And the errors are one thing, but if those lead to runs and ultimately a loss, then you can't really go back and change that. Luckily, it only lasted three weeks and we are back to the way it should be."

McLouth said he thought the way the rule was designed was to help clear up infield play, but whether outfield players were included under the transfer play umbrella was not clear.

"The way it was explained was they really emphasized the transfer on the infield when (it is) the double play ball and what I thought they mentioned was when the ball on the transfer was going up," McLouth said. "In other words, if the guy dropped it but the ball was going upward, it would be considered an out.

"Because he had made a transfer and the ball was going out on the way up, kind of similar to maybe the tuck rule in the NFL. And vice versa, if the ball was going down, it would not be considered an out. They didn't make any mention to my knowledge of the outfield transfer."

But one thing is for sure: McLouth believes no one thought the early transfer play alteration would affect so many games, and that may have led to the acceleration of change back to the original interpretation.

"I don't think anybody thought it would have been this big of a controversy," McLouth concluded.

LaRoche asked reporters after the announcement that they were changing the transfer rule back to its original intention why they had changed the rule after all.

"Who came up with the rule?" LaRoche asked. "Was it a baseball player, somebody who had played?

"It is about time. Glad people found very quickly that that was going to cause a lot more problems than anything else. Good to know. It is about two days late on my ball."

Did LaRoche know it would effect this many plays this early in the season?

"I think everybody who has played the game knew exactly what it would do," LaRoche said. "You got coaches and managers that sit around and think of ways to capitalize on certain rules that come out.

"You can think of a dozen (ideas) with that rule that make it turn into just not real baseball and not what it was designed to be," LaRoche said. "We figured it was going to be a big problem and I had heard it may till the All-Star break to look at it so I am glad they got it under control."

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