|The Controversial Call: Or How The Sports Media Helps Leagues Cover Up Their Own Ineptitude|
This "Infield Fly" ruling made by the umpire is wrong for (at least) three reasons: (a) As per MLB rules, the Infield Fly must be invoked immediately. It was not, and as witnessed in the replay, did not get called until the ball was well on its way down. (b) The Infield Fly is supposed to be called when an infielder can catch the ball with "ordinary effort." Cardinals shortstop Peter Kozma had to run backwards and never for a moment camped under the ball prior to ducking away (as if outfield Matt Holliday called him off). And (c) the OUTFIELD umpire made the call (according to Baseball Info Solutions, the ball landed 225 feet from home plate). Not the third base ump or the second base ump. And in fact if you watch this replay, you'll see that none of them react as if the Infield Fly was invoked. They are all watching the play in action.
Was this "bad" call made intentionally? It's doubtful. But did it alter the outcome of the game? Most certainly. It turned a hit into an out, and the Braves went from having bases loaded with one out in the eighth to runners at first and second with two outs. Those are two completely different situations, especially for the Braves who trailed by three in the game.
Stranger still, Kozma admitted he missed the ball. According to ESPN, he said, "I was under it. I should have made the play. I took my eyes off it. I was camped under it."
Despite all of this, did ESPN or Sports Illustrated take MLB (who immediately denied the Braves official protest in this game) to task for the umpire's blow call? No. Instead they diverted all attention to the Braves' fans moronic and dangerous reaction of showering the field with beer bottles.
Just two weeks ago, a similar game altering call was made in Monday Night Football and the sports media world was all over it. Why? It was made by the NFL's replacement officials. They were fair game. But this call in the MLB's Wildcard Playoffs (and the "make-up" holding call in the NFL's Week 4 Saints-Packers game) made by the upstanding members of the MLB's umpiring crew is off limits. Rather it's described as a "tough" call for the umps to make...you know, only if they don't follow the league's own rules.
And that's how the main stream sports media does the leagues' dirty work for them.
Oh yeah, one last thing: Chipper Jones predicted this would happen (thanks to Chris for bringing this to my attention).