Fouling Up The Rule


Let’s pull another question out of the email bag…

Q: Can an error ever be called if a hitter hits a CATCHABLE foul ball that is dropped by either the catcher or one of the fielders? (Warren – Washington, DC)

A: Can and must.

Rule 10.12(a)(2): The official scorer shall charge an error
against any fielder when such fielder muffs a foul fly to
prolong the time at bat of a batter, whether the batter
subsequently reaches first base or is put out.

It should be fairly clear to all that the intent of this rule is to give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt when a plate appearance is extended because of an error by a fielder.

Nowhere in the Official Baseball Rules does it mention that this rule be applied as a ”get out of earned run(s) FREE if there’s a foul ball” coupon for the pitcher. As ridiculous as this concept sounds, the frequency that it actually happens is the part I find to be completely ridiculous. To illustrate this point, I share with you the happenings of one of the first Major League Baseball games I ever covered:

Night game at Shea Stadium, in which it had rained all afternoon prior to the game. The ground crew did a great job readying the field for play, but the far reaches of the field were in less-than-perfect conditions. Mike Piazza hit a ball into foul territory, and the opposing team’s first baseman chased it as it headed towards the seats. The kitty litter and water puddles slowed this already slow first baseman down and the ball dropped harmlessly a few feet in front of him on the dirt track. The Official Scorer that night stated “No Play” – the correct call. On a night with perfect field conditions, his call might have been different.

Piazza drove the very next pitch out of the ballpark for a home run. As he was rounding the bases, a member of the media walked up to the Official Scorer and said something akin to now that we “know” what happened, he should change the dropped foul to an error to protect the pitcher by making Piazza’s run unearned. When the Official Scorer responded that this was not the intent of the rule, the media member responded that it would have been changed in other locales. The rest of the conversation was colorful, but not germaine to this discussion. You get the point.

Since that day, I’ve seen a couple of “E’s” mysteriously appear on college and minor league scoreboards shortly after such plays happen. It goes without saying, so I’ll say it again: As an Official Scorer you apply the rules on the “live” action AS IT HAPPENS. If you didn’t think the ball was playable at the time you saw it, what happens next should have no bearing on your decision. No matter what the manager, the player, or his mother say to you. I recommend that you leave “revising history” to historians, “managing” to managers, “parenting” to parents, and “official scoring” to Official Scorers.

It’s a simple game. Really.

Send your questions and comments to the mailbag.


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