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keydetpiper

Can IFF be called after the ball is dead?

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I encountered this one in a city league slow-pitch softball game I was playing in. The rules are ASA with modifications, but I suspect that doesn't come into play for this situation. 

R1, R2, 0 out. Fly ball to F5, clear IFF, but the umpire does not call it. F5 misses the catch, retrieves the ball and steps on 3B to force out R2. Situation now R1, R2, 1 out. After the play is dead, the umpire calls infield fly, rules the batter out, and rules R2 safe at 3B because there was no tag. Ending situation R2, R3, 1 out. 

I pressed the umpire on the lack of call and she informed me that she has until a pitch was thrown to the next batter to call IFF. This doesn't smell right to me, since the outcome of the play depends on the call; F5 could have tagged advancing R2 but chose to step on the base because he thought there was a force. 

So I have two questions about this situation:

1. Can the umpire enforce IFF after the play is dead?

2. If IFF is not called, should the play simply stand as it played out? 

 

Unrelated to the outcome of the post, it was clear the umpire did not know the rule; after the ball was dead she initially announced "Infield fly, batter is out, runners return to their bases." After I pointed out that's not what IFF is, she made the ruling mentioned above. The umpires in this league are generally pretty good, but this one clearly did not know what was going on. 

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17 hours ago, keydetpiper said:

1. Can the umpire enforce IFF after the play is dead?

2. If IFF is not called, should the play simply stand as it played out? 

  1. Yes. Get it right.
  2. No. Get it right.

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In May of 2010 USA Softball (back then it was ASA) issued a case play dealing with exactly your question. It is rather long and detailed but the last sentence sums it up nicely—“The umpires should have returned all runners to the last base touched before they ruled the batter–runner out on the Infield fly rule that should have been called.”

Here’s the link to that case play and interpretation:

https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Softball/News/2010/May/31/May-2010-Plays-and-Clarifications

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May 2010 Plays and Clarifications Rule 8, Section 2I Batter-Runner is out

Play: R1 on 3B, R2 on 2B and R3 on 1B and one out. B5 hits, what appears to be, an infield fly that it is not called by the umpires. The ball was not caught and F5 picks up the ball and throws home for a force play with no tag being applied, and the runner is called out. After all play has ceased the defensive coach requests time to discuss the play with the umpires as they feel that the infield fly should have been called per ASA rules. After the umpires discuss the situation the plate umpire calls the batter-runner out on an infield fly and rules the runner that touched the plate safe for not being tagged. The offensive coach protests and asks if the umpires can legally call Infield fly after the fact?

Ruling: If after the umpires get together and agree this fly ball met the criteria of Rule 1, INFIELD FLY, and the umpire failed to make the correct call at the time, then Rule 9, Section 1A[1-4] allows the umpire to call “Infield Fly” when the opposing team brought this to the attention of the umpires.  In regards to R1 at 3B, by the umpire not calling “Infield Fly” this put both teams in jeopardy.  Rule 10, Section 3C allows for the umpire to rectify any situation in which a reversal of an umpire’s decision or delayed call places the offensive or defensive team in jeopardy.  In the above case, the batter should be ruled out for Infield Fly and return R1 to 3B.  


As to the question of whether the umpires can decide, after the fact, to call an Infield Fly or not, the following information should be noted:

1) If the umpires thought it was a fly ball that could be caught by normal effort (Rule 1 Definition Infield Fly) and did not call infield fly, then the opposing team could protest a misapplication of the playing rules under Rule 9A, Section 1-4.  

2) Not calling infield fly put both the offense and defense in jeopardy, especially the runner from 3B attempting to score.

3) Rule 10 Section 3C allows the umpires to rectify any situation in which a reversal of an umpire’s decision or delayed call by an umpire places a batter-runner, runner or defensive team in jeopardy.

In this case, if the umpires decide, under protest, that the Infield Fly Rule should have been called, then they put the defense in jeopardy by not knowing that they had to tag the runner.  The umpires should have returned all runners to the last base touched before they ruled the batter–runner out on the Infield fly rule that should have been called.

 

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On 9/8/2018 at 2:25 PM, Senor Azul said:

In this case, if the umpires decide, under protest, that the Infield Fly Rule should have been called, then they put the defense in jeopardy by not knowing that they had to tag the runner.  The umpires should have returned all runners to the last base touched before they ruled the batter–runner out on the Infield fly rule that should have been called.

I think the wording "In this case" is very important here.  In the case play, it's probably the right thing to do, assuming that the runners did not attempt to advance until after the ball touched the ground.  In fact, it was probably the right thing to do in the OP, as well.

However, if the runner from 3rd (for whatever reason, including simply not being aware of the situation) had advanced immediately and been "almost home" when the ball touched the ground, it would probably be right to score that run.  And if the runner from 1st (again for whatever reason, including simply not being aware of the situation) had advanced immediately, s/he may very well be declared out because s/he would have been doubled off 1st or tagged out at 2nd as the trailing of the 2 runners standing there.

The OP umpire's (and the case play's) solution of "everybody goes back" will probably be right most of the time, but it's not a rule.

Sometimes, you have to be the umpire, make an unpopular decision, let someone (respectfully) express their disagreement/displeasure, and live with it.

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On 9/7/2018 at 5:31 PM, keydetpiper said:

Unrelated to the outcome of the post, it was clear the umpire did not know the rule; after the ball was dead she initially announced "Infield fly, batter is out, runners return to their bases." After I pointed out that's not what IFF is, she made the ruling mentioned above.

Why would you argue here?   Basically, whether or not she thinks an IFF always results in runners returning to their bases, the fact is, this should have been the correct outcome of the play.

If you're looking for the umpire to rule R2 out for a tag that never occurred, you're getting greedy.   Sure, F5 "could" have tagged R2, instead of touching the base.  And F5 "could" have dropped the ball when making the tag, just as easily as he dropped an easy fly ball.    

The likelihood remains that, based on the fact that F5 was able to easily retrieve the ball and touch third base, the only reason R2 tried to advance to third is because there was no IFF called, meaning he was forced to advance when the ball wasn't caught.  (or, he never advanced at all, assuming it should have been an IFF, or was outright confused)  Unless the ball rolled all the way over to the fence, there's very little reason for R2 to advance when F5 drops the fly ball...unless he (thinks he) is forced.  The initial lack of an IFF call put R2 in jeopardy.  

So, you had the correct outcome - one out, R1/R2 - with the proper runners on base.  You decided to get greedy, or be a know-it-all, and argued yourself into a worse outcome.

 

 

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On 9/7/2018 at 6:31 PM, keydetpiper said:

After the play is dead, the umpire calls infield fly, rules the batter out, and rules R2 safe at 3B because there was no tag. Ending situation R2, R3, 1 out

An Infield Fly Situation is defined in the Rules – there is no “Umpire Judgement” that negates that pre-pitch. During the play itself, Umpire Judgement can negate an IFF if there isn’t “routine” or “normal opportunity” by an infielder to catch it. Your situation reads as routine... you wrote so yourself (“clear IFF”)... so the gripe shouldn’t be with the umpire. The gripe should be at your F5, for not catching the pop-fly ball, and for not doing anything effective with the ball after picking it up (such as tag the Runner(s) off the base(s).

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On 9/11/2018 at 8:17 AM, MadMax said:

An Infield Fly Situation is defined in the Rules – there is no “Umpire Judgement” that negates that pre-pitch. During the play itself, Umpire Judgement can negate an IFF if there isn’t “routine” or “normal opportunity” by an infielder to catch it. Your situation reads as routine... you wrote so yourself (“clear IFF”)... so the gripe shouldn’t be with the umpire. The gripe should be at your F5, for not catching the pop-fly ball, and for not doing anything effective with the ball after picking it up (such as tag the Runner(s) off the base(s).

All this does is encourages umpires to shirk responsibility. After picking up the ball F5 did exactly what he should do when there's a force play at third base.

Once an IFF situation exists, the final determination of whether or not the play is an IFF is fully the umpire's judgment...both whether it is, or is not.  It doesn't matter at all whether the coach or players think it's a clear IFF.  It only matters what the umpire thinks.   And if the umpire has given zero indication that he/she thinks it's an IFF (ie. caught with ordinary effort) then fielders and runners are going to act accordingly...or should.   The umpire needs to give a loud and clear verbal confirmation that there is an IFF (not that there isn't), that the batter is out, not that he isn't.

So, if the ball does drop, R2 is going to run (or should) because the umpire hasn't indicated that the batter is out, so R2 has every reason to think he is forced - no matter how wrong he thinks the umpire's judgment is...there's nothing he can do about it, he has to assume the umpire's judgment is there is no IFF.

Likewise for F5 - why would he tag the runner?  The batter hasn't been called out, so the force is on.   Why would he go to the runner who may still be 40 feet away when by rule he can just touch the base?  He can touch third, and try to throw to second for the cheap DP - which is, after all, why the IFF rules exists in the first place.

Your implication is if F5 did indeed tag R2, instead of the base, that the fault lies with R2, not the umpire, for running on a "clear IFF".   That is simply irresponsible to think that way.  The umpire's lack of call put R2 in jeopardy.

I know full well what is and isn't a foul ball, and the rules and scenarios that govern it.  But if a ball lands three feet in foul territory, and every player, coach and fan in the ball park sees it land in foul territory, it doesn't change a damned thing if the umpire judges it to be a fair ball...not because he misapplied the rules, but because that's what he saw.   Ultimately the only thing that makes a ball foul is the umpire saying so.  Same thing with an IFF.   The difference is, at least on a fair ball you'll see the umpire point (usually)...there is no mechanic for "that wasn't an IFF", and I've never seen an umpire give a safe signal when a fielder drops a can of corn.

We all (mostly) know the rules...and we all (think) we know what the umpire's judgment should be - but all that matters is what the umpire's judgment IS.   And the players are trained from an early age to act based on what the umpire says, not what they should say.

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I don't disagree with you in principle, @beerguy55, but every umpire makes mistakes, experiences brain cramps, misses a call due to poor timing, or whatever.  Sometimes, we don't really have a way to fix it.  This thread contains a good example of an instance where an umpire might err, putting one or both teams in jeopardy, but has a way to right the wrong.

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On 9/11/2018 at 3:24 PM, CJK said:

I don't disagree with you in principle, @beerguy55, but every umpire makes mistakes, experiences brain cramps, misses a call due to poor timing, or whatever.  Sometimes, we don't really have a way to fix it.  This thread contains a good example of an instance where an umpire might err, putting one or both teams in jeopardy, but has a way to right the wrong.

That's ultimately my point.  Own the mistake, and correct it.  It's pretty easy (usually) on an IFF to determine what would have happened if IFF was (or wasn't) called properly.

Blaming the players for acting upon a judgment call, or lack thereof, for assuming the umpire consciously made their decision, (ie. expecting the players to act on what the umpire should have called, rather than what they did call) is hypocritical, and that's to what I was responding.

Can't have it both ways - can't want an environment where players/coaches never dispute judgment calls, where no umpire's judgment call is "obviously" wrong, and then ask the players to apply their own judgment to what an umpire will/should call at their own risk.

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