ARLINGTON, Texas – The replay umpires made the right call in the sixth inning of the Texas Rangers’ 7-1 loss Monday to the Seattle Mariners, when they invoked the transfer rule. It was the right call, but it's the wrong rule.
Just ask Rangers manager Ron Washington and catcher J.P. Arencibia. Even Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, whose team benefited by the call Monday, wishes the rule would "go away."
“The guy on the base was out,” Washington said. “I understand what the rule is, but we’ve got to do something about it."
The transfer rule has already caused some consternation among managers this season. It has caused balls that look like catches in the outfield to turn into hits, but also causing baserunners to cross one another in the confusion. It has allowed some runners to be safe when, in previous seasons, they would have been out. And that's a problem. Players, managers and even umpires have been used to calling it one way and now, with replay, have to enforce it another.
On Monday, the rule made Washington so mad he charged out from the dugout after an out turned into a run when a call was overturned. Pitcher Pedro Figueroa snagged a bouncer to the mound in the sixth inning and threw home to Arencibia, who caught the ball with his foot on the plate. He then transferred it to his hand to attempt to complete a double play with a throw to first, but bobbled it. The umpires called Dustin Ackley out at the plate. But McClendon challenged the play, citing the transfer rule.
"The rule applies not only to the outfielders, but the infielders as well, particularly on that type of play,” McClendon said. “I thought it was a clear violation of the rules. It was an impactful play. We thought we should go out and challenge it."
It took replay officials in New York 3 minutes, 30 seconds to decide to overturn the call. Replays showed it was the correct decision in terms of how the rule is being interpreted, because Arencibia clearly didn’t have control of the ball on the transfer.
That allowed the sixth run of the game -- and fifth of the inning -- to score, and Arencibia was charged with an error.
“It’s jeopardizing the game,” Arencibia said about the transfer rule. “It’s giving guys extra outs when the game has been played the same way for the last however many years, and I think that it’s a little ridiculous what’s going on.”
Washington didn’t even make it all the way to home plate before he was automatically ejected, because managers can’t argue calls once a replay decision has been made.
“The only guy that gets the advantage on that is the batter-runner,” Washington said. “He doesn’t get doubled up. If he catching the ball at the same time and he drops it, I understand. But I understand what the rule is saying. I just don’t agree with it.”
Washington was asked if he thinks the rule needs to be clarified.
“It’s already clarified,” Washington said. “The clarification is you’ve got to have control of the ball when you take it out of your glove. That’s the clarification. But the guy coming down the line is out.”
It’s difficult to understand why Major League Baseball has chosen to interpret the rule this way after players have been called out on that play for as long as anyone can remember. But everyone knows the rule is in place now. McClendon knew and was smart to challenge it, giving his team another run. And Washington has every right to be upset about it.
The rule needs to be changed. Until it is, expect more challenges and more ejections as managers end up on its good and bad ends.