KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist said he texted Tony Clark, the head of the players’ union, on Wednesday, asking the union to see what it can do with the new interpretation of when a player has successfully transferred the ball from his glove to this hand.
The rule was applied in Tuesday’s win when Zobrist caught, then dropped the ball on a force attempt at second base. Before the rule was changed to accommodate replay, it would have been ruled that Zobrist dropped the ball while taking the ball out of his glove and the runner would have been out.
“This is what I was told: If you do not catch the ball, pull it out with your bare hand and throw it in the intended direction you were trying to throw it, it’s no longer a catch. Even if you pull it out with your bare hand and then drop it, it’s not a catch,” Zobrist said before Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to the Royals.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday this interpretation calls into question all force plays.
“There’s a definite difference between whether or not the guy actually dropped the ball and caught and then tried to throw it and dropped it,” Maddon said. “With technology as it is to go this far in the right direction and then to redefine the force play, to me, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Zobrist said it’s a double-standard because first basemen don’t have to even have full possession before the runner is called out on a review.
“(If the ball hits) the back of the palm, even before you close the mitt, back of the palm before the (runner’s) foot hits the base, out,” Zobrist said. “But at second you not only have to do that, but catch it and pull it out and throw it in the direction you’re throwing it. That makes no sense at all.”
That’s why Zobrist said he turned to the players’ association.
“We have to do something about that rule, because that’s a ridiculous rule,” Zobrist said. “It’s been that way for 120 years or whatever and now we’re changing it? They’re saying we got it wrong for 120 years so now we got to change it? That makes no sense at all.”
During the third inning, with Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar on first base, Jarrod Dyson hit a grounder to Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar, who threw the ball to Zobrist. Zobrist caught the ball with his foot on the bag, then dropped the ball as he was attempting to take the it out of his glove and throw to first base.
Second base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled Zobrist didn’t have possession long enough and called Alcides Escobar safe.
Maddon asked for a review, but the call was upheld.
“I know the umpire did the April 8 interpretation properly, but I think it’s totally wrong. I think the rule is wrong,” Maddon said after Tuesday’s game.
“That runner was absolutely out. Zo caught the ball one handed. There was no two-handed, like a lot of middle infielders catch the ball with two hands and then drop, I can totally understand that play being called a drop, I totally can. But that was tantamount to a first baseman receiving a ball from shortstop, a force play that’s done at first base, and then if he gets off the bag and proceeds to throw and drop it, nothing would be called.”
Maddon said the replay system is a fluid one and changes can be made to the rules. That is one rule Maddon said needs to be changed.
“You can easily discern that Zo had that ball in his glove with the foot on the bag and the runner is out, period,” he said. “So, as we continue to move this forward, I think there has to be a differentiation between that and the two-handed transfer. … That is an improper call as far as I’m concerned, even though I know it’s within the boundaries right now. On top of that, Zo gets an error when he should not.”