Call upheld after Francona uses challenge after dropped ball
CLEVELAND -- Fresh guidelines regarding what constitutes a catch were issued by Major League Baseball on Tuesday and came into play in the first inning of the second game of the Indians' doubleheader with the Padres on Wednesday afternoon.
That did not things any easier to swallow for Indians right fielder Elliot Johnson, who was sure he made the catch in question during Cleveland's 2-1 loss to San Diego at Progressive Field. Instead, a missed-catch ruling by first-base umpire and crew chief Bob Davidson stood after an instant-replay review.
"I caught the ball," Johnson said. "I hit the fence there with possession of the ball."
With no outs and Everth Cabrera on second base, Chris Denorfia lifted a pitch from Indians starter Trevor Bauer to deep right field, where Johnson tracked down the ball. Johnson made the catch, took two steps, put both hands on the wall to steady himself and then dropped the baseball on the transfer when throwing it back to the infield.
Davidson ruled it a missed catch, and Denorfia was awarded a double by the official scorer. Indians manager Terry Francona immediately emerged from the dugout and challenged the call, which was then reviewed at the Replay Operations Center in New York.
"I thought, if anything, maybe they would call traveling, because he took about three steps," Francona joked. "I know they're going to enforce that rule more this year. I thought he still caught it. He went back and then came forward."
After a two-minute review, the play stood as called due to inconclusive evidence to overturn Davidson's decision. The boo birds came out after the ruling stood under review, and the crowd continued to voice its displeasure throughout the remainder of the inning.
Seth Smith followed with a groundout to Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera that allowed Everth Cabrera to score from third base for the Padres. Bauer escaped further harm in the inning, but the missed-catch ruling paved the way for San Diego's first run.
Under the new guidelines, however, the replay ruling was technically correct.
Rule 2.00 [Catch] provides that, "In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught."
After a similar call in the Rangers-Red Sox game on Tuesday, MLB issued a clarification, stating "umpires and/or replay officials must consider whether the fielder had secured possession of the ball but dropped it during the act of the catch. An example of a catch that would not count is if a fielder loses possession of the ball during the transfer before the ball was secured by his throwing hand."
Johnson heard about that play, and he understood that nature of the rule, but that did not mean he agreed with the call.
"Can we get some common sense?" Johnson said. "I mean, is it going to get to the point where a guy can catch a ball, run all the way off the field, go to give a ball to a fan, a souvenir, drop it. What, now he dropped it, so we're going to pull everybody back on the field? We're going to make up where the runners go? At what point do we use some common sense? Obviously, that's getting extreme, but still.
"To me, it's a catch and a throw. It's two separate things. I caught the ball and I went to throw it. Now, I did drop it, obviously. They're trying to set precedent, and they're trying to enforce a rule. I understand that. I realize there are two sides to it. But, to me, I caught the ball.
"It's not like around the bag at second base, where you're talking about catching it and getting rid of it at the same time. There was a catch, and a bunch of steps, a move, a rotation, and then obviously I dropped it then. To me, there needs to be more of a clarification."
Johnson then did his best impression of a wide receiver in defending his catch.
"I made a good baseball move with two feet in and possession of the ball," Johnson deadpanned. "So I felt like it was a catch."