Major League Baseball no longer will use a strict definition of what constitutes a catch, but that doesn't do White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton any good.
Eaton was charged with an error April 2 against Minnesota when he "dropped" a fly ball — though the actual drop came when he failed to cleanly transfer the ball from his glove to his throwing hand. By the letter of the law, an umpire review determined Eaton didn't make the catch and he was given an error.
"That hurt me as an individual, having that error, I wish I could have no errors this year," Eaton said. "But it is what it is, I'm glad it's changed. It's a step in the right direction."
Thanks to the advent of replay, MLB decided before the season to use that strict definition of a catch, even if in practice it led to some "odd" moments, as manager Robin Ventura put it. He noticed umpires not signaling out until a transfer was made, even if an outfielder caught the ball and had taken five steps before grabbing it out of his glove and getting it back into the infield. The possibility of dropping the ball on a transfer created the need for some out-of-the-box coaching ("playing through the whistle," as general manager Rick Hahn put it) that turned out to be more confusing than anything.
"It’s kind of tough to teach the player, alright, we know what the call on the field is, but assume it’s going to be reversed and just keep playing until you’re sure you got another out," Hahn explained. "So that’s where it got complicated."
But what Eaton, Ventura and Hahn all agreed on was how encouraging it is that MLB made the rule change/clarification during the season, after listening to complaints from players, managers, executives and umpires.
"Yeah, that's a good thing that they listen to the players," Eaton said. "Without us, it's tough to have baseball. So I'm glad that they changed it."
"From a macro standpoint it’s an important thing because Major League Baseball is staying true to its word that if there’s issues with the replay system, they’re going to try to fix them as opposed to waiting or just burying their heads in the sand," Hahn said. "I think they should be commending for acting proactively on this and getting back to probably a more logical interpretation of that rule.”