MLB needs to re-evaluate fly ball ruling

Yu Darvish was lucky to keep his no-hitter intact on Friday after a botched fly ball was ruled an error. Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Almost two decades ago, one of the official scorers regularly used by an American League East team was a guy who was always really grumpy, and he seemed to take out his anger on fielders. Baseballs would be hammered at infielders at speeds that might awe even Chuck Yeager, and immediately, in an era in which you couldn’t always count on replay being available, the scorer's call over the press box public address system would be definitive, with a dollop of sarcasm mixed in: “Error!” Never mind that the infielder would have risked any future paternity -- or, at the very least, a handful of teeth -- if he had actually attempted to stand in the way of the ball.

By the time I witnessed the work of this particular official scorer, I had covered professional baseball for five seasons, and based on that experience, I thought that official scorer had zero feel for the speed of the game and was probably a frustrated fan who might’ve been turned down for an autograph request as a child. He seemed to expect the infielders and outfielders to catch everything.

One afternoon, there was an easy high fly ball into right-center field that I can still remember to this day, because of what happened next. The center fielder looked at the right fielder, the right fielder looked at the center fielder, and this pop fly fell between them, probably five feet from either guy -- and the bitter official scorer instantly called “error!” (I cannot recall which of the two outfielders was charged.) When the decision flashed on the scoreboard, players and coaches from both dugouts looked up to the press box with questioning body language, because for years, they had never seen a scorer interpret that type of play that way.

To this day, a catchable pop fly that falls untouched near a fielder is routinely called a hit. Or at least that was the case until Friday night, when Yu Darvish had a perfect game ended by teammates botching an easy pop fly. Second baseman Rougned Odor and right fielder Alex Rios converged on the ball with two outs in the seventh, and after it dropped -- and after a lengthy delay -- Rios was charged with an error.