April 13, 2009

D--F-8 Fly Ball Communication

Viewing a game live at Busch Stadium, there occurred a play whereby a fly ball was hit to deep right center field.

Center fielder Colby Rasmus ran back, rightfully playing the ball that he could reach. Normally, the center fielder takes any reachable fly ball, unless it is totally obvious one of the corner outfielders has an easy play.

On this particular fly ball, however, there was barely enough time to get to the drop zone. What complication the play was that right field Ryan Ludwick, was on the same track to field the fly ball, at a much quicker pace than Rasmus, and with a longer run to get to the drop zone.

While it is possible that Rasmus made some type of communication with Ludwick, from my vantage point near the right field foul pole, it did not appear Rasmus said a word, and if he did, not quite loud enough.

Ludwick (possibly because he heard no call), kept after the fly ball, most likely thinking Rasmus was having difficulty, or simply was not going to reach the drop zone. Ludwick was able to get a few peeks at Rasmus as he sprinted over, but from Ludwick's approach, I really don't believe he could hear a call by Rasmus. There were no visual wave offs either, which is another way to show other fielders that the waving fielder has the play in hand.

Properly, Ludwick went on for the catch, pulling off at the last second when it finally became apparent that Rasmus was fielding the high, deep fly. Feet tangled between the outfielders and down they went. Rasmus held on for the catch.

When they arose, however, Rasmus seemed ticked that the play went off they way it did. This is speculation, though. There's no way of telling what he was thinking for sure, except maybe that he was happy to still have his head after colliding with the much larger Ludwick.

Ludwick attempted to speak to Rasmus, who didn't say anything.

Plays involving the center fielder are almost always plays where the center fielder must take charge of the play. Even if it was at the last second that Rasmus knew he was going to make the catch, he should have yelled "Mine!" or "I got it!"

And such calls need to be made at top volume as well. If Rasmus did make the call, it obviously wasn't very loud. A lower level shout might suffice in the minor leagues, but in The Bigs, you would think the command needs bigtime loudness, considering the games held, not within the sporadic shouting of a few thousand spectators, but amidst the din of 35- 45,000 strong.

There should have been a few words after the collision regarding how things should have gone, not with anger, of course, but because of professionalism. Forget the embarrassment of butts on wet turf with your dance partner; this type of mishap needs some untangling before the feet get into it again, and someone gets hurt.

If nothing gets straightened out in the outfield, then certainly in the dugout, and since the play involves a rookie, then probably with a coach assisting.

If I've got this all wrong, simply due to not being within proximity to make the right deduction, so be it, but the fly ball communication of these tough plays does need to gone over, time and again, before the team loses not just an out, but one, or even two, outfielders as a result of a needless collision.

In other words, if it's apparent from a half-an-outfield away, it's something the outfielders, hopefully, have addressed.

Game #7 -- April 12, 2009 -- vs. Astros