SAN FRANCISCO -- Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee announced an adjustment to the game's transfer rule Friday and the new interpretation went to effect immediately.
MLB is not calling it the "Elliot Johnson Rule," but the Indians utility man does not mind if Cleveland fans describe it as such. Before Friday's game against the Giants, Johnson had a good sense of humor about a rule that came into a play for him and the Tribe earlier this month.
"It's fitting that we're in San Francisco," Johnson said, "where the Buster Posey Rule and the Elliot Johnson rule are converging."
The "Buster Posey Rule" is how the new guidelines for home-plate collisions have come to be known, because the regulations gained steamed in the wake of the Giants catcher's injury in 2011. As for Johnson, his non-catch against the Padres on April 9 was one among a handful of plays that paved the way for the alterations to the transfer rule.
In the first inning against San Diego that afternoon, Johnson tracked down a fly ball from Chris Denorfia in deep right field. Johnson made the catch, took a handful of steps, braced himself against the right-field wall, spun around and then dropped the baseball after grabbing it out of his glove with his throwing hand. It was not ruled an out, Denorfia was given a double and the play stood as called after an instant-replay review.
"I think the play with me was a little bit more egregious than any of the other ones. It was excessive," Johnson said. "It was even to the point where, following games after that, umpires were watching the last out, the last catch all the way to the dugout. Really? What are we doing? Are we seriously trying to do this right now?
"It was getting to the point where they were trying to maintain a sense of consistency and it had just gone to far."
The transfer rule and its new interpretation were discussed and agreed upon by MLB, the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association. Under the new guidelines, an out has occurred when a player has complete control over the ball in his glove. If he drops the ball after opening his glove, it will still be ruled an out. Moving the ball to the throwing hand is no longer required.
Umpires will use judgment if a ball is dropped during the transfer.
"We're going back to using common sense," Johnson said. "I don't know why whatever needed to be enforced the way that they were doing it. Why change it? I don't understand. Whatever. They got it fixed and all is good now."
Indians manager Terry Francona was pleased about the new interpretation.
"When I talked to Joe Torre [MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations] back a few weeks ago," Francona said, "he said, 'We're working on it.' It just can't happen overnight. All along, they've kind of said, 'Hey, we want to get it right.' I think they've done a pretty good job. They're trying.
"All they really want is what's best for our game. It's not perfect, but what is? It's getting better. They're trying to make it better. That's really all you can ask.