The “hidden ball trick” is one of the craftier ways to secure an out in baseball. Through subtle acting and a quiet handoff, fielders dupe a base runner into taking his lead only to tag him out immediately when he leaves the bag.
It’s trickery, but it is legal.
On Monday, New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier bent the rules of baseball trickery to the point of breaking, making use of a fake ball to steal an unearned out from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The devious play came in the bottom of the second inning, with Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo at the plate. Verdugo sliced a ball high in the air careening into foul territory, with Frazier tracking it the whole way. When it came time to make a play, Frazier dove into the stands to make the grab. The umpire rushed over, Frazier showed him a ball, and the out was called.
But the ball that Frazier held up was not the ball that left Verdugo’s bat.
As SNY’s Steve Gelbs discovered, Frazier never made the play. Rather than making the catch during his dive into the stands, Frazier missed the ball, but found a rubber souvenir ball in the area, and used that ball to indicate to the ump that he’d made the out.
You can watch Frazier’s trickery below. After the play, Frazier tosses the evidence of his crime back into the crowd, and can even be seen in the dugout explaining his ruse to his teammates.
The Mets would go on to win the game 4-2, helped ever so slightly along by Frazier’s extra out. It might not be the most upstanding play of the baseball year, but it will certainly go down as one of the highlights of what’s been a dismal season for New York.