MLB, players association amend slide rules to address injuries at second base
February 25, 2016 10:49 PM
The new rules are designed to protect fielders making double plays, like Jung Ho Kang, from being injured by takeout slides from players like the Cubs' Chris Coghlan. Kang's season came to an end on this play.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BRADENTON, Fla. — Pencil “bona fide slide” into your 2016 baseball lexicon.
Reacting to serious injuries near second base, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association Thursday announced modifications to the rule governing takeout slides in potential double plays. MLB and the union intend for the modifications to protect middle infielders while still allowing runners to break up a double play, long a tenet of the game many players were loath to lose.
“I’m all for it,” said Jung Ho Kang, who is still rehabilitating after a serious injury last season in a collision at second base, through interpreter HK Kim. “It’s safe for the players who are in the double-play situation. It’s for the players, to protect the players.”
Kang fractured the lateral tibial plateau and damaged the lateral meniscus in his left knee in a collision with Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan in September. New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada broke his leg when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley slid into him in the 2015 playoffs.
Both injuries occurred near second base, spurring MLB and the union into discussions of a rule change. Jordy Mercer sprained a left medial collateral ligament in a collision on the basepaths, but that play took place farther away from the bag.
“The last thing you want is for life after baseball to be altered because of something that happened on the field,” said Josh Harrison, who will play second base for the Pirates this season. “If these measures will protect us, I’m all for it.”
Manager Clint Hurdle met Thursday morning with three MLB officials: chief baseball officer Joe Torre, senior vice president of baseball operations Peter Woodfork and umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, to discuss the modifications. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, who will visit Pirates camp Saturday, consulted with Mercer during negotiations on the rule change.
“It stinks being hurt,” Mercer said. “No question about it, it does. But the other part of me is, it’s the game of baseball, man. It’s been played like this for a long time. That’s why I’m on the fence about it.”
The change modified Rule 6.01, which governs interference, obstruction and catcher collisions, and is known as Rule 6.01(j). Runners attempting to break up a double play must make a “bona fide slide” to the bag. A bona fide slide has four parts:
• The runner must begin his slide before reaching the bag.
• The runner can, and does, reach the bag with a hand or foot.
• The runner must remain on the base.
• The runner cannot change his path to the base in order to collide with an infielder.
Runners still can legally make contact with an infielder if they fulfill those four principles. They cannot roll into the infielder and also cannot attempt to initiate contact by lifting their legs or arms above the fielder’s knee. If the umpire decides that a runner violated Rule 6.01(j), he will call the batter and runner out. This rule will not apply, however, if a runner collides with an infielder because the infielder was blocking his path to the bag.
These plays are reviewable via instant replay. But here’s the trade-off: The neighborhood play, during which umpires grant infielders a forceout in the interests of their own protection even if the infielder actually don’t touch the bag, are now reviewable, too.
“Getting in touch with Tony, that was one of the things we were going to have to come to terms on, if they did change the rules,” Mercer said. “Just because that’s going to give us a way [bigger] advantage and the runner not an advantage.”
MLB and the union also announced two changes to the pace-of-game rules.
Nine-inning games were an average of 6 minutes, 7 seconds shorter in 2015 than in 2014 because of the pace-of-game rules. The changes to the pace-of-game program announced Thursday cut 20 seconds from between-innings commercial breaks, reducing stoppages in play to 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games. Managers and pitching coaches also have 30 seconds to make mound visits.
“I’m moving much better,” said Hurdle, who had both hips replaced before the 2015 season, “so maybe I can give my time to [pitching coach] Ray [Searage]. We asked if we could bank the time if we get off earlier.”
• Video: Pirates photo day in Bradenton:
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