MLB bans rolling block slides in rules change
Aim is to enhance player safety, reduce injuries on slides
Baseball made its call on the Chase Utley slide: out.
Major League Baseball and the players' union have banned rolling block slides to break up potential double plays, hoping to prevent a repeat of the takeout by Utley that broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.
Under the rules change announced Thursday, a runner must attempt a "bona fide slide," defined as making contact with the ground ahead of the base, being in position to reach the base with a hand or foot and to remain on it, and sliding within reach of the base without changing his path to initiate contact with a fielder.
An umpire can call both the runner and batter out for a violation. Baserunners may not elevate or kick a leg above the fielder's knee or throw his arm or upper body.
A runner who makes a permissible slide cannot be charged with interference, even if he makes contact with a fielder.
"Our goal in amending the slide rule was to enhance player safety, reduce incidents of injury and to do it in a way that respects and preserves the bona-fide hustle plays that are integral to our game," union head Tony Clark said in a statement. "I am optimistic that this new rule will accomplish those goals."
Chase Utley Rule?
Utley barrelled into Tejada at Dodger Stadium in the NL division series last year. Tejada missed the World Series and Utley was suspended for two games, which is still under appeal.
Chances are, fans will call this the Chase Utley Rule.
"Did Chase catch him good? Yeah. Could Tejada have maybe done a couple things to get out of the way? Yeah. Neither of those things happened, so now we have something to talk about," said Philadelphia infielder-outfielder Cody Asche, a former Utley teammate.
"For the most part, I think it's just going to take some time to police that, just like the home-plate collision rule. We're three years removed from that rule, and there's still some grey area there, which I think there'll be some grey area with this one too, as expected. When a rule change happens in a sport that's been around for centuries, it's going to take a while to get adjusted to," he said.
Takeout slides and neighbourhood plays will be subject to video review. In the past, the neighbourhood play wasn't subject to review.
"A shortstop will drag his right foot across the back corner of the base. I don't think that will ever change," said Colorado manager Walt Weiss, a former All-Star shortstop. "The second baseman, I think, is more affected by this rule, because sometimes they leave the base before the ball gets there."
Said Asche: "I don't think you can define a takeout slide. Because I think when those things happen, both parties have probably done something to put themselves in that situation."
Baseball and the union also agreed to limit mound visits by managers and pitching coaches to 30 seconds and to cut the countdown clock for between-innings breaks by 20 seconds, to 2:05 for most games and 2:25 for nationally televised matchups.