Earlier this month, we talked about how the MLB had been making progress in their attempt to change the rules in regards to sliding into second base.
Today, we learned that not only did the MLB implement rule changes related to players sliding into second base, but they’ve also expanded replay and added a rule to speed up the game.
Starting this season, mound visits from managers and pitching coaches will be limited to 30 seconds and tracked on an in-stadium clock from the moment they exit the dugout, sources familiar with the rule change told Yahoo Sports. In addition, Major League Baseball announced an updated and clarified slide rule Thursday afternoon that attempts to cut down on catastrophic injuries at second base when runners try to break up a double play. It also made the so-called neighborhood play — in which a fielder who doesn’t touch second base but gets an out because he was near the bag — reviewable by replay.
The new rule as it pertains to sliding into second base to break up a double play is as follows:
• Slide prior to reaching the base.
• Slide so you are able to and attempt to reach or touch the base.
• Slide so you are able to and attempt to stay on the base.
• Do not change your pathway to the base.
Now, before the Pussification of America crowd jumps in here, let me just say that these rule changes do not eliminate contact at second base. They simply just prevent the base runner from going out of the baseline before they slide, forcing them to slide directly into the bag. The rule changes make it so that another Chase Utley incident can’t happen in that the runner has to begin their slide prior to reaching the base, versus how he began his slide right at Ruben Tejada’s feet. As long as you abide by these rules, you are still within your legal right to take out the infielder who’s covering the bag and attempting to turn a double play.
The new rules also expanded replay so that the neighborhood play is now reviewable. I have a feeling that this one is going to play a big factor come postseason time. I can see it now. Top of the seventh inning, tie game, bases loaded, one out, ground ball to second base, second baseman slings it to the shortstop, the shortstop guns it to first, bang-bang double play and they’re out of the jam. The crowd goes nuts. But wait! The manager’s coming out of the dugout. He wants to review whether or not the shortstop’s foot ever touched the bag. They look at it, and look at it, and look at it, and there might be an inch and a half between his cleat and the bag. The umpires come back out, the runner at second base is safe, and the run scores. Home team loses by a run, fan base and sports talk radio lose their collective minds the following day. It’s probably going to go down like that.
Also, I really like the rule about giving managers and coaches 30 seconds to make trips to the mound. Last week, I wrote about how I’d be open to the idea of MLB implementing timeouts in order to limit mound visits, but I like this idea just the same. It’s not so much that they’re going to the mound, it’s how much time they’re taking and why they’re taking it. Managers will drag their asses out there like Eeyore to give their relief pitchers extra time to warm up, and they shouldn’t be able to. If your relief pitcher isn’t ready to go when you need them, then that’s on you as a manager for not getting them ready in time. The 30-second rule allows managers and coaches to make necessary trips to the mound, without including the loophole benefit of allowing relievers extra time to warm up.
The traditionalists will push back on MLB’s attempts to speed the game up, and suggest that if you don’t like it then don’t watch it, but MLB has to look at this from a business sense. While yes, diehard baseball fans will watch no matter what, MLB’s target demographic is the casual fans. And what’s the biggest knock on baseball from those who prefer not to watch it? It’s too slow. Not enough action. Diehard baseball fans will say that that’s just the way the game is played, and we love it the way it is, but MLB is going to continue to cater to that casual fan demographic and further their efforts to make the game more appealing to a broader audience, which means always finding new ways to cut the time of games down.