MLB addressed the safety issue for middle infielders on slides into second base when they added two rule changes Thursday. This indirectly affects the Pirates as you may remember Chris Coghlan’s bullshit slide into Jung-ho Kang last September that ended the Korean’s stellar rookie year.
The new rule stipulates that runners must slide before they reach the bag, have to make an attempt to touch the base with their feet or hands and can’t change their path to the bag to make contact with the fielder. If the umpire feels the runner breaks one of these conditions and takes out the fielder, the double play will be called. This all sounds like good news for the safety of the players, but I’m not as certain.
For one, if runners feel like on certain plays that the double play will occur unless they try and interfere with the fielder, won’t they take the chance and make contact and hope the umpire doesn’t rule it that way? And if they do, it’s still a double play and you may have taken out one of your opponents in the process. I don’t really see enough of a negative with this rule.
Second, this rule change leaves a lot of gray area for an umpire to call what he saw or how he saw it. If there’s anything I’ve noticed with replay in NFL and MLB the past couple years, leaving subjectivity up to the officials usually turns out to be a disaster where things are called differently and inconsistent all the time. Time will tell with how this rule is called and if players will go rogue and take the risk to try and break up the double play.
MLB also added another pace-of-game rule where mound visits by a manager or coach will be timed and limited to 30 seconds starting when the manager leaves the dugout. Hurdle better get a skip in his step this season! Here’s the best part—if teams go past the 30-second limit, there’s no punishment, but the umpire will walk out to the mound to break up the meeting. Wait, isn’t that what happens now? I appreciate what MLB is trying to do to speed the game along, but I don’t see this changing much. Also, the commercial breaks in between innings will be 20 seconds shorter. Quicker commercials and more Buccos baseball? Now that’s something I can get behind.