MLB announced its rule changes for the upcoming season, and the big ones have to do with pace of play and dangerous slides, two issues that have grabbed a lot of attention over the past few years.
On the Speeding Up the Goddamn Game front, the rules committee has implemented a 30-second time limit on coaches’ and managers’ mound visits. This should prevent managers from moseying out to the mound and killing time while a reliever warms up, and it will hopefully give us some opportunities to laugh at old people trying to hustle.
The other new rules concern takeout slides at second base, which became a big problem last season when Jung-ho Kang and Ruben Tejada were seriously hurt by technically legal slides. The new rules define an acceptable takeout slide as one in which the runner does the following:
1. begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
2. is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
3. is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
4. slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
That’s all fine and good, but it’s hard to see how it complements MLB’s other new rule, which states that neighborhood plays at second base can now be reviewed on replay. The neighborhood play, which allows an infielder to record a force out at second base during a double play without technically touching the bag, helped keep shortstops and second basemen out of harm’s way during takeout slides. If those plays can be reviewed, though, infielders are going to have to hit the base while turning two, making them even more vulnerable to hard slides—which will be legal since they’ll be at the base.
I suppose the thinking is that keeping middle infielders closer to the base will help eliminate a runner’s temptation to leave the basepath, but this sure feels like baseball taking two steps forward and then one step back.