It makes me a total hypocrite to criticize the NFL’s byzantine rulebook and yet value baseball in large part for its own wholly opaque regulations. (Seriously. Try explaining a balk to an alien or to a small child, or, hell, to me. You can’t do it.) I don’t care. I love the fact that baseball has planned for every contingency you can imagine, and about 3,000 that you can’t.
So I am overjoyed that for 2016, MLB has introduced a rule tweak, perhaps the smallest, least significant one in its history—which does not mean its significance is zero. I first found about it from this Tweet:
It did not end up a factor, but that’s not the whole point. The laces? A new rule, Really? After a whole bunch of that can’t be true...can it? I went right to the rulebook. And sure enough, there it is on page 150, in the Definition of Terms. I compared it to last year’s rulebook; the new wording is bolded.
A TAG is the action of a fielder in touching a base with his body while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove; or touching a runner with the ball, or with his hand or glove holding the ball (not including hanging laces alone), while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove.
I love this. I love that the MLB Playing Rules Committee, the owners, the players’ union, and the umpires’ union all unanimously agreed not only that the laces are not part of the glove, but that it was worth codifying the distinction.
MLB Network put together a video examining all of the new rules this year. Nearly seven minutes in, we get to the laces rule, and the example used was this play:
There’s an old saw about how you can go to a baseball game, even after 150-some years of the sport’s existence, and see something new. It’s absolutely true. Jose Altuve appeared to make a legit glove tag here even after the runner slid through his glove laces, but it was damned close.
Some day, maybe not for another century, someone’s laces are going to make a putout, and they’ll go to replay, and there will be no argument, because the rulebook now covers this. That’s sort of the driving dogma behind baseball: the belief that nothing is too picayune for clarification. God bless MLB’s proactive anality.