Last Thursday, February 25th, MLB announced a series of rule changes. According to the sanctioning body, changes are aimed to speed up the game, making it more dynamic. Also, the new rules will seek to make it safer for all players.
The rule changes were discussed and agreed by the League’s officials and the players’ union. These modifications will apply in the MLB 2016 season. So, as soon as teams start their spring training sessions, they will have to begin adapting their strategies to the latest changes.
According to MLB’s press release, the league and the union agreed to limit mound visits by managers and pitching coaches to a timed 30-second. This will cut the countdown clock for between-innings breaks by 20 seconds.
Break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games. Reducing 20 seconds each, from the last season. The change seeks to allow players to closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.
Regarding the players safety, the MLB has been discussing for several years the possibility of banning rolling blocks to break up potential double plays. However, last year’s incident between Dodgers Chase Utley and Mets shortstop Ruben Tejeda certainly influenced the decision taken.
Ruben Tejada missed the World Series after Chase Utley’s slide and broke Tejada’s right leg in Game 2 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets. Utley was suspended for two games, a penalty still under appeal.
Hoping to prevent the incident from repeating, the new rule states that a runner who performs a slide to break up a double play will have to include a “bona fide” attempt to reach and remain on the base. Contact with the fielder is permissible, but the runner cannot change his path to initiate contact or engage in a “roll block.”
According to the rule, a player performs a bona fide slide when he:
- Begins his slide (makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base.
- Is able, and tries to reach the base with his hand or foot.
- Is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide.
- Slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
Baserunners may not elevate or kick a leg above the fielder’s knee or throw his arm or upper body. The plays will be subject to video review and if it is determined that the runner did not engage in a bona fide slide attempt, the umpire can call both the runner and batter out for a violation. Nonetheless, a runner who makes a permissible slide cannot be charged with interference, even if he makes contact with a fielder.
Like any new rule, the modifications have already produced different reactions from fans and players. However, until the season starts and teams begin to adapt to the changes we won’t be able to anticipate if they will improve the game as we know it.