Baseball’s next rule change should be eliminating the takeout slide

San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro grimaces as his leg is caught under a sliding St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday on a double play attempt during the first inning of Game 2 of baseball's National League championship series Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro grimaces as his leg is caught under a sliding St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Holliday on a double play attempt during the first inning of Game 2 of baseball’s National League championship series Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Baseball’s two newest rule changes made their debuts on Opening Day.

The rule on limiting home-plate collision was a non-issue on Monday, as we predicted it would be most days during the season.

The rule allowing replay challenges of close calls was used five times in MLB on Monday, with two of the calls being overturned.

The Giants didn’t have any replay challenges in their game with the Diamondbacks, although there was one play when it could have been used.

In the fifth inning, second baseman Joaquin Arias fielded a ball in the hole between first and second, spun and threw to second. However, it was ruled that Arias’ throw drew Brandon Crawford off the bag and all runners were safe.

The replay showed that it was a very, very close play. Crawford’s foot wasn’t ON the bag, but it may have been up against the bag.

A replay challenge may not have been conclusive enough to overturn the call, but it brought up an interesting discussion on the replay rule.

One play that is not reviewable for replays is the play at second base on double plays. In other words, the “neighborhood” play.

The neighborhood play is one of those unwritten rules of baseball in which umpires will allow middle infielder to not actually be on the bag when receiving a throw to complete a double play. They simply need to be in the neighborhood of the base. It is intended to protect infielders from potential injury from a takeout slide at second.

But if you’re concerned about protecting infielders, why not just put a rule in the book that prohibits the takeout slide.

Oh wait! There’s already a rule. It’s called Rule 7.09(d), which reads …

“Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;”

That seems pretty clear. How is it that takeout slides are permitting at all with a rule that is so clear?

Well, it comes from the interpretation of the comment after rule 7.09(d), which reads:

“If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”

It’s a very, very broad interpretation of this comment that has led to the takeout slide.

What this comment is saying that if the momentum created by a runner trying to reach a base safely causes him to come in contact with a fielder after the runner has been put out, that contact, in itself, is not considered interference.

But what this broad interpretation has created is that any contact between the runner and fielder is OK as long as the runner can show that he could be in contact with the base at some point during his “slide.”

But the comment is really just talking about incidental contact. So maybe what we need is a rule that talks about willful or deliberate action of the runner.

Oh wait! We already have one. It’s called rule 7.09(e).

“If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.”

Well, that seems pretty clear.

One thing the critics of the new home-plate collision rule have complained about is how these rules are making the game softer.

But this really isn’t about making the game softer. It’s really not about protecting infielders or even runners (Bryce Harper took a knee to the head on his takeout slide on Monday).

What this is really about is the simple point that a runner who has been eliminated from the play should not be allowed to impact the play after he’s been eliminated.

And we don’t even need a new rule to make sure that happens.

We just need to enforce the rules that are already written.

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