It’s about damn time that MLB fixed up their new slide rule for 2016. The problem wasn’t necessarily that the rule sucked, but that there wasn’t enough clear definition in the rule. For everyone freaking out, they’re not eliminating the runner’s ability to break up a double play, they’re simply cleaning up the rules that were more so assumed but not really written in the rules. So before you freak out, take a look at MLB PR’s tweet of the new rule.
Slide rule on double plays adopted for 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/W2yxzu83Ou
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) February 25, 2016
The rule basically states that the runner has to make a clear attempt to slide into 2nd bases with the intentions of being safe, not with the sole intention of ending a middle infielder’s life. The runner can’t alter his angle to the bag to make contact with an infielder. So if the infielder takes a double play feed cleanly, he’ll be able to protect himself from the wrath of cleats to the groin, or a 220 pound man sliding into his knees. This play is also now reviewable.
But there’s also something else that is included in this new addition to the new slide rule.
MLB also added that the “neighborhood play” is now reviewable. Previously, you could not challenge or review that the middle infielder actually touched 2nd base during his fluid motion of catching a feed and hurling to first base. Typically, middle infielders have been taught their whole life to slide behind the bag (without actually touching it) to avoid contact with the sliding runner. This worked because of the second base umpire’s angle of the play. If a SS slides behind the bag, it’s really tough for the umpire to see whether he actually hit the bag or not. Double plays are turned lightning fast. This part of the rule, I’m not a fan of. We’re changing a part of the game that is so second nature to shortstops across baseball. Yes, breaking up a double play has been taught in the game too, but I think sliding at the bag is an easier habit to change, than a SS having to adjust how he turns a double play. I will say that now that the rule is more clear, and a runner must slide at the bag, a shortstop is considerably safer during the double play turn, so maybe having to actually touch the 2nd base bag won’t put them in as much danger.
The rule goes on to state that a runner may make contact with an infielder, so long as he makes contact with the base by hand or foot, and attempts to remain on the base. If interference is called, the runner and the batter are both ruled out.
Let’s make this simple. Here’s the best 30 second demonstration of the new slide rule.
As with any new rule in baseball, the new slide rule will take some trial and error to work out the loop holes.