The moment Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada with a hard slide into second base during the Dodgers and Mets’ NLDS series, you had to know baseball would take a long look at rules governing such slides.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, MLB and the players union are making substantial progress in reforming the rules regarding takeout slides.
In the ongoing talks between the union and MLB, the sides have been able to find a lot of common ground, and sources expect a change in time for the start of the upcoming season. The sides “will get there,” one source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.
Within the rule alterations being discussed, there is a focus on ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.
As Olney describes, the conversation is a classic tension between safety and “this is how things have always been,” with union members pointing out that they’ve been taught since childhood to slide aggressively into second base with the intent of breaking up a double play and the league pushing changes to protect middle infielders.
What the sides apparently agree on is banning players from sliding beyond the base with the clear intention of colliding with the infielder.
In the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLDS, Utley hurtled over the base and knocked Tejada’s legs out from under him, breaking the shortstop’s leg and prompting a firestorm of criticism and calls for an amendment to the rules banning such a slide.
There are two reasons to oppose protecting middle infielders from aggressive slides. 1) “Baseball has been this way for 150 years. There’s no need to overreact to one incident.” 2) “Players should toughen up. Ty Cobb used to slide with his spikes high and no one in his day complained.” Of course, there has been way more than one incident, and asking players to toughen up is totally silly, so there’s really no sound logic for opposing some kind of rule change that prevents ugly incidents like the Utley-Tejada one.
This conversation closely mirrors the one that surrounded the rule change banning catcher collisions, which was prompted by Buster Posey’s high-profile broken ankle a few years back. Hopefully the league and the union can work something out regarding second base, just as they did home plate.