On Thursday morning Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced new rules for the 2016 season. The two biggest changes to the rules include, more pace-of-play restrictions, as well as what constitutes a legal slide into second base.
Last year Major League Baseball, and Commissioner Rob Manfred instituted rules designed to increase the pace-of-play in an effort to reduce the time of a nine inning game. They succeeded, as the average time of a nine inning game was reduced by six minutes. This year Commissioner Manfred, Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed on a few new rules again to reduce the average time of a nine inning game. Starting in 2016 visits to the mound by managers, and coaches will be limited to 30 seconds maximum. In addition Major League Baseball has restricted time in between innings match that of television commercial times. Regional broadcast games will have 2 minutes, 5 seconds in between innings, and nationally broadcasted games will have 2 minutes, 25 seconds in between innings.
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I’m a huge fan of both of these new rules, and I believe they will continue to trim the time off of the average nine inning game without taking away from the game itself. The new rules give fans a more enjoyable viewing experience at home, as well as the ball park. In addition it will help garner more interest from younger generations of viewers, as well as those who were deterred in the past from watching baseball due to the extensive length of the games.
A disturbing trend in the past few years, and most recently in the spotlight in the 2015 NLDS, is the “take out” slide into second base. Where a base-runner essentially barrels into a largely defenseless shortstop, violently colliding with the defender in an attempt to deter him from successfully recording an out on the runner at first base, often times resulting in injuries ranging in severity.
According to the new rule (6.01j) a runner will have to make a “bona fide slide,” which is defined as making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to and attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate) and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
A runner may still make contact in the course of a permissible slide, but are specifically prohibited from using a roll block or intentionally initiating (or attempting to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee, throwing arm or upper body.
Violators will be called out for interference, and the batter-runner will also be called out. Interference will not be called, however, if the contact is caused by the fielder positioning himself or moving into the runner’s legal path to the base.
Potential violations of the new rule are subject to replay review, as is the existing “neighborhood rule” where a defender either straddles the outside of the base or glides his foot by it, in the course of turning a double play. That play was not subject to review in the past.
Commissioner Manfred, and Major League Baseball hit it out of the park by making the changes to the rule, and hopefully increasing player safety in turn. No one ever wants to see someone get injured, and certainly no one wants to see a player that their franchise has invested millions in getting his leg broken, over an out or two.
Seeing Chase Utley barrel into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada at second base, to avoid a double play, resulting in Tejada missing the remainder of the playoffs with a broken leg was maddening as an avid fan of baseball. Kudos to the league for realizing that they needed to remedy that situation immediately, and doing so.