Baseball bans rolling block slides in wake of Utley play
NEW YORK >> Baseball made its call on the Chase Utley slide: out.
Major League Baseball and the players' union have banned rolling blocks to break up potential double plays, hoping to prevent a repeat of the takeout by Utley that broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada during last year's playoffs.
"From my understanding, we've been trying to work on this for a few years now," Utley said at the Los Angeles Dodgers' camp, "so I don't think one instance determined everything."
Maybe, but fans may see it another way — the Chase Utley Rule.
Under the change announced Thursday, a runner must attempt a "bona fide slide," defined as making contact with the ground ahead of the base, being in position to and trying to reach the base with a hand or foot, trying to remain on the base after the slide, and sliding within reach of the base without changing his path to initiate contact with a fielder.
An umpire can call both the runner and batter out for a violation. Baserunners may not elevate or kick a leg above the fielder's knee or throw his arm or upper body.
A runner who makes a permissible slide cannot be charged with interference, even if he makes contact with a fielder.
"I imagine there will be a little bit of an adjustment for the middle infielders, but also the baserunners," Utley said.
Tejada missed the World Series due to the injury sustained at Dodger Stadium in the NL Division Series. Utley was suspended for two games, a penalty still under appeal.
"Did Chase catch him good? Yeah. Could Tejada have maybe done a couple things to get out of the way?," said Philadelphia infielder-outfielder Cody Asche, a former Utley teammate.
Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus looked at Utley's slide and the rule change from two perspectives.
"I didn't have any problem with that, even if it looked a little dirty," he said. "But in that situation, I'd probably be doing the same, trying to break the double play."
But then he added: "As a fielder, that's awesome. Nobody's going to get you if you're out of the way."
In mid-September, Pittsburgh rookie shortstop Jung Ho Kang's season ended when his left leg was broken and a knee ligament was torn during a takeout slide by the Chicago Cubs' Chris Coghlan, who was traded to Oakland on Thursday.
"Those incidents put more public attention on the issue and allowed us to focus on it this offseason, but we had been discussing this topic for several years," MLB Senior Vice President Chris Marinak said. "I think there were a confluence of factors that came together this offseason that led to us make the change."
Kang favored the change but wouldn't say whether he thought Coghlan's slide still would be allowed.
"Bad luck in a bad spot," he said through a translator. "The past is the past, and I'm on a new chapter now."
For players' association head Tony Clark, definition was key.
"It allows middle infielders to appreciate where they can go and where they can be safe," he said, "as well as allowing players to appreciate ... where they need to go to try and break up the play," the former All-Star first baseman said.
Going forward, takeout slides and neighborhood plays — where a middle infielder fails to touch second base — will be subject to video review. In the past, the neighborhood play wasn't covered by instant replay.
"A shortstop will drag his right foot across the back corner of the base. I don't think that will ever change," said Colorado manager Walt Weiss, a former All-Star shortstop. "The second baseman, I think, is more affected by this rule, because sometimes they leave the base before the ball gets there."
Baseball and the union also agreed to limit mound visits by managers and pitching coaches to 30 seconds and to cut the countdown clock for between-innings breaks by 20 seconds, to 2:05 for most games and 2:25 for nationally televised matchups.
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