This week we look at the new sliding rules that the MLB established in 2016 regarding takeout slides and barrel rolls.
Welcome to the second instalment in the Bush League Blog. This week we’ll be discussing takeout slides. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the read!
Takeout slides have been a part of baseball since its earliest days. These slides usually happened at second base while the middle infielders were trying to turn a double play; the runner who started on first base would slide into second and intentionally try to hit the legs of the infielder attempting to throw out the batter-runner. This was often seen as an unselfish, team-player move because the runner was sacrificing his body to keep the batter safe, even after he had already been called out. These plays were some of the more exciting ones in baseball because of their physical nature. Also, if you were lucky enough to play baseball in the days before takeout slides were outlawed, you likely have a few good memories of being the baserunning hero to your coach and teammates (or potentially not so favourable memories as an infielder).
In 2016 Major League Baseball decided to adopt new sliding rules, practically ruling them out altogether. According to the new rules:
1. runners must make contact with the ground before reaching the base,
2. be attempting to reach the base and stay on the base,
3. a player cannot change his path for the purpose of contacting the fielder.
The first two points in the rule make sense since the idea is to lower the risk of severe injury that can occur to middle infielders from such a play, however, the third part prohibits runners from sliding beside the base in order to break up the double play. Today, runners are only able to slide directly into the front of the base. If a runner slides to the right or left of the base they will be called for interference; they will also be called out for sliding directly past the base and into the fielder. So, under the current rules, a runner can only contact a fielder if the fielder somehow steps directly on the base path between first and second. As all infielders understand, this is not where we are taught to stand when turning a double play; the base path should never be where you get the second out from. Considering the limitations of the new rules, it is almost impossible to successfully break up a double play as a base runner in the game today.
You may be wondering what finally tipped the scales towards outlawing takeout slides. Well, in a 2015 postseason game Chase Utley made an aggressive slide towards Ruben Tejada. The result was a broken leg for the young infielder. This was the moment in which Major League Baseball was forced to re-evaluate the slide rule.
While I am all for the protection of players’ safety, I believe that the rule changes in recent years have caused the game to become overly soft, especially with the introduction of video reviewable slides. Managers can now challenge whether the baserunner left the base path to contact their infielder, thus even further reducing takeout slides. In my opinion, this is where the rule becomes overly meticulous. The whole idea of the new slide rule was to prevent major injuries from egregious slides, however, if the interference wasn’t blatantly clear at the time of the incident, I believe it is wrong to punish him for such a slide. A quick Youtube search for old school barrel rolls & takeout slides will show you the things that the MLB was trying to get rid of, but they overcompensated. Instead, baseball has been stripped of its one instance where mild physical contact was allowed.
In my opinion, the new sliding rules (and video reviews) have taken away the opportunity for players to sacrifice their body for the sake of the team; it has also taken away what little physical contact was part of the game that we all love. Baseball is still the greatest game on Earth, but I believe that by removing these slides the game has lost some of its most intense plays. It’s now up to today’s players to find other ways of laying it all out on the field.
Thanks for reading!
Written by Levi Muth
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