In an unsurprising move, Major League Baseball announced new rules today addressing slides into players to break up double plays. Baserunners must now slide in a way such that they can touch and remain on the bag, can’t deviate from their path to make contact with the fielder, and can’t roll into the fielder. This is obviously in response to the two high-profile incidents last year, with Chris Coughlan destroying Jung-Ho Kang’s knee in mid-September and Chase Utley wrecking Ruben Tejada in the playoffs. I will henceforth be referring to this rule exclusively as the "Kang Rule."
Obviously there needs to be some sort of important event to precipitate a change like this, but it’s still interesting that Major League Baseball implemented a similar rule protecting catchers two years ago, yet didn’t do the same for other fielders until now. My suspicion is that catchers’ risk for concussions, coupled with the rampant head injury issues in the NFL, prompted MLB to take action, as we’ve seen several times that MLB wants to avoid the mistakes that the NFL makes. (Recent domestic violence cases involving Jose Reyes, who was suspended indefinitely, and Aroldis Chapman, who will be suspended soon, show a significantly more proactive approach from Major League Baseball than the NFL’s laughable penalties leveled against Ray Rice and Greg Hardy.)
As an observer, this new rule makes sense to me. When you’re running the bases, you should actually be running around the bases and not running to some arbitrary spot to interfere with the fielders. Hurdle has repeatedly said he wanted MLB to look into redefining a legal slide, so this rule change should make him pretty happy.
One rule change that Clint Hurdle won’t be happy about is that coaches now only have thirty seconds for mound visits, starting when they step out of the dugout. He seems to move exceedingly slowly compared to most managers in MLB; luckily for Hurdle, he doesn’t come out of the dugout much and Ray Searage seems to be in relatively good physical shape. For those few times Hurdle does come onto the field, though, he’s going to have to walk a little more quickly than his usual loping gait. (Alright, alright, I’ll give the guy a break because he had hip surgery, but he wasn’t even a very speedy walker before that.)
The pace of play rule will have limited impact, I think, but the rule change preventing takeout slides on a potential double play is probably a welcome addition to the rulebook for most middle infielders, Kang especially.