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Five rules that MLB should change for 2016

  • David Whitlock

Commissioners should never “knee-jerk” react to incidents with changes to rules.  It seems like no matter what the sport or season, there is a number of calls that don’t sit well with fans, and media (usually commentators) pipe in with “they have to address this in the offseason.”  In a few cases, they’re right.  There are five rules that commissioner Robert Manfred should change immediately before the 2016 season.

1. Protect middle infielders from reckless slides

Utley ends Tejada's season Credit: AP/Gregory Bull

Utley ends Tejada’s season
Credit: AP/Gregory Bull

Two years after amending the rules to eliminate home plate collisions, the same tweak needs to be done for middle infielders.  Injuries are part of any sport, but any injuries that can be eliminated by rule, should be.  Think about targeting a defenseless football player or the “Brady Rule” in football protecting QBs from hits around their legs.  Of course the most notorious was the gruesome take out slide of Ruben Tejada by Los Angeles Dodgers postseason rental Chase Utley.  I am not questioning whether it was within the rules, it was.  That’s why the rule needs to be changed.

New official rule: Any contact of a fielder by a base runner that is beyond the base or a result of the player sliding away from the base that adversely impacts the ability of a fielder a throw to another base shall result in an automatic out at that other base.

Rationale: A fielder always has a right to field a ball in play (i.e. the runner must avoid), this should extend to a fielder throwing.  The runner has rights as well, as a fielder cannot impede the runner without the ball (even at home plate).

2. Amend the ground rule double rule to allow all runners to score

How many times during a game do you see a deep fly ball clear the fence on one hop and the announcer notes “that’s a big break for the defense, that runner on first would have scored”.  I don’t know what the statistics are, but I would guess that with two outs and a ball hit beyond the outfielder results in a run 75% of the time.  Probably >50% of the time with less than two outs.  Note I’m not talking about ground balls to the gaps or lines, but high, deep fly balls.  There is no reason to reward the defense.

New official rule: All base runners shall be awarded home (and a run) for any batted ball that clears the outfield wall on a bounce (or off a defensive player) with two outs.  If fewer than two outs, any runner beyond second base at the time the ball leaves the field of play shall be awarded home (and a run).

Rationale: The second sentence is not much different for umpires than awarding a runner crossing the plate on a third out tag play on the base paths and could be subject to video review.

3. Eliminate the video review of a prolonged tag after a slide

Gore ruled out for a foot just off the base Credit: APDavid J. Phillip

Gore ruled out for a foot just off the base
Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

Instant replay (if you like it) has done a good job of ensuring the near-impossible-to-call tag play ends correctly.  With super slo-mo, fingernails can nearly be seen in the same frame as the tag.  An unintended consequence is that many times (such as Kansas City Royals speedster Terrance Gore in the American League Division Series) moments after the runner hits the bag, a foot slightly leaves the base (perhaps before another body part gets contact or during the pop up or with a gentle nudge from the fielders glove) for a split second resulting in rewarding the defense.  This was not the intent and could result in fewer risks by runners (which are a fun part of the game) if there is an additional risk of an out due to slides that are not perfectly completed.

New official rule: For a tag play ruled safe on the field, the play is only subject to overturn via video review if 1) there is potential that the runner was tagged before reaching the base safely or 2) if the players natural momentum carries them completely beyond the base at which he has to make an effort to return to the base.

Rationale: The second part of the rule is a little fuzzy, but certainly if a runner goes well beyond the base, they should be ruled out if they do not get back.  But otherwise, if the runner reaches the base first and is ruled safe, he cannot be ruled out via video if for a moment he loses contact with the bag if he does not go beyond the bag.

4. With respect to hit batsman and warnings, let the game police itself

This won't happen with just 20 or so people on the field Credit:

This won’t happen with just 20 or so people on the field

Moving away from base runners, let’s talk bean balls.  Batters selfish pride seems to be ahead of logic as just about any inside pitch (even those on breaking balls or with two strikes or in a tight game) are suddenly assumed “intentional.”  The “warnings” system are usually unfair to whoever strikes second and then forces pitchers to avoid the inside of the plate for fear of ejection and suspension.  This is working for the hitters as they’re afforded extra protection for their protests.  If you eliminate the benches clearing, it would go a long way.  Only allow players in the current lineup should be allowed to leave the bench.  Other than that, let the inside pitches go on with it up to the umpire to eject for any situation (first or fourth hit batter).

New official rule: Any player leaving the bench onto the field of play who is not in the current lineup is subject to a mandatory three day suspension (if the player is predominantly a position player) or seven day suspension (if the player is a pitcher or a coach other than the acting manager).

Rationale: No more 60 people on the field causing a raucous (and usually the most angry are those who aren’t playing).  This is how it works in hockey, basketball, and football.  Scorned batters will be much less likely to start something if they know they may have to go it with fewer goons behind them.  And they know that they can still be hit without automatic ejection.

5. Reduce eligible players in September

The 40-man September roster defies logic.  Why for the most critical month, can you have 11 relief pitchers and eight spare bats on the bench?  The games go longer for substitutions and basic baseball strategy is out the window.  An easy fix is to limit the active roster for any game to 25 (and adjust for not scratching starting pitchers).  This will allow those younger players to get a chance on the team as the rule was intended.

New official rule: During September, a team may carry anyone on their 40-man roster on the major league eligible roster, however only 25 players may be designated active for any game.  Any starting pitcher for the previous five games must remain on the roster or they will be ineligible to start for seven days upon their return to the roster.

Rationale: For the last clarification, if you think you can gain something by not starting that pitcher (but bringing them in after one batter or inning) you will essentially be one player down (starting pitcher that was pulled) so you’re not gaining anything.

Nothing here fundamentally changes the game, it’s things to help the game flow, reduce injuries, and reward teams and players who earned something good.

David Whitlock

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About The Author

David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

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