PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association jointly announced the adoption of two rule changes for 2016, most notably clarification of the interference rule regarding sliding to prevent double plays, in wake of Chase Utley's late slide in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Mets.
The new adoption, Rule 6.01(j) in the rule book, will require runners to make a "bona fide" attempt to slide when breaking up a double play, and must be able to remain on the base into which they are sliding. Contact with fielders is permitted as long as a bona fide slide is made by the runner, achieving these criteria:
- begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
- is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
- is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
- slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
In addition to potential violations of this rule being reviewable, the neighborhood play is also eligible for replay review, a change from previous years.
"It's been part of the game, and all I've known. It will be a little bit of an adjustment, not only for the fielders but also the baserunners and umpires to all get on the same page," Utley said Thursday. "Like the home plate rule, the batters box rule, it will take some time to get comfortable with it. Eventually we'll get there. We'll have spring training to work on it, and we should be good.
"We'll have to see how it all plays out."
Utley was suspended for two games for his slide into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, a play that resulted in Tejada breaking his left leg.
"Our goal in amending the slide rule was to enhance player safety, reduce incidents of injury and to do it in a way that respects and preserves the bona fide hustle plays that are integral to our game," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. "I am optimistic that this new rule will accomplish those goals."
Utley said he still hasn't heard anything as to when his appeal might be heard.
"I’m still waiting to hear just like you guys," he said.
Pace of play
The other rule change on Thursday has to do with pace of play, with the between-inning clocks reduced from 2:25 to 2:05 for nationally televised games and from 2:45 to 2:25 for all other games, essentially conforming with the actual length of the commercial breaks.
In addition, there will now be a 30-second clock for all mound visits from managers and pitching coaches. The clocks will reportedly start once the manager or coach leaves the dugout and end once he leaves the mound, per Bill Shaikin of the LA Times.
There is no specific game penalty for these pace of play rules, but if it is anything like in 2015, then we will see violators get warned and/or have a sternly-worded letter written to them by the league office, followed by fine(s) if the offenses continue.
Thirty seconds sure doesn't seem like that much time.