New Sliding Rules Spark Up Controversy in MLB

Photo courtesy of slgckgc, Wikipedia

Just two-and-a-half weeks into the 2016 MLB season, there is already major controversy surrounding a new rule that was put into place in the offseason.

In order to improve player safety, Major League Baseball decided to revamp one of the most critical and often-used plays in the game. 

The takeout slide, which is used to break up a double play at second base, is now illegal when the runner doesn’t maintain contact with the bag and collides with the infielder. 

The new rule aims to improve the safety of players and make sure there is “a bona fide slide attempt.”

During the 2015 NLDS playoff round between the Dodgers and Mets, shortstop Ruben Tejada had his leg broken when Chase Utley slid into him at second base. 

This primetime incident is what most likely caused the rule change after there was a public outcry for some sort of measure to be taken to limit major injuries in the game.

This change, nicknamed the “Utley Rule,” has already had a direct impact and resulted in losses for both the Blue Jays and Astros. 

In each game, a game-ending double play was about to be turned at second base when the runner slid into the fielder disallowing him to complete the double play. In both cases, the umpire deemed the slide to be illegal and the game ended with that call.

Never before has a game ended this way, and it has caused managers and players around the league to question whether it is needed in baseball.

After the Blue Jays loss, manager John Gibbons was very critical of the rule saying, “Maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow,” implying that the new style of play has taken toughness out of the game of baseball.  

Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel further echoed Gibbons’ statement as he tweeted, “Are we even playing baseball anymore???”  

While Gibbons and Keuchel have clearly stated their opposition to the new rule, some believe it has improved the quality and safeness of the game.

In an interview with ESPN, New York Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira said he believes the rule is good for the game and he “hated to see what happened in the playoffs last year. There’s a difference between playing the game hard and playing the game dirty.”

“It seems like a bad rule, but it’s improving player safety, which is a good move by the MLB,” said senior Jon Goldfarb.

Limiting the amount of injuries is more important than ever as there were a record 30,302 days lost to the disabled list last year, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Rob Manfred, commissioner of MLB, believes this rule change was necessary even though he has been heavily scrutinized for making the change. 

“We knew there was going to be a period of adjustment with respect to the rule, and we’ve decided the safety issue was worth taking the risk with the adjustments,” said Manfred.

Clearly, some people, including the MLB, are all for player safety. However, others feel that baseball has become a much softer sport with this rule. Despite anyone’s thoughts, there is still tons of controversy surrounding the brand new rule.