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MLB enacts new rule to protect infielders on slides

Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets is

Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets is hit by a slide by Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning in an attempt to turn a double play in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Getty Images / Sean M. Haffey

TAMPA, Fla. — Call it Ruben’s Rule.

In the wake of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada having his leg broken by the Dodgers’ Chase Utley in Game 2 of last year’s NLDS, Major League Baseball and the Players Association introduced a new rule Thursday that should do a better job protecting infielders.

The new baseball legislation, named Rule 6.01 (j), requires runners “to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base.” Contact still is permitted, but only as part of a “permissible slide,” and changing course to target a fielder is prohibited. Also important to note, violations of Rule 6.01 (j) will be reviewable by instant replay, along with the “neighborhood play,” which previously was not eligible for review.

The Mets were furious last October when Utley wiped out Tejada, who was trying to turn a double play. But Terry Collins is concerned that a stricter enforcement of the “neighborhood play” — in which an infielder is allowed some leeway in terms of touching second base on double plays — actually could make things more problematic around the base.

“We’re making a slide rule that keeps you on the bag, you’ve got to be near the bag, and now you’re making a decision on the neighborhood play that you’ve got to stay on the bag,” said Collins, who added that the Mets will be briefed Sunday on the new rule. “You know what that’s going to mean? Somebody’s going to get their clocks cleaned.”

The new rule contains a more detailed description of what it terms a “bona fide slide” — which includes when a runner makes contact with the ground before reaching the bag, is able to reach the base with his hand or foot and is able to or attempts to stay on the base after completion of the slide. An allowable slide also must be within reach of the base without “changing pathway” for initiating contact.

Otherwise, an umpire can declare interference, and both the runner and batter-runner will be called out. As the pre-existing rule stated, interference will not be called when a fielder is in the runner’s legal pathway to the base.

Speeding up game. MLB’s pace-of-game program now will include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher’s mound by managers and pitching coaches. Also, break times will be reduced to 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from last season.

With Marc Carig

RULE 6.01 (j): SLIDING TO BASES ON A DOUBLE-PLAY ATTEMPT

If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:

(1) begins his slide (i.e. makes contact with the ground) before reaching the bag;

(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;

(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and

(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

A runner who engages in a “bona fide slide” shall not be called for interference under the Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide. In addition, interference shall not be called where a runner’s contact with the fielder was caused by the fielder being positioned in (or moving into) the runner’s legal pathway to the base.

Notwithstanding the above, a slide shall not be a “bona fide slide” if a runner engages in a “roll block,” or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.

If the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out.

Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make a play shall be declared out.

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