Major League Baseball announced new provisions in February for slides into second base while attempting to break up a double play. The ‘Chase Utley Rule’ mandates runners trying to break up a double play must make a “bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base.”
Runners are still allowed to initiate contact with an infielder. However, runners are not permitted to kick their legs above a fielder’s knee, throw an arm or upper portion of their body at a fielder, or change their pathway once they begin to slide or utilize a “roll block,” which Utley did to New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of the 2015 National League Division Series.
Albeit in a much more relaxed atmosphere, the Dodgers found themselves at the center of questionable call at second base on Thursday night in the Freeway Series opener. With one out in the fifth inning, Craig Gentry grounded into an apparent 4-6-3 double play.
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia challenged the out call at first base, during which time Dodgers manager Dave Roberts asked the umpires to review Yunel Escobar’s slide into second base.
Evident in the video above, Escobar didn’t make the required effort to touch second base as part of his slide. However, he didn’t make contact with Corey Seager, who stepped well outside of the basepath.
When asked about the sequence, Roberts explained he was told the umpires acknowledged there was some uncertainty with the rule. “They said there needs to be a little more clarity, because there wasn’t an attempt to touch second base, so we challenged that in the sense of expecting the runner/batter (Gentry) to be out at first base.” Roberts said.
“They said [Escobar] didn’t impede the throw, and Corey was considerably away and cleared himself enough that it didn’t affect the play at first base. As I understand it, the rule is in place to protect the middle infielders. Whether he slides into Corey five feet away and not make an attempt to touch the bag, or whether he’s three feet away, it’s the same thing for me. Whether he hits him or doesn’t, the point is he didn’t make an attempt to touch the bag.”
The out at first base was overturned, though it didn’t amount to anything as Yimi Garcia came on in relief of Scott Kazmir and retired Albert Pujols. If it was of any consolation for the Dodgers, their opinion on the slide resonated with the umpiring crew.
“They just said they understood our thoughts,” Roberts said. “But as they understood, it didn’t affect the play at first base because Corey was clear.”