In similar fashion to a rule change being implemented at home plate after San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a serious injury, Major League Baseball and the Players Association is heading down a path to reform.
While the topic of discussion has been previously discussed, the issue came to the forefront last season when Chicago Cubs utility man Chris Coghlan broke Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang’s leg last September, ending his season.
New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada then suffered the same fate in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chase Utley’s late slide, which was called dirty by some, sent Tejada into the air and broke the shortstop’s left fibula.
Not only did Utley did break up the double play attempt, he was ruled safe at second base, and the Dodgers went on to win the game. However, they were eliminated by the Mets in five games.
Amid ongoing talks this offseason to implement a new rule, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports change may be on the horizon:
Progress has been made in Major League Baseball’s effort to change the rules about slides into second base, sources told ESPN.
The focus of a potential rule change appears centered around runners being within reach of the base or making an effort to do so:
In the ongoing talks between the union and MLB, the sides have been able to find a lot of common ground, and sources expect a change in time for the start of the upcoming season. The sides “will get there,” one source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN. Within the rule alterations being discussed, there is a focus on ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.
While the Players Association welcomes a new rule, they’re mindful of the impact it may have on how the game is played:
Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play. However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.
Utley was suspended two games for his slide, but appealed the decision and remained eligible throughout the NLDS. He expects the appeal hearing to be held at some point during Spring Training.
Whether Utley’s original suspension is upheld or reduced to one game, he will need to serve it once the 2016 season begins.