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The rules on takeout slides

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  • The rules on takeout slides

    Chris Coghlan's hard slide into shortstop Jung Ho Kang in September wrecked Kang's leg and had the potential of destroying his career, and we had a column here the next day about the possibility of forthcoming rule changes aimed to protect middle infielders.

    The immediate response to that piece from players in texts and direct messages was visceral, adamant and just about unanimous: There shouldn't be any change. I didn't save Shane Victorino's note, but the gist of what he wrote, as I recall, is that the effort to break up a double play was, at the heart of the sport, a baserunner going all-out into second base and sacrificing his body in the effort to make a difference in that particular game. Removing that play, he wrote in so many words, would be to cut into the soul of the sport.

    But since early last year, Major League Baseball has been intent on changing the rules about that play for the sake of improving safety and protecting club investments. That was even before Kang's injury and before Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada's leg with a slide that a lot of players considered dirty. As the players' association formulated a position on the issue and prepared for negotiation, sources say, it sought out opinions from its brethren and got a lot of feedback along the lines of what Victorino argued to me: The effort to break up a double play is an important part of the sport.

    So whenever the final, negotiated rule change is announced in the month ahead -- as reported Monday night, MLB and the union have found common ground, and the expectation is that something will be finalized for the 2016 season -- the players' association will have honored that overwhelming sentiment from the players and ensured that baserunners will continue to have the opportunity to break up double plays. If a fielder is in the baseline between second base and first base, the runner will still be allowed to crash into the defender.

    What the new rules will do is outlaw slides in which the baserunners go beyond the effort to get to second base and instead target the fielders. If the middle infielder is clearly on the left-field side of second base, sources say, the runners will not be able to go over the bag to hit the fielder; if the fielder is out of the baseline, as Tejada was when he was hit by Utley, the baserunner won't be allowed to hit the fielder. Late slides aimed only to hit the fielder, without regard to getting to second base -- and a lot of players perceived Utley's slide to be late -- will be outlawed.

  • #2
    Take-out slide rule change coming

    In the wake of the broken legs suffered by Jung-Ho Kang and Ruben Tejada last year, MLB and the MLBPA are moving closer to changing the take-out slide rules. An agreement has not been reached just yet but the two sides “will get there,” and the new rule is expected to be in place for the start of the 2016 season.

    The new rule will be designed to prevent runners from going beyond the base path to break up the double play. They want the runner to slide directly into second base, basically. Both Chase Utley and Chris Coghlan were able to touch second base when they slid into Tejada and Kang, respectively, but they were outside the base path. The new rule would eliminate stuff like this:

    Qualifying offer to be “reviewed” during CBA talks

    Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to Spring Training this week and three qualified free agents still remain unsigned: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. (Gallardo is said to be nearing a deal with the Orioles.) Howie Kendrick, another qualified free agent, recently signed a contract that appeared to be well-below market value. Needless to say, this is a concern for the MLBPA.

    “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home,” said union chief Tony Clark. “I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining. If there are considerations in areas that appear to be damaging the concept of competitive balance, then they should be reviewed and looked at, and this would appear to be one of them.”

    MLBPA thinks it would be “beneficial” to explore a draft lottery

    Tanking has become a pretty hot topic in recent weeks, and while you could argue tanking is just a scary word for rebuilding, there are folks within the game concerned about the increasing number of teams willing to be bad on purpose. Being bad is very rewarding nowadays. You can protected first round draft picks, large bonus pools, potentially more revenue sharing dollars, etc. If you’re bad, be really bad. The system works in your favor.

    In an effort to reduce the incentive to be bad, Clark suggested it would be beneficial for MLB and the MLBPA to explore a draft lottery during CBA discussions. “It will be beneficial to look at that, and not look at it in a vacuum but appreciate whatever it is that we attempt to negotiate there or propose there, that it ties into the other moving pieces and doesn’t create an imbalance,” he said.

    Both the NHL and NBA have had draft lotteries for decades now. In the NHL, each of the 14 teams that miss the postseason gets a shot at the first overall pick, with the very worst teams having the best odds. The No. 1 pick is determined via lottery, then the remaining 13 teams are slotted in reverse order of the standings. The NBA has a similar system, except the top three picks are selected via lottery, then the remaining are set in reverse order of the standings. (I think. Someone tell me if I’m wrong.)

    A similar system in MLB would involve a 20-team lottery. There are many other possible ways to do it, of course. Either way, the point would be ensuring teams wouldn’t automatically receive the tippy top draft picks as a result of being awful. It would reduce the reward for being bad, albeit slightly. I personally would like to see a rule preventing teams from getting the No. 1 pick in back-to-back years, or even multiple times in a span of several years, say three or four.

    “Significant issues” with an international draft

    It has long been management’s goal to implement an international draft, mostly because it would be another way to keep costs down for owners. MLB is so ready to do this that the international bonus pools are already broke down into slots so they could be easily transferred over to a draft format. Needless to say, “significant issues” still exist with an international lottery format.

    “While conceptually it sounds nice to think of everyone entering the game in same fashion, the truth is there are significant issues,” said Clark. “It will undoubtedly be part of the negotiation in ’16, and it will be very interesting to see how that discussion manifests itself.”

    I’m curious to know how the international draft order would be determined. Would MLB and MLBPA really give the worst teams the top picks in both the domestic and international drafts? That’s just another reward for being bad. An international draft would really hurt the Yankees, who never have high amateur draft picks and instead use the international open market to bolster their farm system.

    MLBPA wants the luxury tax threshold to increase

    This is not surprising at all: Clark says the luxury tax threshold should increase with the next CBA. “We were coming out of a very difficult time with the recession (when the last CBA was negotiated). As the industry continues to grow, considerations made to the competitive balance tax should grow as well,” said the MLBPA chief.