Big day for rules changes! Let's take a look . . .
1. Players no longer allowed to kill each other on slides at second base.
New Rule 6.01(j) has been added to the existing Rule 6.01 that deals with "Interference, Obstruction, and Catcher Collisions." I guess you can call it the Chase Utley Rule, much like the 1970s had the Hal McRae Rule. Players won't like the rule; they'll argue it limits their aggressiveness, but getting rid of the last vestige of the no-holds-barred style of play that John McGraw and the 1890s Orioles made famous is a good thing.
The new rule reads:
RULE 6.01(j) – SLIDING TO BASES ON DOUBLE PLAY ATTEMPTS
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 base;
(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 this 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(j), 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.
The postseason was filled with questionable slides, the most egregious, of course, the Utley slide that injured Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. Yes, Tejada got in a bad position because of a high toss from Daniel Murphy, but Utley didn't slide to the base, he didn't begin his "slide" until he had reached the bag and he kicked his legs out in an obvious attempt to take out Tejada. No, he wasn't trying to injure Tejada, but intent and motivation aren't the deciding factors here. There's nothing wrong with cleaning up the game. Hard slides aren't being disallowed. But dirty slides are now illegal.
If the players don't like the new rule? Well, I don't think it matters all that much. Congress isn't in favor of reforming election rules, either. The game belongs to all of us -- players, fans, owners, coaches and front office staffs. Sometimes those closest to the game can be blind to the bigger picture. In this case, we want to keep players healthy, we want a clean game, and we don't want loopholes in the rulebook to allow for action that logically doesn't make sense. This will make the game better.
2. Don't ask about candlesticks.
Managers and pitching coaches will now be held to timed 30-second visits to the pitching mound. Personally, I'd just eliminate all mound visits unless a pitching change is being made (or to check on a possibly injured pitcher). Anyway, this will knock a couple minutes off the average game, so this makes sense.
3. Watch those commercial breaks.
The time between innings (or half-innings) will be cut from 2 minutes, 25 seconds for locally televised games to 2:05 and from 2:45 to 2:05 for national games. The goal is to have the players ready to play as soon as the clock hits that 2:05 mark. So, with at least 16 inning breaks per game, this should cut at least 5 minutes per game. Again, it's a minor thing, but the general "pace" of the game should feel faster. Last year's attempt to speed up the pace did work, as the average nine-inning game dropped from 3:02 to 2:56 (even though offense was up slightly from 2014).
Hey, two-hour games are a thing of the past, but minor alterations to knock a few minutes off the average game time are obviously a good thing. Just sprint to the bathroom so you miss less action.