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Baseball’s new slide rule goes overboard

Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays was ruled to have interfered with Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe.WILL VRAGOVIC/ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND — The new slide rule already has cost the Blue Jays a victory over the Rays on Tuesday night. So teams are now paying attention to the way they slide into bases, considering Major League Baseball will be strict in enforcing it, possibly costing a team a precious win.

None of us wants players to get hurt. And you understand why MLB reacts to certain events and tries to either enforce, change, or enhance rules to improve player safety. The Dodgers’ Chase Utley drove off the road, so to speak, slid into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada and broke his leg during last year’s playoffs, and suddenly there was a committee formed to look into infielder safety. Ultimately, there was a strict rule put in place.


But you also understand the reaction of the Blue Jays on Tuesday night, when Jose Bautista was called for an illegal slide after Logan Forsythe made a bad throw that led to the Jays’ go-ahead run.

Replays showed the slide was illegal, according to the letter of the law, with Bautista undercutting Forsythe’s right foot with his left hand. The review occurred in the top of the ninth, and the Rays went on to beat the Jays, 3-2.

The Jays objected because no reason was given for the illegal slide, prompting angry responses from Bautista and Jays manager John Gibbons.

With the Blue Jays trailing by a run with the bases loaded in the ninth, Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground ball to Evan Longoria at third, and he threw to Forsythe at second. Bautista slid into the bag and contacted Forsythe’s leg with his hand. On Forsythe’s wild throw to first, Ryan Goins and Josh Donaldson scored.

Rays manager Kevin Cash asked for a review, saying Bautista violated Rule 6.01 (j) and “impeded the fielder and did not attempt to remain on the bag.” Bautista slid into the bag, but he made contact with the infielder.


The rule indicates the runner must make a “bona fide slide,” which is defined as “making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to and attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide, and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.”

Gibbons called ending the game like that “flat-out embarrassing. That cost us a chance to win a major league game.” He added, “You’re turning the game into a joke.” Bautista called the replay officials “cowardly.”

Bautista also questioned how the play was ruled unsafe by the reviewers in New York, who are umpires.

Everyone wants safety, but it appears contact is being taken out of the game.

The bottom line is, players have to think before they slide. Players should be able to play the game without being conscious of something on a bang-bang play. They’re taught to break up double plays by sliding into the base and disrupting the relay. Now runners are likely going to come up short on that. You’re going to see more double plays as a result because every questionable play is going to be reviewed, and it’s likely that many are going to be ruled illegal.

A few scouts sat around talking about the rule here at Progressive Field on Wednesday, and they were not happy. Among the comments was one about the game becoming too rules-oriented. Players aren’t allowed to just play, instead having to think about every action on the field. It goes back to the catcher collision enforcement, where you can no longer block the plate before the catcher has the ball or crash into the catcher full bore.


Red Sox manager John Farrell also weighed in on it.

“I think what we saw two years ago with the start of replay, there’s going to be some growing pains initially. I’ve seen the replay multiple times and I think the call was accurate. They called it to the letter of the rule,” Farrell said. “It’s unfortunate a game’s outcome is based on a technicality. Watching the replay, the players on the defensive side were laughing they were awarded the game based on a play where there wasn’t any intent. This rule change is going to have a major impact on our game.”

The Red Sox have practiced sliding based on the new rule. You can’t go out of your way to take out the infielder, and the old “neighborhood” play is now subject to review, so you’d better be on the base when you’re making a force or it could be overturned.

“There’s a definite adjustment, there’s no doubt,” Farrell said. “This is no different than the collision play at home plate. There’s a learning curve and growing pains associated with it, and eventually it will be mainstream and be part of the flow of the game.”


The scouts, all veterans and some of whom are former major league players, lamented that the game is getting too soft. They say baseball needs contact, that contact is part of the excitement of the game.

“Too many rules. Too many restrictions on players,” said one ex-player. “You have to be able to play the game without feeling like you’re doing something wrong.

“If it’s blatant, like it was with Utley and Tejada, that’s one thing, but if you’re questioning and reviewing every borderline situation, which I believe the Toronto/Tampa Bay situation was, that’s just boring. I don’t think the fans want to see that. I don’t think anyone wants a game ending like that.”

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.