Clean up your baserunning rules, MLB

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Obviously, 7.13 — the new, experimental plate-blocking rule — has been a big topic of conversation this year and will continue to be so. The rule has clearly done what it was designed to do — prevent collisions at home plate — while being unclear about everything else. I imagine it will get some clarifications this winter. But it’s not the only thing that needs touching up.

For instance, this happened in the Yankees-Orioles game Wednesday night.

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Stephen Drew was called out for running inside the line on his little dribbler here. Though he wasn’t inside the line. He was on the line running directly to first base.

I’ve always been of the belief that baserunners are given too much leeway in this particular situation; right-handed hitters often get away with running a foot or more inside the line, and no matter how egregious the line taken, there’s usually no call at all unless the ball pegs the runner; if the catcher throws over the head of the first baseman or misses wide, he’s almost always out of luck.

Of course, there’s a good reason for runners to run inside the line even if there is no throw to interfere with; the bag is in fair territory.

There’s an easy fix for this, one I advocated last year before I even knew the product existed; a double-wide first base bag that extends into foul territory. The fielder gets the fair side, the baserunner gets the foul side. Not only does it settle plays like this once and for all, but it should reduce collisions at first base.

Win-win.

Collisions are a big pet-peeve of mine, as many know. That’s why I’m happy about Rule 7.13, even if it needs work. Another rule that needs work: 7.09(e).

(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

That’s the double play rule. It’s the lone rule that covers the baserunner barreling into the second baseman or shortstop on a double play. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about being within an arm’s length of second base. There’s nothing like that. Essentially, the rule, as it’s written, makes it clear that if a baserunner intentionally attempts more than a routine slide into second to try to break up the double play, he’s out and the batter is out.

Personally, I’d be happy if that was the way it was called on the field, too. I don’t like baseball being a contact sport. I don’t like preventable injuries. I realize this puts me in the minority. I don’t expect baserunners breaking up double plays to be declared illegal anytime soon… except it already is illegal. It’s just one of those rules that’s completely ignored. And it’s not the only one. After all, it’s not like 7.13 was simply created out of thin air; it was always illegal for catchers to block home plate without the ball. It just wasn’t one of those rules that was ever applied.

MLB has several rules that could use a once over, few more than the double play rule. My suggestion would be to tear it up and create a new rule that states that the baserunner has to show intent to slide into second base while breaking up the double play. If he’s not at least reaching towards second base while sliding wide or if he’s unable to hold the bag while oversliding second base, then it should be an automatic double play.

For instance, we all remember last week when Nick Ahmed gave the Diamondbacks a victory by deflecting a double play relay with his arm in a game against the Pirates. Regardless of that deflection, it should have been an illegal slide anyway.

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That was pretty willful and obvious, was it not?

So, new commish, whoever you may be, don’t skimp and address only 7.13 this winter. There are other rules, between the lines, that need fixing.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.