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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.

Indians sign Brandon Guyer to a two-year extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates Rajai Davis #20 two-run home run during the eighth inning to tie the game 6-6 against the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $5 million contract with a club option for 2019.

The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.

Nice signing.

Sarasota County to build the Braves a new spring training facility

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The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.

Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:

The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.

It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.

But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.

One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.