Major League Baseball just announced three new rule changes: (1) the advent of a 30-second clock which will time manager and coach visits to the mound; (2) the reduction of in-between innings breaks by 20 seconds; and (3) the announcement of new rules about sliding into second base designed to cut down on injuries to infielders. The slide rule has been expected for some time. The mound visit clock and commercial break reduction have not.
The mound visit clock will feature an in-stadium clock that will begin counting to 30 (or down from 30) from the moment a coach exits the dugout. There will be no penalty if it gets to 30 without the coach or manager leaving, but the umpires will break up the meeting. Which, um, they’ve always been allowed to do at their own discretion, but as we’ll see below with the sliding rule, taking the umpire’s discretion out of baseball seems to be a pretty big objective of Major League Baseball.
With respect to the between inning breaks, Major League Baseball says this:
Break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games. The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.
The sliding rule — the complete text of which is set forth below — will be a set of guidelines, governed by these four principles:
- The runner is to slide prior to reaching the base;
- The runner is to slide so that he is able to reach or touch the base or at least plausible attempt to do so;
- The runner is to slide so that he is able to or at least attempt to stay on the base; and
- The runner is not to change his pathway to the base.
All of these are logical, but as we’ve noted several times in the past, baseball’s Rule 6.05(m) already says that a base runner is out when he “intentionally interfere[s] with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play,” and the comment to that rule says it is is designed to “penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base.” Given that that rule already exists, this is, again, about taking the umpire’s judgment out of the equation, it seems, than making any substantive change.
Expect a lot of talk about this throughout spring training and the early parts of the season.
Here is the sliding rule in-full:
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.
And the clock rule:
The pace of game program will expand this season to include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher’s mound by managers and pitching coaches. In addition, break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games. The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.