Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports from the Owners’ Meetings in Dallas that “momentum continues to build toward” a rule change that he correctly notes will likely be referred to as “The Chase Utley Rule.”
Specifically, a change in the rules which would be aimed at eliminating the sorts of hard slides into second base, the likes of which Chase Utley demonstrated in the playoffs, breaking Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada‘s leg. Davidoff does not have any details on what, exactly, such a rule would entail but does allude to the so-called “Buster Posey Rule” which went into effect a couple of years ago in order to protect catchers from home plate collisions.
Of course, like the Buster Posey Rule, a Chase Utley Rule would be completely unnecessary if Major League Baseball would simply require its umpires to enforce and its players to abide by rules already on the books. In this case it’s Rule 6.05(m), which already says a baserunner is out when:
(m)A preceding runner shall, in the umpires judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:
Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is 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. Obviously this is an umpires judgment play.
That rule totally and completely covers the Utley-Tejada situation. It does involve a judgment on the part of umpires, however, and baseball has run screaming from umpire judgment in recent years, preferring overly-complicated bright line rules which make for more, not less, confusion. Indeed, in this case I’d be shocked if whatever spins out of the Commissioner’s office doesn’t involve “zones” governing the precise geography of acceptable slides and finite measurements between a baserunner and the bag. This despite the fact that it’s pretty damn obvious when a runner is trying harder to take out an infielder than he is to simply reach a bag safely.
But hey, new rules are always better, right?