When I was coming up with ideas for what to write about, I always wanted to be that guy who made sure to stay away from the taboo topics such as the dreaded “new rules” debate. However, seemingly every year, there are new rules that come up, mostly to pace of play (which I will get to), but this year is different. For this first time in my memory, a rule will be added that will changed the way we play the game.
The “In the neighborhood rule”
If you are any sort of fan of the game, you know exactly what I am talking about, and you know how important it has become. If you don’t know, it’s the rule that allows either the 2nd baseman, or shortstop to “just get near” the bag to get the running heading to 2nd out when trying to convert a double play.
On the outside looking in, and looking at how the play usually goes down, it would make sense for a rule like this to be put in place. Almost every time, the runner slides ridiculously close to the fielder, trying to break up the double play. This can be extremely dangerous, and it leaves the fielders ankle and knee vulnerable, and open to a sliding cleat.
Regardless how you feel about this rule change, there really are only two issues.
- Runners can be overly aggressive. – This is true. Especially recently, with the Utley slide that probably started this whole thing, is one. “Attack sliding” can have devastating injuries, such as this play which resulted in a broken leg. Even more, aggressive sliding doesn’t even make sense, as I have only ever seen a runner break up a double play ONCE… EVER. Nick Ahmed did it for the Diamondbacks in 2014. So this is the argument for the rule staying.
- Fielders can take advantage of this rule, and “tag” second from 10 feet away. This can lead to double plays, that if played properly, might not happen. Sometimes they don’t even move towards the bag. The rule has always been, touch the bag for the out. To traditionalist, this “new” rule is just what the league needed to get back to its roots.
Whether this “new” rule will aggravate players will have to be seen, though it has yet to cause any major problem in Spring Training. As always, the play will be dangerous, and thankfully aggressive sliding will be penalized. However, how much it actually changes the game can only be speculative for now.