As Major League Baseball owners prepare to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Coral Gables, Florida, consensus with the players’ union remains elusive on slides at second base.
MLB officials raised the possibility of a rule change in the aftermath of Ruben Tejada’s broken leg suffered in the National League playoffs on Chase Utley’s controversial slide. Representatives of MLB and the MLB Players Association have had productive discussions on the matter throughout the offseason, sources say, but so far the union has been reluctant to approve a mandate that baserunners slide directly into second base on potential double-play balls.
Still, a compromise remains possible that reduces the chances of a violent collision while more clearly defining to runners — and fielders — what constitutes a legal slide. On a related note, club representatives also are expected to discuss possible modifications to interpretation of the “neighborhood play” rule at second base.
A comprehensive look at instant replay is on the agenda, as well, but it’s highly unlikely MLB will recommend any changes to the practice of reversing “safe” calls when it’s determined that runners lose contact with the bag — even for a fraction of a second — in a manner indistinguishable in real time. Thus, teams will need to adjust their teaching methods in spring training and urge players to slide with greater body control.
Meanwhile, MLB officials aren’t expected to seriously consider a proposal that would institute the designated hitter across both leagues, despite St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak’s recent public statement that he’s heard more dialogue about that possibility within the past year.
The Cardinals, in fact, remain supportive of the current National League rule, and commissioner Rob Manfred seems comfortable with the status quo.
Notably, the DH rule is subject to collective bargaining. Since the sport’s basic agreement expires after this season, any change would need to be part of the larger CBA talks set to begin sometime in spring training.