In wake of Tejada injury, MLB examining rules on slides
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) After watching Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada carried off the field with a broken leg during the playoffs when the Dodgers' Chase Utley upended him, Major League Baseball is examining whether to adopt a rule eliminating slides not directly at bases on force plays.
The discussion comes two years after MLB banned home-plate collisions. Central baseball officials spoke with teams and the rules committee met at this week's annual gathering of general managers. There will be more talk at next month's winter meetings and consultation with the players' association.
''We don't want to have guys carried off the field,'' Joe Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, said Wednesday. ''Obviously, you can't lose sight of what the game is about. You don't want somebody just not trying to get to second base and not trying to keep the inning going. It's a thin line that you have to walk, and that's why it's really tough to put pen to paper.''
In Game 2 of an NL Division Series, New York led 2-1 with one out in the seventh inning and runners at the corners. Los Angeles' Howie Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle and second baseman Daniel Murphy flipped to Tejada, who took the throw awkwardly for an apparent force as Utley slid past the bag. Utley slammed into Tejada, whose back was turned. Tejada flipped over as the tying run scored from third. Tejada fractured his right fibula, Utley was ruled safe on video review and the Dodgers scored four runs in the inning en route to a 5-2 victory.
Torre later suspended Utley for two games, ruling the slide illegal, discipline the players' association has appealed.
Pittsburgh's Jung Ho Kang broke his left leg and tore a knee ligament on a takeout slide in September by the Chicago Cubs' Chris Coghlan, an injury projected to sideline the shortstop for six-to-eight months.
''We had a specific example of something that happened recently, but every team has similar experiences,'' Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said. ''I think the industry is concerned with keeping our players healthy and on the field, so I don't think we're unique in that respect. We just want to find a way to have a play at second base be fair and at the same time be able to protect our players.''
MLB banned plate collisions ahead of the 2014 season following intense debate that began in May 2011, when the Marlins' Scott Cousins crashed into Buster Posey. San Francisco's All-Star catcher sustained a broken bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle, an injury that ended his season.
''I didn't think there could be anything that you could do when Posey went down a few years ago,'' Torre said. ''You sort of felt forced partly because when I was working in the office I'd get letters from parents whose kids were playing in the minor leagues who got carried off the field.'' Torre said additional pressure came from former catcher and current St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, who talked ''about losing 18 months of his life, where you can't recall.''
MLB said the number of days catchers were unavailable to play due to contact at home plate dropped 62 percent from 2011-13 to 2014-15.
The current rule covering slides into second base says it is ''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.''
A new rule would be more restrictive, with the goal of emulating the results of the home plate change.
''It makes sense to extend it to second base and give the fielder the protection that they deserve when they're trying to make a play,'' said Dan Duquette, the Baltimore Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations.
He suggested MLB adopt the rule used in amateur and college baseball, which also is being tested in this year's Arizona Fall League. NCAA baseball rules state on a force play ''a runner must slide on the ground before the base and in a direct line between the two bases.''
This week's discussions were a beginning.
''We don't move that quickly,'' Ricco said. ''We're pretty methodical, maybe some people would say too methodical when it comes to making changes. So this meeting was really just trying to take the group that deals with it on a day-on-day basis from a front-office standpoint and get as many thoughts and opinions and views as they can, and then it will go up the food chain and see where it goes from there.''
Also at the meetings:
– With more runners called out on slides when they pop up off a base as fielders keep tags on them in the hope of winning a video review, Torre said MLB plans to review the issue.
– MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said the sport hopes to play regular-season games in Europe within five years and return to Mexico for the first time since 1999.
– Halem said it is not likely each team's regular-season schedule will be shortened from 162 games to 154.
– The Yankees acquired switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks from Minnesota for catcher John Ryan Murphy and traded infielder Jose Pirela to San Diego for minor league pitcher Ronald Herrera.