As you know, MLB has rewritten some of the baserunning rules that govern slides into second base (although they could have just enforced the existing rule, pay attention to the wording of Rule 7.08b) in an effort to protect vulnerable middle infielders. In response, the Cubs coaches have emphasized fundamentals in baserunning (despite Miguel Montero‘s TOOTBLAN today) to ensure that nobody illegally bulldozes the middle infielder.
Because of the rule changes, Maddon’s coaching staff did have to reiterate sliding fundamentals – ensuring Cubs baserunners slide in front of the bag, don’t roll and don’t kick anybody above the knee while sliding – all things Maddon has said he doesn’t want his guys to do anyways, regardless of any rules.
“Some guys will have to change a lot about the way they slide,” Zobrist said Saturday, a few hours after MLB officials Joe Garagiola Jr. and Steve Palermo explained the rules to Maddon and his staff. “It has to be a real slide, but the tricky part is the change of direction.
Even though they will emphasize proper technique:
“I hope they don’t take away the ability of a runner to make an adjustment to take out a middle infielder based on where he’s going to be at the end of the play, based on how hard the ball was hit to the left side of the infield,” Maddon said.
The wording of the new rule seems very clear in that the runner must slide before the bag and must be able to touch the bag, so it seems like takeout slides can still happen, although the runner would have some restrictions on HOW he can slide (i.e. no rolling tumbles). Players on other teamsare also concerned, though I guess their reasoning might be a bit suspect:
“As a second baseman, you’re supposed to know which guys come in hard, which guys don’t. When I first moved to second base in 2009, the two guys I had to fear were Scott Rolen and Chase Utley; they were coming. As a baserunner, you kind of take pride in breaking up that double play, getting a chance to extend the inning.”
That’s Skip Schumaker, who as you know came from a team that plays games the right way. I get trying to break up a double play, which is a noble cause, but let’s try to do so without devastating injury. I’m pretty happy with the fact that MLB rewrote a rule to enforce an existing rule that was never fully enforced, however. It remains to be seen how the new neighborhood rule, as well as this new slide rule, will be tested in real games that matter.