Last month we told you about proposed changes that were expected to be implemented for the 2016 Major League Baseball Season. Now we hear there are three they will emphatically enforce come the first pitch this weekend. We will have to wait and see how often these rules will be enforced, and in the case of the “neighborhood play”, how controversial these calls (or no-calls) may be…
1. Timed meetings on the mound
The time-honored tradition of managers or pitching coaches gathering on the mound to discuss matters will be set to a timer beginning in 2016. No longer will the umpire decide when enough is enough before breaking up the party. According to the rule change, these powwows now have a maximum duration of 30 seconds.
2. Breaks between innings shortened again
Last year, MLB installed clocks to limit the breaks between innings to two minutes and 30 seconds. According to officials, this change knocked a healthy six minutes off the average game time in 2015. Buoyed by that success, MLB and the player’s union agreed to knock another 20 seconds off the break between innings, shaving it to 2:10. Now players, broadcasters, and grounds crew members will have to hustle back to their places in a flash — almost a minute faster than they did in 2014.
Although this will inevitably speed up the game (in theory), it will have a few unintended side-effects. For example, what about all of those sing-along traditions during the seventh inning stretch? Will they be grandfathered in, or pardoned while the other inning breaks are sped up? We shall see…
3. Questionable slides and “neighborhood play”
And the biggest, and most closely watched for sure, given what took place in last year’s NLCS between the Mets and Dodgers, will be the takeout slides at second base.”Rolling block” slides resembling tackles are banned, as are kicks or swipes above the knee.
According to the revised rule, the player has to begin sliding before touching the base; has to be able to touch the bag with his hand or foot; must be able to hold the base upon completion; and cannot change directions to make it nastier on the infielder. Runners going from home to first would be called out on interference if the rule is broken.
While these measures serve to protect, a separate rule change on the neighborhood play will actually put more infielders in harm’s way. Instead of being able to mock the tag at second in order to avoid a runner barreling into the base, infielders must now definitively touch second to record the out. Infielders now have to touch or the runner will be safe, and runners have fewer weapons to deploy in the takeout slide.