BOCA RATON, Fla. – If you spend much time with Buck Showalter, you know he always has strong opinions on rules.
At this week’s General Managers meetings, rule changes and clarifications were discussed. They’ll be discussed further at next week’s Owners Meetings and next month’s Winter Meetings.
The most contentious play from this postseason came when Los Angeles’ Chase Utley slid so hard into the Mets’ Ruben Tejada at second that Tejada suffered a broken leg.
Joe Torre, Chief Baseball Officer, suspended Utley for two games. Tejada hopes to be ready for spring training.
“I thought that was a little overly aggressive,” Torre said. “He slid too late and didn’t make an effort to touch the base. His target was the infielder.”
A clarification on the rule could be coming.
Torre is proud of the game’s improvements on safety. He cites the 2014 collision rule at home plate in being a boon.
“We don’t want guys carried off the field,” Torre said.
During the postseason, there was a lot of complaining about the strike zone. Torre says little has changed.
“I know that it appears that the strike zone this year was different from last year, but it was the same. The same low strikes were called last year and this year,” Torre said.
He noted that managers are being ejected more often in the age of replay for arguing balls and strikes.
Managers have told Torre: “We have nothing else to argue about.”
Replay has brought to light the pop-up slide. In the past, a player who slid and quickly stood up was always safe. Now, players are called out on replay who have briefly left the bag.
“Before replay, we accepted the imperfections of our game,” Torre said. “Now since replay, we’re impatient with a play that might be missed.”
He notes on the pop-up slide: “A lot of times you’re negating good baserunning.”
Replay is working well. Fewer than two percent of the calls in replay are incorrect, Torre says. But, 52 percent of calls were overturned in replay, higher than it was in 2014.
Managers are now forced to use a challenge on the collision play at home, and that’s worked well, Torre said.
MLB is looking to add fan interference calls to replay so that baserunners can be properly placed.
The question of ejections for throwing at batters continues to vex the game.
“A lot of times it seems unfair. Usually the guy who’s trying to stick up for his club pays the price. I don’t really drop at on the umpire because they get one shot at it. You try to keep players in the game,” Torre said.
As for pace of play, over the season a reduction of more than six minutes was achieved. The average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes, down more than six minutes from 2014.
According to Dan Halem, MLB’s Chief Legal Officer, negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement should begin in February or March. The agreement expires Dec. 1, 2016.
Halem said that reducing the schedule to 154 games is unlikely, and so is further expansion.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that playing regular season games in Mexico and perhaps Europe in the next five years is a priority. He also said that baseball continues to work on an international draft.
NOTES: Cal Ripken will receive the Tony Gwynn award for his lifetime contributions to the game at a dinner at next month’s Winter Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.
“I am thrilled to be receiving the Tony Gwynn Award,” Ripken said.
“Tony was a friend and a terrific ambassador for the game. I will always remember entering the Hall of Fame with Tony and the great time we had in 2007. My sincere thanks to Baseball America for thinking of me on this anniversary year of 2,131 and bestowing me this honor.”
Ripken and commissioner emeritus Bud Selig are being honored by Baseball America.
-Manny Machado lost out to Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at third base on Wednesday night.
-Chris Davis is a favorite to win the Silver Slugger award at first base on Thursday night.
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