After calling out baseball for being “tired” this offseason and saying players should lighten up about bat flipping, Bryce Harper officially christened the uniform for the New Guard this week with his “Make Baseball Fun Again” hat. And while Bryce fights the all important Battle of Bat Flip Hill, the war’s first major test comes in the form of takeout slides. As I wrote all offseason, the Chase Utley Rule change itself was completely and utterly meaningless. Takeout slides were already against league rules in the form of the interference rule which has been on the books forever. The only thing that could have possibly changed the status quo this season is the umpires consistently calling runners out at second base on takeout slides. Well it didn’t take long for MLB to show where they stand. They are now 2 for 2 in enforcing the ban on interfering takeout slides. On Monday, Nick Markakis slid past the second base bag and knocked over second basemen Daniel Murphy. Murph signaled for the umpires to consider the new rule, and the umps called the runner out. Last night in an even more high profile situation, the Blue Jays scored what would have been the tying and lead run in the 9th inning during a double play attempt that was broken up by Jose Bautista. Bautista did what runners have been doing FOREVER. He slid into the base hard and attempted to topple the middle infielder by slightly extending his arm. It worked. Logan Forsythe wasn’t able to complete the double play and the Jays took the lead. That is until the umps enforced the existing interference rules and gave the game back to the Rays. The play was against the “new” rule, and the interference rule as it has always been.
I for one am shocked by these early season developments. All offseason I said the league would never make the in game changes to actually enforce the rules. And considering the league consistently supports the Old Guard, I had a good reason for thinking that. Every time there is a call for change, Rob Manfred and the owners have an epileptic episode. And when the convulsions subside, they all agree to “respect the game” and “honor the traditions”. It’s like clockwork. But I have to give them credit for their changes in recent years. For one thing, they’ve finally embraced instant replay despite a ton of nonsensical resistance. And seemingly, we’ve fully abolished home plate collisions. Maybe change is finally coming? Maybe takeout slides are next.
After the game, Jays Manager John Gibbons gave a classic old school response when he said, “Maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow. Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.” Of course that comment came after the Royals earlier in the day “trolled” Noah Syndergaard by playing American Woman as he warmed up. We hear “bat flips are an embarrassment to the game” all the time. It’s funny, because the old guard thinking it’s insulting to call Thor a woman is the embarrassment to the game. Daniel Murphy not wanting to share a locker room with a gay guy is the embarrassment to the game. I know these are larger issues we have in our society, but it is all part of the same discussion. It’s all part of the Old School vs. New School war that rages on.
As far as takeout slides go, I am thrilled to see the league getting this right out of the gate. However, the only way this works is if they keep getting it right. They can’t fall into the same traps they’ve fallen into before where one umpiring crew calls it one way and another crew calls it another way. If that happens, we will see the mass confusion among the umpires and players that I predicted in the offseason. Until that time though, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be wrong. The times they are a changing. Also, after the way last night’s Blue Jays game ended, somebody better check on Old School General Goose Gossage. I have a feeling his heart exploded.