Takeout Slide Abolition: Old School/New School War Rages On

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.

Weekly Roundup: Takeout Slides, Chipper Predictions, and Prayers for Maverick

MLB/Union Closer to 2B Takeout Slide Rule Change: I ranted in a January 27th post about how the league still hasn’t done a damn thing to rectify the 2B takeout slide problem. Well it seems they heard my complaining. Now that Ruben Tejada has finally shed his walking boot and Jung Ho Kang is making big strides in his daily physical therapy, the league has finally made some alleged progress. Heck, according to Buster Olney’s report, the Union and MLB claim they may make real changes before the season begins. Olney said they want to make sure runners “touch the base or make an effort to touch the base”. The planned rule change is meant to “improve safety” while maintaining “players’ aggressiveness”. In addition, they are still debating whether slides in question can be reviewed by instant replay.

So to recap, the current 2B slide rule essentially says the runner should be close enough to touch the base. The proposed new rule would say the runner must attempt to touch the base, and it wouldn’t discourage aggressive slides. I can really see the differences in the rules. Sounds like a groundbreaking reform that will really change the sport. And of course they don’t want umpires to be able to review these types of slides because it may slow down the games. This is going to go well. I will reserve judgement until the final rule is published but needless to say I’m skeptical. If it goes anything like when they changed the home plate collision rules, we are in for a long season full of confused players, managers, and umpires.

Chipper Predictions: Chipper Jones in a radio interview this week said the Mets are his early season favorite to win the World Series. Larry is really something else. From the Mets archrival to the team’s biggest booster. After the Chase Utley takeout slide he came out and ripped Chase a new one. Now he’s endorsing the Mets as future 2016 World Champions? And it’s not like he’s unemployed and endorsing the Mets from his couch. He literally works for the Braves. He just got hired as a special assistant.

He’s got to be working an angle. Still trolling us after all those years of crushing the franchise. It started with him naming his kid Shea. Now he’s taking it up a notch by pretending to be our biggest fan. I completely understand why Chipper would love our team. It’s designed exactly like his 90s Braves squad. A potential juggernaut built around young pitching. However, I think Chipper’s “love affair” with the pitching rich Mets is kind of like Eli Manning’s “love” for his brother Peyton. Right now, Chipper has the championship swag like Eli did before last week’s Super Bowl. So he’s “rooting” for the Mets like Eli was “rooting” for Peyton. The Mets are just a similarly designed team with aspirations to be as successful as the 90s Braves. We want to win 14 consecutive division titles like the Braves did between 1991 and 2005. We want to advance to the World Series 5 times like they did in the 90s. But the second we win one lone championship like Chipper did with the 1995 Braves, his cheerleader routine will stop. If we ever found a way to win two, Chipper could have twins named Citifield and Shake Shack, and he still wouldn’t get his championship mojo back.

Pray for Maverick (and Wright): Sandy Alderson conducted an interview with Steve Serby of the NY Post. First off, in the interview Sandy talked about how he was diagnosed with cancer four days after the Mets clinched the NL East last season, and he is still undergoing chemotherapy. The guy is a front office legend and clearly tough as hell. I hope the Wilpons actually give him some time off this season so he can recover instead of making him face the relentless media day in and day out. But it’s more likely the Wilpons remain in the panic room they had built in 2008 after Madoff was arrested and just let their lackey John Ricco deal with the press. Either way, pray for Sandy.

And while we are at it, pray for David Wright. Sandy said he hopes David and his titanium spine can play 130 games next season. Honestly, I will take anything we can get from David. 100 games would work for me. Quite frankly, we’d be better off keeping Wright cryogenically frozen until 2017 when the NL institutes the DH so he can take that job full time. Although considering our trainer Ray Ramirez can barely administer an X-Ray, I’m not sure I’d trust him to handle the freezing procedure.

Two New Cubans: This week, two new Cubans defected from the motherland. 31 year old 3B Yulieski Gourriel and 22 year old SS/OF Lourdes Gourriel Jr. were supposedly two of the top players remaining in Cuba. Are they brothers? Noooooo…….Yes!!!!

These two brothers are expected to be impact players in the major leagues. Pretty much like every Cuban player that has defected to date. The older brother Yulieski is supposed to have an immediate impact while the younger brother may need some minor league seasoning. It’s hard to complain about the Mets lack of interest in Cuban players considering we just signed the best one in the business. That being said, John Ricco should have a welcome party on standby in Florida, and we should be signing every Cuban player that comes ashore. Especially a Cuban star that plays 3B considering Wright is our biggest question mark. But I’m sure he’ll just wind up a Yankee as they are one of the teams rumored to have interest.

Clippard Departs, Mejia Promptly Banned: I wrote earlier this week about the departure of Tyler Clippard for a 2 year deal in Arizona. And of course, four days later Jenrry Mejia is promptly banned from the game for life due to a third positive PED test. Mejia getting banned for life makes too much sense. Things were too quiet in Mets land. It was inevitable that the first bad thing of 2016 was going to happen. I also think it’s hilarious that at the trade deadline we acquired Clippard and immediately afterwards Mejia received his second steroid suspension. And now once again, Clippard’s move and Mejia’s suspension happen simultaneously.

Mejia wasn’t part of the team last year, and we replaced Clippard with Antonio Bastardo, so I suppose our pen will be fine. But it still isn’t good that two relief options for 2016 have evaporated in one week. And speaking of Bastardo, he has to be next on the Mets steroid watch list right? He’s been suspended before, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see our primary set up man go down for a second time.

Royals Plan Two World Series Celebrations: The Royals announced this week that they plan to have a World Series celebration in both games against the Mets to start the season. Banner raising the first game and then ring presentations on night two. Really just rubbing our faces in it. Well that’s just perfect. At least this doubles the chances for former Royals Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto to catch the ceremonies on TV. But in all seriousness, screw the Royals. I hope this fires the Mets up and helps them keep their eyes on the ultimate prize.

Minor League Notes: This week the Mets signed Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. He may play all 3 outfield positions but he’ll never fill the void left by Triple A Vegas legend Kirk “3 Dingers” Nieuwenhuis.

Also, the Texas Rangers have officially signed former Met Ike Davis to a minor league deal. Oh how the mighty have fallen. From first round pick to Quadruple-A All-Star. I’m not sure how smart it was for him to take the deal considering Texas is just over an hour flight from Arizona where he contracted his Valley Fever. Although I suppose he had no real choice. Maybe another fresh start will finally cure him of the Valley Fever aka Mets disease. Nothing worked for Jason Bay, but perhaps there’s still hope for Ike. Not bloody likely.