Changes to the MLB Rule Book for 2014

In a sport that’s been around since 1869, there haven’t been many changes in the rules of baseball.  The size and weights of bats, uniforms, and stadiums have changed throughout the years but the rules are basically the same.

Major League Baseball and Bud Selig have instituted a couple of new rules during this off-season, one of which could change baseball forever.

With the player’s safety in mind, MLB and MLBPA came to a conclusion last Monday that something had to be done about the violent collisions at home plate.  Collisions like the ones to Buster Posey that broke bones, or the one to Ray Fosse that changed him for the rest of his career.

So their answer to the said issue:  runners must slide into home plate when the catcher doesn’t have possession of the ball.  From the catcher’s point of view, they are not allowed to block home plate without the full possession of the ball.

The rule is named Experimental Rule 7.13.  The purpose of the rule is to increase player safety and try to lower extreme collisions at the plate.  Here are some main points to the new rule

–          The Runner may not run out of a direct line to home plate aimed at initiating contact with anyone covering home.  If they do so the runner could be called out.

–          The Catcher may not block the pathway of a runner scoring unless he has possession of the ball.  If they do so the player runner could be called safe.

–          All of the calls will be based on the umpire’s judgement.

  • Whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate during the play, lowered his shoulder or used his hands, elbows, or arms during his approach to the plate.

–          The runners are not required to slide, and the catchers in possession of the ball can block home plate.  If runners slide and catchers provide a lane to home plate then neither will be called for violating this rule.

–          Coaches will be able to use replay to challenge the calls based on Rule 7.13

So basically they’re trying to ban the collisions at home plate and yet didn’t at the same time.  In theory the collision should never happen again; especially since by the time the runner should start his slide, and the catcher has possession of the ball, the runner would likely be out by a decent distance.  If both players just try to time it right, then you could run into breaking the rule and the play being called in favor of the other team.  This rule could give way to players being extremely creative on how they slide into home trying to avoid the catchers sweeping tag.

The other rule change and most significant is the institution of replay and coaches challenges.

Since its debut August 28, 2008, replay has been utilized 130 times.  Up until now the only calls that were able to be replayed were homeruns or fair and foul calls.  That has now been officially changed and opened up to any call that does not involve the strike zone during an at-bat.

MLB owners, MLB Players Association, and the umpires union have agreed to the expansion of replay.  The new replay rules will include reviews plays such as:

–          Force plays (except for a fielder’s touching of second base on a double play otherwise known as the neighborhood play for safety reasons)

–          Tag plays (includes steals and pickoffs)

–          Trap plays in the outfield only

–          Batter being hit by a pitch

–          Timing play (whether a runner scores before the last out of that inning)

–          Touching a base (requires an appeal)

–          Runner passing other runners on the base paths)

–          Record keeping (hitters counts, outs, score, and subs)

The replay reviews that are not changing include:

–          Home runs

–          Ground rule doubles

–          Fan interference

–          Stadium boundary calls (such as fielder going into the stands)

–          Fair or Foul balls in the outfield only

As a fan of the sport, I’m hoping that these new replays make the game a better product by fixing such obvious blunders like the blown first base call in the Armando Galarraga botched perfect game.  Here’s the way the review process will happen via MLB.com:

INITIATION OF INSTANT REPLAY

  • Field managers may initiate replay review on one reviewable play per game by verbally indicating his intention to challenge, in a timely manner, to the Crew Chief. Guidelines will be established to determine whether a challenge is timely.
  • The manager may request that the umpire review multiple portions of the same play, but he must specify exactly which portions of the play he is challenging.
  • If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. No manager may challenge more than two plays in a game.
  • Once the manager has exhausted his ability to challenge plays during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call. In that circumstance, the Crew Chief is not obligated to invoke instant replay if requested by the manager.
  • Home run calls that are currently subject to instant replay review will continue to be reviewed at the Crew Chief’s discretion. Managers may request that an Umpire review a home run call, but managers cannot challenge home run calls.

REVIEW PROCESS

  • Once instant replay review is invoked (either by the Manager or the Crew Chief), the Crew Chief will signal to the official scorer that the play is under review.
  • The Crew Chief and at least one other umpire will then move to a designated communication location near home plate, where they will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center in New York.
  • Major League Umpires will be staffed as Replay Officials at the Replay Command Center, located at MLB Advanced Media headquarters, for all Major League games.
  • The Replay Command Center will have direct access to video from most cameras in the ballpark in real-time, regardless of whether they are shown on the live broadcast.
  • The Replay Official will look at the video feeds and determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to overturn the call on the field. If the Replay Official overturns a call on the field, he will also use his judgment to determine where to appropriately place runners if the play had been called correctly on the field.
  • The umpires on the field will not have a monitor to review the play and they will not leave the field at any time.
  • The Replay Official will make the ultimate determination of whether to overturn the call.
  • On-Field personnel may not argue with the decision of the Replay Official.

CLUB ACCESS TO VIDEO

  • To determine whether to challenge a play, personnel in the dugout will be permitted to communicate with a video specialist in the Clubhouse who has access to the same video that is available to Replay Officials. This communication will occur via the dugout phone.
  • Both the home and visiting Clubs will have standardized technology to ensure each Club has equal access to all video.
  • No monitors or additional electronic equipment will be permitted in the dugout.

SCOREBOARD REPLAYS

  • Clubs will now have the right to show replays of all close plays on its ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play is reviewed.

 

If the system works properly, it should help to avoid managers coming on to the field, and getting into screaming matches with umpires.  Also with the introduction of the central replay hub in New York, it should allow these replays to go pretty quick.  Similar to the way the NHL handles replays expect the ump still has to make the call not the replay officials.

Over the last couple years we’ve seen officials blow some major calls in games throughout all of sports.  It was important for baseball to set up a system to handle such calls like the “Jeffery Maier game” of 1996, and the blown fair or foul call from the second game of the Yankees and Twins 2009 ALDS.  Now that they have it’ll be interesting to see how it’s implemented on a game by game basis, whether it works the way the league would like, and how successful the new system will be.

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2 comments

    • djsettle09

      Agreed. It’s too bad that the league wouldn’t go all the way and ban collisions since we’re talking about players safety. It’ll fun to see some of the creative slides people will come up with to get around catchers.

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