Days after Chase Utley's infamous slide which resulted to New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's broken leg, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed plans to implement changes to the game's rules in 2016 in order to prevent unnecessary collisions at second base.
The MLB Commissioner mentioned that the issue of player safety is of utmost importance to the league. He told USA Today's Bob Nightengale he wants to update the rules in order to protect middle infielders and said, "We have some great young athletes and we don't want to lose any of them, regardless of position, to injuries that can be avoided and we are going to constantly look at the game to find ways to prevent avoidable injuries."
The issue has once again been brought to the spotlight following Utley's slide during the Dodgers' NLDS Game 2 against the Mets. It has been the topic of debates and reports, with the fans and the media alike arguing whether it is a hard-nosed manifestation of aggressive base-running or an illegal takeout.
Prior to the Utley dilemma, Manfred said that he was already contemplating a rule change this summer and it was reinforced when Jung Ho Kang suffered a similar fate. The Pittsburgh Pirates infielder suffered a broken leg in September when Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan slid into him to break up a double play.
The MLB decided to suspend Utley for two games due to his illegal slide into Tejada. He appealed the ruling and was scheduled for a hearing on Monday in New York. Though Manfred understands why the hearing was delayed, he said that said he would like to find a way to hasten the process of future appeals hearings if suspensions happen during the playoffs.
The commissioner set up a meeting with the management as well as Players Union head Tony Clark. "It's a natural follow-up to the home plate (collision rule) change. We had the situation in Pittsburgh with the player there (Kang) that brings into focus how damaging it can be to a club, and obviously to the players. I think the sentiment we're getting from clubs is making a change in this area makes sense. And it's important to protect what are very valuable assets, Manfred said when asked if a new rule is really needed.
The 57-year-old baseball executive mentioned that the MLB is also exploring rules that will enhance fan safety in its ballparks. He said that the league is thinking of putting up netting to areas in ballparks after several injuries from flying bats and foul balls this season.