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Clean up your baserunning rules, MLB

Aug 14, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

Obviously, 7.13 — the new, experimental plate-blocking rule — has been a big topic of conversation this year and will continue to be so. The rule has clearly done what it was designed to do — prevent collisions at home plate — while being unclear about everything else. I imagine it will get some clarifications this winter. But it’s not the only thing that needs touching up.

For instance, this happened in the Yankees-Orioles game Wednesday night.


Stephen Drew was called out for running inside the line on his little dribbler here. Though he wasn’t inside the line. He was on the line running directly to first base.

I’ve always been of the belief that baserunners are given too much leeway in this particular situation; right-handed hitters often get away with running a foot or more inside the line, and no matter how egregious the line taken, there’s usually no call at all unless the ball pegs the runner; if the catcher throws over the head of the first baseman or misses wide, he’s almost always out of luck.

Of course, there’s a good reason for runners to run inside the line even if there is no throw to interfere with; the bag is in fair territory.

There’s an easy fix for this, one I advocated last year before I even knew the product existed; a double-wide first base bag that extends into foul territory. The fielder gets the fair side, the baserunner gets the foul side. Not only does it settle plays like this once and for all, but it should reduce collisions at first base.


Collisions are a big pet-peeve of mine, as many know. That’s why I’m happy about Rule 7.13, even if it needs work. Another rule that needs work: 7.09(e).

(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

That’s the double play rule. It’s the lone rule that covers the baserunner barreling into the second baseman or shortstop on a double play. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about being within an arm’s length of second base. There’s nothing like that. Essentially, the rule, as it’s written, makes it clear that if a baserunner intentionally attempts more than a routine slide into second to try to break up the double play, he’s out and the batter is out.

Personally, I’d be happy if that was the way it was called on the field, too. I don’t like baseball being a contact sport. I don’t like preventable injuries. I realize this puts me in the minority. I don’t expect baserunners breaking up double plays to be declared illegal anytime soon… except it already is illegal. It’s just one of those rules that’s completely ignored. And it’s not the only one. After all, it’s not like 7.13 was simply created out of thin air; it was always illegal for catchers to block home plate without the ball. It just wasn’t one of those rules that was ever applied.

MLB has several rules that could use a once over, few more than the double play rule. My suggestion would be to tear it up and create a new rule that states that the baserunner has to show intent to slide into second base while breaking up the double play. If he’s not at least reaching towards second base while sliding wide or if he’s unable to hold the bag while oversliding second base, then it should be an automatic double play.

For instance, we all remember last week when Nick Ahmed gave the Diamondbacks a victory by deflecting a double play relay with his arm in a game against the Pirates. Regardless of that deflection, it should have been an illegal slide anyway.

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That was pretty willful and obvious, was it not?

So, new commish, whoever you may be, don’t skimp and address only 7.13 this winter. There are other rules, between the lines, that need fixing.

  1. hcf95688 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Posey likes your ideas.

  2. banksatdixie - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    The double bag is for beer league softball.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      For a good reason.

  3. blacksables - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    You’re still ignoring the fact that the Pirate second baseman dropped down side arm and threw the ball at his head.

    Why is one wrong, and the other one not?

    • uwsptke - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Because what you just said makes no sense and isn’t supported by video evidence. He dropped down side arm and tried to hit the runner in the head? Are you serious? And nevermind the fact that the ball was deflected off his forearm, nowhere near his helmet. The fielder is two feet away from the bag making the turn, and suddenly there’s a baserunner sliding directly at him rather than the bag. A baserunner who was using the very common (note the sarcasm) one-arm up sliding technique.

      The DBacks runner is 100% in the wrong here, and they were rewarded for it.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      Because there’s no rational incentive for the Pirate second baseman to aim for the runner’s head?

      • blacksables - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:06 AM

        Once again, people who don’t know anything about the game deciding what is right or wrong.

      • uwsptke - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        Kirk? Is that you?

      • blacksables - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        To make the runner slide.

        Why is that so hard to understand. It’s been happening since they outlawed soaking.

      • randomjoeblow - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        That’s been a tactic used by shortstops and second basemen since baseball began. They’re taught to go low with the throw to force the runner to either slide or get out of the way. Otherwise, the runner will get a ball to the face, and no one is going to take one off the face if they can help it. That’s a pretty basic maneuver.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Second sackers usually make the DP pivot throw side-armed. Kind of an ignorant comment to say he was doing it for the reason of throwing at somebody.

      • blacksables - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Why do you think they throw sidearm?

        Kind of ignorant not to know anything about baseball, yet keep commenting on it.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with their normal throwing motions or how their momentum is typically carrying them, could it? No, blacksables has to pretend he knows something the rest of the world doesn’t.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        Wow … you actually think your average 2B deliberately is aiming at runners’ noggins with a sidearm throw?

  4. dmccloskey10 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Probably doesn’t change your point much, if at all, but 6.05(m) governs the runner interfering with the pivot man on the double play. 7.09(e) deals with interfering with a fielder fielding a batted ball.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      It’s Matthew, you know?

      Pouliot actually probably meant 7:09(i):

      (i) He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball

      Known since the 1978 World Series as the “Reggie Jackson rule.”

  5. nvl004 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    We need JohnySoda

  6. [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Vid for people like myself who didn’t/couldn’t see the play. No idea how this ‘outside the basepaths’ when he’s running directly to the bag.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      Towards the end there he swerved toward the firstbaseman where he’s supposed to turn inside a bit. It’s very subtle, but technically I can see where the call came from. As I’ve said below however, I disagreed with the call, it’s very ticky-tac at best, but really the problem is that you are trying to cram too much into too small a space. Give a double wide bag and this doesn’t happen.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        But as Singleton/Kay mention, that’s where the bag is. It seems odd that the “basepath” takes you away from the actual base.

  7. ayblincoln - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Speaking of the first baseline thing, I thought the runner makes his own baseline…..and as long as he stays within that he’s ok. I agree if a runner bows out to obstruct a throw he should be called out.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      The path to first base has the funky little double line, and the runner is supposed to stay between the lines. However, staying between those lines would mean that he never touches the first base bag. 8-/

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      The rules are vague at best, and that’s kind of the problem.

  8. Mikhel - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    A rule that needs fixing ASAP is the “neighborhood play”, where fielders do not need to touch the base and the out is still called. If runners HAVE to touch a base to be called safe, the same should apply to fielders unless the neighborhood play also applies for runners too.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      Agreed. The only justification for the neighborhood play is that it keeps fielders safe(er) from injuries from base runners barreling into them. If the umps decided to enforce 7.09(e) above, the base runners couldn’t slam the fielders and everyone would win. Plus this adds the bonus that there would be clear rules. The way it is currently handled, it is entirely up to the judgement and selective enforcement of the umpire crew. I am all for making the rules as abjective as possible.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:02 AM

        Ugh”…Objective as possible.”

  9. scoochpooch - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:55 AM


    Drew was only called out because he’s wearing a Yankee uniform, any other jersey and his running style would be acceptable. Umps didn’t have any problem with Travis Fryman running on the grass in Game 2 1998 ALCS.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      Wow. This may be the very first time in history a Yankee fan has claimed bias against his team. Let’s go over the Yankees strike zones of the past, say decade…

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Let’s go over the Yankees strike zones of the past, say decade…

        Please explain how you think there’s some MLB wide conspiracy to offer the Yanks a better strike zone than anyone else. Work through the logic, and come back to us please…

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        I’m not saying its a conspiracy, I don’t think it’s even something people are conscientiously doing, however the Yankees tend to have a favorable strike zone whenever they play as compared to the opposing team. It’s something I’ve noticed over the years. Maybe it’s a by product of winning so much. Maybe it’s a by product of having so many good players. I’m not saying anyone is doing anything intentionally wrong, it’s just what it is. People said the same thing about Gregg Maddox, and you know what? They were right.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        however the Yankees tend to have a favorable strike zone whenever they play as compared to the opposing team.

        You might be a bit biased, no?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:07 PM

        Based on my below comment about last night’s call, and other comments I have made, one may give me the benefit of the doubt. Sure I have some bias (Don’t we all?), but I also am able to put that aside and see the truth. I have a team I root for, and a team I am very passionate about, but I want to see the calls go the right way, not my team’s way. I’d rather win knowing my team out performed the opposition, and was clearly the better team, rather than the team that got the call to go their way.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      You, sir, may have broken the Internet for the week!

  10. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    As an Orioles fan, the call last night went for my team. And it was absolutely egregious. It was a terrible call, and Yankees fans have every right to be upset. That said, Girardi absolutely deserved to be tossed as he came out onto the field a second time to complain.

    Back to the point, this is just one of many examples where a double wide base should be implemented. People can say it’s for beer league softball and it’s for little boys and etc. all they want, but the amount of injuries that could be prevented, the calls that can be saved, makes it all worth while. It’s very simple, and easy, and hurts the game in absolutely no way at all. Just one more example where MLB needs to catch up with the times. Innovation has come to the sport, MLB simply refuses to acknowledge it.

  11. randomjoeblow - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Drew was running with his entire body inside the baseline, with both feet barely tap dancing on the inside of the line. When there’s a play like that where the catcher has to throw to 1st from behind the runner, players are taught to try to get in the way of the throw as much as possible. Drew is doing that, but the umpires also knew what he was doing and rightfully called him out. He was nowhere near the defined running lane he is supposed to be in.

    Rule 6.05(k):
    (k) In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the threefoot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;
    Rule 6.05(k) Comment: The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter- runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane. The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.

    The umpires saw Drew start in the running lane, then move left to the inside of the line so as to interfere with the throw.

  12. 4cornersfan - Aug 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Instead of a double bag why don’t they just call the plays correctly? Drew’s feet were clearly not outside of the lane.

  13. coryfor3 - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    Every player gets taught to slide and get their hands up in the air. So I guess coaches will have to teach the game different. Or modify and tell guys to keep their arms and hands up but not up in air too far. What happened to the guys that would carry batting gloves in their hands to remind themselves to get their arms and hands up? I miss that…

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