Today, we’re going to talk about takeout slides, the so-called Utley Rule and why it needs fixing posthaste. You’ve got opinions. We’ve got opinions. Everyone’s got opinions.

First, though, a fact: Major League Baseball had to do something.

After the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang went down in the heat of the pennant race and the New York Mets’ Ruben Tejada was knocked out in front of a national audience in the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgersboth on aggressive slides by opposing baserunnersthe pressure was simply too great.

So we got Rule 6.01(j), which requires players make “bona fide” slides, defined as when the runner:

(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;

(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;

(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and

(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

Sounds simple enough—go for the base, not the middle infielder. No more busted knees and gruesomely twisted ankles.

In practice, however, it’s been a mess.

Already, two games have ended on a violation of the Utley Rule. And both have sparked justified controversy.

The first occurred April 5 in a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays when Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe threw wide to first on a potential game-ending double play, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score.

After a Tampa Bay challenge and video review, umpires ruled that the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista broke the Utley Rule while sliding into second on the play, as he slid past the bag and came in contact with Forsythe’s leg. And so the runs were nullified and the Rays won, 3-2.

Here’s a look, courtesy of MLB Replay:

“You’re going to end the game like that? It’s a joke,” Toronto skipper John Gibbons said after the game, per USA Today‘s Gabe Lacques. “Maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow. Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”

Bautista was more diplomatic but no less defiant. “Common sense has to come into this,” he said, per Lacques. “I feel like I slid directly at the bag. I could have done much worse and chose not to.”

Three days later, on April 8, the Utley Rule struck again.

In the ninth inning of a game between the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers, with runners on first and second and one out, Houston’s Colby Rasmus slid past the bag at second on a ground ball by teammate Jose Altuve. Umpire Dan Bellino called a double play, ending the game.

The Astros challenged the call, but it was upheld and Milwaukee prevailed, 6-4. 

Here’s a look at that one:

“It was interpreted right, but the rule needs clarification because I think it’s wrong,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, per’s Adam McCalvy and Brian McTaggart. 

That’s a pair of glaring instances in the span of a week, which means this is going to keep happening unless something is done.

The nuclear option is to blow the whole thing up, to undo the rule and go back to the way things were. 

Undoubtedly, that would appease so-called purists, the same crowd that recalls Hal McRae’s lowered-shoulder tackle in the 1972 World Series and smiles.

Baseball, though, evolves on big issues like segregation and less-big issues like instant replay. Going backward isn’t the answer. 

But clearly a tweak is needed. Fortunately, there’s a recent, similar situation to provide some guidance.

In 2014, MLB rewrote its rules regarding home plate collisions. Like the Utley Rule, that one was aimed at reducing incidents like the horrific injury suffered by San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in 2011.

The new rule was well-intentioned, but precipitated at least one contentious, letter-of-the-law umpire edict. Sound familiar? 

In response, MLB issued a memorandum to teams in September 2014 indicating that, while the rule would stand, “common sense must prevail,” as’s Paul Hagen wrote at the time.

If “common sense” sounds familiar, it’s because Toronto’s Bautista invoked it right up there.

“It’s really just the spirit of the play,” Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the memorandum, per Hagen. “When the ball beats the runner by that much, he should be out, no matter what the catcher does. If the runner has the play beat, he should be safe no matter what the catcher does.”

The same principle could be applied at second base. Uphold the spirit of the rule—baserunners shouldn’t obliterate middle infielders—and let umps exercise discretion. 

Here’s another possible fix, as proposed by’s C.J. Nitkowski: Eliminate Part 3 of the Utley Rule, the bit about remaining on the base.

“In one swift move, this whole thing is fixed,” Nitkowski wrote. “Middle infielders stay protected and players and won’t be left standing with their hands on their head wondering what just happened.” 

In reality, it’s not that simple. At least in Bautista’s case, there was interference with the fielder, as well as sliding past the base.

But graft Nitkowski’s proposal onto umpire’s discretion, and it’s possible the Bautista play would have withstood the Rays’ challenge and the Rasmus play would have been overturned. 

Bigger picture, those two simple changes would make the Utley Rule far more tenable. Middle infielders would still be safe to turn two and fewer games would end in infuriating ambiguity. 

Above all, common sense would prevailwhich should be everyone’s goal.

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