Joe Torre: Legislation on takeout slides remains on agenda

ByJerry Crasnick ESPN logo
Monday, November 16, 2015

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Major League Baseball has yet to commit to a rules change legislating potentially hazardous takeout slides at second base, but the topic will remain a focus of discussion over the coming weeks, Joe Torre told reporters at the general managers meetings Wednesday.

Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, said the issue was on the agenda for a rules committee meeting Wednesday afternoon. Torre said baseball officials will follow up with a longer session at the winter meetings in Nashville in December.

"The one thing we all want to do is make sure we don't have guys carried off the field," Torre said. "Even though we've had a lot of criticism on the collision play at the plate, we haven't had anybody carried off the field in a couple of years. I think that's great.

"We're looking at it. Obviously you can't lose sight of what the game is all about. You don't want somebody not trying to get to second base and trying to keep the inning going. It's a thin line that you have to walk. That's why it's really tough to put pen to paper on something like this. We'll have some discussion and see what kind of ideas will possibly work."

Takeout slides have been a hot-button issue since the playoffs, when New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered a broken leg on a controversial slide by Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Utley angered the Mets and was widely criticized on social media for sliding late and wide of the second-base bag.

In mid-September, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang suffered a broken left leg and a torn knee ligament on a takeout slide by Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan.

The Tejada and Kang injuries have sparked discussion about MLB taking steps to protect middle infielders the way it did to safeguard catchers, when new rules were enacted in 2011 in the aftermath of a knee injury to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.

MLB already has rules in place that give umpires the latitude to eject baserunners who go out of their way to target fielders. Utley and batter Howie Kendrick were both ruled safe on the play that resulted in Tejada's broken leg. But Torre subsequently suspended Utley for two games in the National League Division Series.

For the second straight year, Torre said, baseball is testing a rule in the Arizona Fall League that requires runners to slide directly into the bag.

"With the Utley situation, he hit Tejada before he hit the ground," Torre said. "I thought that was a little overly aggressive. He slid too late and he didn't make an effort to touch the base. His target was the infielder.

"In saying that, I'm criticizing the play as opposed to the person, because Utley was just trying to do his job. He's always been an aggressive player -- a Hall of Fame-type player."

In other developments at the GMs meetings:

Major League Baseball hopes to play regular-season games in Mexico and in Europe within five years, MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said Wednesday. Halem noted that the players' union would need to approve those games.

Torre said pace-of-play rules helped shave six minutes off the average game time compared with 2014. Games averaged 2 hours, 56 minutes in 2015. That's down from 3:02 the previous year, according to Torre.

"It's not the length of the game as much as the dead time," Torre said.