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On Friday night, we watched Kevin Pillar and the Jays get called for a double play because of an illegal slide into second base. Although based on the current rule, there is some debate as to whether Kevin’s slide was illegal, we are of the view, that the slide was good. More importantly, however, we are unanimous in the view that the rule needs to be significantly redrafted or abolished.

The rule can be found at section 7.14 of the MLB Rule Book. It states as follows:

If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs 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 for 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 the fielder.

A runner who engages in a “bona fide slide” shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide. In addition, interference shall not be called where a runner’s contact with the fielder was caused by the fielder being positioned in (or moving into) the runner’s legal pathway to the base.

Notwithstanding the above, a slide shall not be a “bona fide slide” if a runner engages in a “roll block”, or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.

If the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01, the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out. Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make play shall be declared out.

In the case of Kevin, we believe that the double play was called because of a “roll block”. As he slid into second base, he curled to ensure that his hand touched second base and that he remained on second rather than completely sliding through the bag.

The umpires on the field did not call a double play. Rather it was only after video review that the double play was called.

The purpose of this rule was to prevent injury to a vulnerable player attempting to turn a double play. It was implemented in response to the deliberate injury that occurred last year as a result of a slide by Chase Utley that broke the leg of Ruben Tejada.

Kevin’s slide into second was nowhere near the dangerous slide of Utley.

Rather it was slide that did everything to avoid contact with the fielder and certainly could not be viewed as an attempt to injure the fielder.

The umpires on the field got the call right; the video review official, with the ability to slow down the slide to a microscopic frame-by-frame view, and completely removed from the field of play, got the call wrong. Although Kevin curled onto the second base bag, the curling was not in our view a “roll block”.

A “roll block” according to Seattle Mariners first base coach Andy Van Slyke (in an interview given to ESPN earlier this year) occurs when a player is not trying to get to the bag, but instead is trying to hurt a player. The player leads with his shoulder and hip and hits him in the hip. Kevin certainly did not lead with his shoulder or hip into the Phillies player. Accordingly, Kevin’s slide, as called by the umpire on the field, was clean and within the parameters of the rule.

What is bothersome with respect to the call made by the replay review official is that if Kevin was called out for a “roll block”, the replay official was in a worse position than the umpire on the field to exercise discretion because the “roll block” contains an element of intent to injure. How can a replay official make such a determination? How can anyone really make such a determination without asking the player whether he intended to injure the opposing player? Based on what we witnessed over the television, Kevin slid toward the corner of second base, reached out with his arm to ensure that he was within the distance of the bag, and lowly curled over onto the bag upon reaching it.

No one wants to see a player deliberately injured by another player. However, baseball has overreacted with a rule that is creating more controversy than required. Replays on the exercise of an umpire’s discretion should be banned. This is what created the scary reaction to Odor’s run last year in the play-offs. The umpire had called time on the play, and a dead ball should have been called, without the run being counted. A proper review of the MLB rulebook actually confirms that this would have been the correct result.

Second, the rule should be amended to make clear that where the umpire (on the field) is of the view that the runner is deliberately attempting to make contact with the fielder rather than the bag or where the runner is engaged in a dangerous slide or slides with the intent to injure the fielder, like in the Utley/Tejada case, then the double play should be called, and frankly, the runner should be immediately ejected from the game and suspended. Dangerous slides, and more particularly deliberate attempts to injure an opponent, have no place in baseball or any other sport.

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