Saturday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the rival Chicago Cubs (STL 5, CHC 3) to further increase their NL Central lead. The Cardinals have a 1 1/2 game lead in the division overall, and a 2 1/2 game lead over the fourth-place Cubs.
In the fifth inning Saturday the Cubs lost a run when rookie Ian Happ, , was ruled to have committed an illegal takeout slide at second base on a potential double play ball. The Cubs had runners on the corners with one out when Anthony Rizzo hit the ball back to Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez. Martinez threw to second for the force out, and Happ's slide prevented the throw to first to complete the double play.
Second base umpire Mike Everitt determined Happ slide into second base illegally, and awarded the Cardinals the inning-ending double play. The run scored by Kyle Schwarber, the runner at third base on the play, did not count. Here's the play. The call was reviewed by the umpire crew in New York and upheld:
MLB changed the takeout slide rules following the 2015 season. The rules were changed after Chase Utley's brutal NLDS takeout slide broke Ruben Tejada's leg. (Also, Jung Ho Kang suffered a serious knee injury on Chris Coghlan's takeout slide during the regular season.) All these conditions must be met for a takeout slide to be considered legal:
- The runner begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
- The runner is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
- The runner is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
- The runner slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
Happ, it was determined, changed his "pathway for purpose of initiating contact with a fielder" on Saturday, which is why the slide was ruled illegal. A questionable call? Maybe. But it was reviewed and upheld.
Jon Lester, Saturday's starting pitcher for the Cubs, made it no secret he is not a fan of the slide rule after the game.
Jon Lester: "We’re out there playing with a bunch of pansies right now. I’m over this damn slide rule."— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) May 13, 2017
Lester is, of course, not the only player who feels this way. In fact, I'd say the majority of the players around the league do not like the new slide rule. They've been taught to play the game one way their entire lives, and now suddenly they have to change everything.
That said, MLB and the MLBPA changed the rules to make the game safer. One broken leg and one torn up knee is too many. Players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before, and takeout slides have become more and more dangerous in recent years. The slide rule didn't cost the Cubs a run Saturday. Happ's improper slide did.