First, there was Tommy John surgery. Then, came The Buster Posey Rule. Now, the rule book also includes what's being called The Chase Utley Rule.
The rule comes from last year's playoffs when Chase Utley attempted to break up a double-play with what was termed a legal slide. As the rule stated, Utley could reach the bag, but the word slide wasn't quite accurate for how he went into the bag. Now, much like Major League Baseball did after Buster Posey suffered a serious injury on a play at the plate, there is a new rule to clarify plays like the one that injured Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.
The rule reads simply...
"If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (at attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double-play, he should be called for interference."
To say that Utley's landing at second base was a bona fide slide would be a stretch. At best, it was an extremely late attempt at a slide. At worst, it was somewhat of a barrel role into second base. On the play, Utley was ruled safe, primarily because MLB rules state that as long as a runner going into a bag can physically touch the base on his slide, it's a clean slide. The new rule looks to clarify that it must clearly be a full - or bona fide - slide.
While the rule is unofficially being termed The Chase Utley Rule, there was another incident, almost a month prior to the situation in the National League Division Series, that already had some people talking about the need for a rule addition. In a game between the Cubs and Pirates on September 17th, Chris Coghlan, in an attempt to break up a double-play, ended the season of Pirates rookie infielder Jung Ho Kang. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a discussion with Joe Garagiola Jr., Major League Baseball's vice president of standards and on-field operations about the play, which started discussions regarding the rule change.
The play in the Cubs and Pirates game might have led to a rule change even without the collision between Utley and Tejada, but the fact that the injury to Tejada came in the postseason added some fuel to the fire.
Major League Baseball also added another new rule on Thursday that's going to cause managers and pitching coaches to move a little faster. As baseball continues to look for ways to speed up the game, they're not going to be timing mound visits by managers and coaches and limiting them to 30-seconds. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was asked about the rule and sais that he doesn't see it being an issue in most situations. He does concede though that there are times when the conversation needs to go a little deeper to make sure all of the infielders are on the same page with a play and the new rule could make those situations more difficult. An obvious compromise would be to give a team one extended trip to the mound per game where they would be given extra time, say a full minute for the mound meeting.
The new timing rule doesn't apply when an infielder or the catcher goes to the mound to talk to a pitcher.