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Chicago Cubs: Joe Maddon not a fan of ‘slide rule’

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May 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) listens to the National Anthem before the baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) listens to the National Anthem before the baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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MLB’s ‘slide rule’ impacted the Chicago Cubs Saturday afternoon, resulting in a significant run wiped away. Is modification needed for the rule?

Ian Happ had quite the MLB debut for the Chicago Cubs Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

Happ, who hit the first home run of his career in the 7th inning, also found himself entangled in the hotly contested ‘slide rule’ play which occurred during the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Chicago, trailing 3-1 with two on, one out, had Anthony Rizzo up at the plate, who hit a comebacker to pitcher Carlos Martinez.

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Martinez threw to second to get Happ on what typically goes down as 1-6 FC. In that sequence, the runner from third scores and there’s a runner on first with two outs.

Instead, Happ is called out for sliding past second base. There is no collision with the defender, but that doesn’t matter.

The Chase Utley Rule

Slides such as Happ’s might not look like a big deal. Across MLB, all players are taught to run hard, slide through the bag.

There was no collision with shortstop Aledmys Diaz who covered second on the play. It was a no harm no foul play. But under the rule, no harm no foul doesn’t hold up.

Here’s Maddon’s take on the rule via Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com.

The intent of the rule is to avoid the possible ugliness such as what occurred during the 2015 NLDS between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. When Chase Utley slid into Ruben Tejada at second base, resulting in a broken leg for Tejada, and a rule change across MLB going forward.

The Chase Utley Rule.

Player safety changing the game?

It’s always bad when an injury occurs, especially by nature of a freak incident. Subsequent rules put into place, done with the purpose of avoiding a particular play resulting in injury is always a slippery slope.

As you can see Utley is off the baseline path by the time he collides with Tejada. A play that MLB no doubt wanted to eliminate.

Here’s the rule as defined by MLB.com:

"Rule 6.01(j), a runner will have to make a “bona fide slide,” which is defined as making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to and attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate) and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder."

So back to the infraction Saturday: What do you think about the play? Here’s a look.

Unlike Utley’s slide, Happ stayed in the baseline through the play. However nowhere as malicious, intent is not the factor. MLB put the rule into place to take out unnecessary slides and contact.

Regardless, sliding past the bag is what cost Happ and the Chicago Cubs. Pitcher Jon Lester had this to say according to MLB.com:

"“I told Happ in the dugout, ‘Next time, you do the exact same thing.’ That’s baseball, man. We’re out there playing with a bunch of pansies now. I’m over this [darn] slide rule and replaying if it’s too far and all this other [nonsense]. We’re all men out there, grown men. They’ve turned double plays their whole lives. They know how to get out of the way.”"

Players changing how they slide?

Lester has a point that players know how to get out of the way of the impending double play.

My thought regarding collisions in baseball is that they are part of the game. Not reckless abandon type plays, but incidental contact that can occur during a double play. I’m all for baseball trying to look out for players and looking out for player safety. However, it can set an ugly precedent when you modify the rules based on one separate incident.

Next: Cubs fall to Cards; Happ hits first home run

It’s one thing to do what Utley did and slide out of the baseline. Happ didn’t do that. What’s next?

How does this rule affect teams going forward? Would you tell players to slide any less hard into the bag?

Not if you’re Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs.

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