In the 2016 season the MLB instituted a new slide rule designed to protect players from injury. In a nutshell as stated on MLB.com, the rule states that a base-runner must 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. Additionally a runner is prohibited from using a “roll-block” or intentionally initiating contact with the fielder but elevating or kicking his leg above the fielders knee or throwing his arm or upper body.
Yesterday Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista made headlines for breaking this rule during a game against the Texas Rangers. The slide wasn’t the reason for the headline, it was the reaction of 2nd baseman of Rougned Odor that shocked the sports community; a right hook to Bautista’s face. The benches cleared and the ejections started once the punch was thrown.
ESPN is reporting that no suspensions have been announced, but they are expected and Odor will receive the brunt while other players that were involved will get the ladder.
One thing that has been failed to be mentioned is that this is not Bautista’s first offence. Tampa Bay Rays fans may remember game 3 of the opening week series against the Blue Jays. Top of the 9th and Bautista was on first, Edwin Encarnacion hit a chopper to third that was easily fileded by Evan Longoria. Longoria wanted to end the game with a double play threw it to Logan Forsythe just as Bautista was sliding into 2nd. Seems normal right? Wrong. As Bautista slide he reached his arm out to knock Forsythe’s leg and break up the double play. Prior to the new rule this would have been a valid break up, but not now. Bautista was called out for interference, runners could not advance, and the game was over; Rays win.
Is Bautista a dirty player or is he just an aggressive base-runner? Hard to say. I will have my eye out for his next infraction and the league’s response to a repeat offender. One thing that is certain is that rule violations will not be tolerated by officiating staff, teams or the players. Odor’s right hook shocked the league and may have others reconsider sliding dirty.
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