FORT MYERS, Fla. – Paul Molitor was an aggressive player who understood the value of disrupting a double play by sliding hard into second base. Now that he’s a manager, Molitor wants his own players to have the same instinct.
So the Twins manager isn’t ready to fully endorse Major League Baseball’s new Rule 6.01(j), which is being implemented in hopes of preventing infielders from suffering serious injuries due to baserunners barreling into them.
“I’d like guys to still be able to play the game,” Molitor said Thursday after MLB and the players union announced agreement on the wording of the new rule that will now require a “bona fide slide” into the base. “I like the fact that it’s part of the game, to be able to break up a double play, if you do it according to the rules. That’s the way it should be.”
Molitor is all in favor, he said, of eliminating barrel rolls and takeout slides that trigger serious collisions, such as the one by the Dodgers’ Chase Utley that knocked out Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada from the playoffs last fall. And he hopes the four-part definition of a “bona fide slide” does that, without causing runners to shy away from close plays at the bag.
Beginning this season, runners must begin sliding before reaching a base; be able and attempt to touch the bag with a hand or foot; be able and attempt to stay on the base at the conclusion of the slide; and not change his direction just to initiate a collision. If a runner fails to meet any of those four requirements — and the play can be reviewed on video replay — an umpire can call him out, and even rule the play a double play.
“My opinion is, I’ll have to see how it plays out,” Molitor said. “[If it’s] not a legal slide, I don’t have any problem with that. … [But] if you do what you’re supposed to do, you hit the ground and your momentum carries you and you’re able to disrupt the pivot, that’s fine.”
Joe Torre, the Hall of Fame manager and MLB’s chief baseball executive, and former umpire Charlie Reliford will be at Hammond Stadium on Friday to review and explain the rule with Twins players and coaches.
In addition to second-base collisions, new rules this season will cut 20 seconds off between-inning breaks, and will limit manager and coach visits to the mound to 30 seconds.