Collins weighs in on 'neighborhood play' rule change

February 25th, 2016

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A change to baseball's longstanding "neighborhood play" at second base may have saved Ruben Tejada a broken bone last October, and perhaps even turned a postseason loss into a win. But that does not necessarily make Mets manager Terry Collins a fan of the new rule, which requires runners to "engage in a bona fide slide" to avoid interference calls. The rule change also makes neighborhood plays reviewable for the first time.

Tejada, who suffered a broken leg during the National League Division Series in a collision near second base with Dodgers infielder Chase Utley, was gone from Mets camp for the day when MLB announced the rule change. But his manager launched into a critique of it after initially declining comment.

"We're making a slide rule that keeps you on the bag," Collins said with a sharp, clipped tone. "You've got to be near the bag. And now we're making a decision on the neighborhood play that you've got to stay on the bag. You know what that's going to mean? Somebody's going to get their clocks cleaned. The game will change here pretty soon."

Asked directly if he would have preferred the rule to stay the same, Collins responded: "I'm not going there. I'm worried about my team."

Collins added that he expects MLB representatives to come to camp Sunday to discuss the rule and its ramifications with the Mets, who took significant issue with both Utley's slide and the subsequent umpire ruling during Game 2 of the NLDS. The Mets were clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh when Tejada gloved a double-play feed from Daniel Murphy at second base, where Utley tumbled toward him, flipping Tejada head-over-heels and breaking his fibula. Teammate Michael Cuddyer called it "a tackle ... not a slide."

Adding to the Mets' ire, umpires subsequently ruled that the play was not a neighborhood call because Tejada was spinning away from the bag, giving them license to launch a video review. Replays showed that Tejada never touched second base, allowing the Dodgers to erupt for a four-run inning.

Had the new rule been in place at the time, umpires could have called Utley out for not engaging in a "bona fide slide." Collins' beef is not with that portion of the rule, but instead with the ability to review neighborhood calls. He believes that will force middle infielders to remain anchored to second base, exposing them to injuries even on clean slides.

"Our goal in amending the slide rule was to enhance player safety, reduce incidents of injury and to do it in a way that respects and preserves the bona fide hustle plays that are integral to our game," union chief Tony Clark said in a statement. "I am optimistic that this new rule will accomplish those goals."