MILWAUKEE -- Rule 6.01 (j) needs some work.On Friday night, for the second time in a week, the new rule -- dubbed the "Chase Utley rule," in reference to his slide in last year's National League Division Series that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada -- was invoked
MILWAUKEE -- Rule 6.01 (j) needs some work.
On Friday night, for the second time in a week, the new rule -- dubbed the "Chase Utley rule," in reference to his slide in last year's National League Division Series that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada -- was invoked and ended a game in controversy.
There was no intent to injure on the part of the baserunner, in this case, Houston's Colby Rasmus. There was no serious contact with the shortstop covering second base, Milwaukee's Jonathan Villar. There was no chance for a double play to be turned, and yet, the Brewers were awarded a double play that ended the game.
Here is the core problem: As the new rule is written, the call on the field was correct. But the rule as written presented an impossible situation for the baserunner.
With runners on first and second, one out in the ninth, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hit a slow grounder to Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett, whose throw to Villar covering second narrowly beat the runner, Rasmus.
Villar made no attempt to throw to first to complete the double play because Altuve would have easily beaten the throw. But Rasmus' slide carried him to the bag and beyond it. So under the new rule, the slide was illegal. Not only was Rasmus out, so was Altuve. Game over.
"Tough call there," Rasmus said. "I don't see much wrong with that slide. It was a kind of a late, slow-developing play, and [Gennett] threw it over my shoulder. And I just got down, just trying to reach my leg for the bag. I didn't try to make any extra movements. My foot was going for the bag, and I just brought it up and went on past it to not injure myself. Nothing malicious there. To me, that was very mild of a slide."
Asked about making contact with Villar, Rasmus responded: "I don't think I did. I might have got him a little bit, but that's just because my foot was going toward the bag. His foot was left there. I'm sure he's not going to need ice for it."
On Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays was called out for runner interference at second base that saw two apparent runs negated and left the Jays with a 3-2 loss to the Rays, although on that play, Bautista can be seen reaching out to grab the shortstop's ankle in an effort to prevent a double play.
In Milwaukee, umpiring crew chief Tom Hallion told a pool reporter Friday that the correct call was made on the Rasmus play.
"My second-base umpire [Dan Bellino] determined that it was not a bona fide slide because Rasmus did not attempt to stay on the base," Hallion said. "He could not stay on the base. With that, that is the rule of interference."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch acknowledged that the correct call had been made, according to the new rule. But Hinch's contention -- and it is a highly reasonable one -- was that Rasmus had no choice but to slide past the bag, because he did not know the throw by Gennett was going to second until he was very close to the base.
"When a play happens late, you're asking Major League athletes to essentially shut it down and slide at a pace that is not competitive," Hinch said. "And that's a problem. That play ended, the second baseman decides late to go to second and Colby's caught five feet from the base. You get guys that are going full speed for 90 feet and they're going to slide past the base. It's against the rules, you get penalized and the game's over, which ruined a very interesting ending to the game.
"These games count. If this happens in September, everybody will freak out, too, but I'll remember this one, if it impacts us. He broke the rule. The rule was applied. And it's a shame."
The rule is in place so that there will be no more plays like Utley's, but this wasn't anything remotely like that.
"The game ends on a play the rule is not intended to protect," Hinch said. "I get it. It's the rules that we're playing under, and we respect them and we'll go by them. But it's a shame that a couple games end on small violations that don't even have, in our case, contact with a guy.
"You fight and claw back in that game. You put context into that rule, and it's pretty painful. By the way it's written, by the letter of the law, by how it's going to be governed, it is what it is. But it's a shame."
Without obvious intent to injure, without any sort of contact that could cause injury, this rule seemed to be painfully out of place for this play. By the new rule, the right call was made. But in the context of this play, the rule seemed at best arbitrary, at worst, simply wrong.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.