Cutch influences enforcement of obstruction rule

February 17th, 2024

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A year ago, publicly expressed concern about what he viewed as increased obstruction by fielders on stolen base attempts. Soon after, he spoke with Major League officials about it, and he’s pleased with the progress made since those conversations took place.

The league recently confirmed it is going to enforce the obstruction rule more to try to decrease base blocking. When asked about the potential changes in his first interview of Spring Training on Saturday, McCutchen started by saying “I had a lot to do with that.”

In his eyes, last year’s notable rule changes, which included a pitch timer and bigger bases, encouraged teams to steal more bases. Steal attempts were up last year, and the Pirates certainly took part in that spike.

But with the jump in steal attempts, McCutchen also saw a jump in the risk of injury. McCutchen said he saw grabbing his wrist or shoulder "countless times" after sliding into an infielder.

“The biggest thing for me was, it was just not blatantly putting your body in front of a base,” McCutchen said. “If a throw takes you there, it takes you there. But if a guy is stealing a base and the guy catching the ball is dropping his knee in front of the base to stop you from getting to the base, that’s a problem. At least, I felt that way.”

League officials reached out to listen to McCutchen, and the Pirates’ veteran felt heard.

“The game has evolved,” McCutchen said. “The game’s changing. There’s some language with home plate now. We’ve had that for 10 years or so now. There’s been no language changed on the base paths. My thing was, there needs to be something done with that as well. We’re trying to prevent injury. That’s why I mentioned it and why I was vocal about it. I’m just trying to prevent injury here. What can we do? It was nice that Major League Baseball and a few of the people I talked to were pretty responsive to it.”

On the Pirates’ end, manager Derek Shelton said enforcing obstruction more is “much needed” and that many managers also voiced their concerns. It certainly helped their case to have McCutchen in their corner.

“When you have a superstar player and a guy that's respected like he is," Shelton said, "it has an impact."