The Milwaukee Brewers were in danger of blowing a six-run lead on Friday night until they were bailed out by Major League Baseball‘s new “Utley Rule.” Simply put, this rule requires baserunners to actually try to slide into second base.
With the Brewers leading 6-4 and one out in the top of the 9th, Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hit a weak ground ball to Scooter Gennett. There was no chance of this turning into a double-play, but that’s exactly what happened when Colby Rasmus over-slid second base.
Under the new rule, a runner must “remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide.” Furthermore, “if the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01(j), the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out.”
Rasmus did not stay on second base after the slide, therefore Altuve was also called out at first base. So instead of slugger George Springer coming to the plate with a chance to tie the game, the Brewers escaped with their second victory of the season.
The idea behind the rule is excellent. Player safety is more important than anything else. You don’t want players to get hurt because of unnecessary collisions. Even so, the rule needs to afford umpires some discretion. There was a zero chance of a double-play happening. In fact, Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar did not even attempt a throw to first base. The umpires should have been able to say “Nah, Altuve would have been safe. No double play.”
All of that said, the rule helped the Brewers improved to 2-2 on the young season. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.