In an effort to continue speeding up the pace of games, Major League Baseball will implement a time limit on mound visits by managers and pitching coaches. MLB will also address player safety concerns by updating the slide rules.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, mound visits will be limited to 30 seconds, with an in-stadium clock keeping track of the time. Meanwhile, the updated slide rule "starts by describing what a runner can do" and will feature four basic tenets that constitute a legal slide, per Passan:
• Slide prior to reaching the base.
• Slide so you are able to and attempt to reach or touch the base.
• Slide so you are able to and attempt to stay on the base.
• Do not change your pathway to the base.
Per Passan's report, the MLB rule states that players who follow those basic rules are "allowed to take out the fielder legally." The policy was negotiated between MLB and the players' union, with slides that don't follow those rules resulting in an automatic double play.
Slides, particularly into second base, have been a topic of discussion since last season. The Pittsburgh Pirates lost Jung Ho Kang for the season with a knee injury in mid-September when Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan clearly went out of the baseline in an attempt to break up a double play.
The issue came to the forefront again in the postseason when New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula following a takeout slide by Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley in the National League Division Series.
Per Dan Martin of the New York Post, Tejada said the slide by Utley was "not professional here at this level to play like that. I [caught] the ball on the other side [of the base] and he came to me right away. He never touched the bag. If he touched the bag and then hit me or something like that, it’s different.”
MLB announced how the timed breaks would work, implementing updated rules for the between-inning commercial breaks and the 30-second mound visits, via Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports:
The pace of game program will expand this season to include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher’s mound by managers and pitching coaches. In addition, break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games.
Pace of play has been an issue MLB has attempted to address in various ways, most recently adopting the between-inning countdown clock to keep things moving in an orderly fashion.
The change showed positive effects in 2015, with the Associated Press reporting (via Mike Axisa of CBS Sports) that MLB games were nearly six minutes shorter from the previous season.
There are certain things that will always keep baseball moving at a deliberate pace, whether it is a pitcher who intentionally works slowly or long at-bats that extend games, but MLB is trying to keep the action moving.
MLB understands that spectators demand action in sports, and it is taking steps to ensure more people stay locked on its product.