LOS ANGELES — After Jung Ho Kang's leg was wrecked on a slide into second base three weeks ago and a column was written here about the growing possibility of a forthcoming rule change, the reaction from some players was strong.
Through texts and direct messages, they complained that altering the rules about slides into second base would change something important about the game, an essential toughness. "Taking out someone is part of the game — just wanted you to know," wrote one.
And this: "Teach the infielders to get out of the way and protect themselves better. That's a skill that should be valued."
Wrote another: "A lot of players feel like you can't take this away."
Fellas, it's over. Get used to the idea that change is coming.
The Kang injury was probably a tipping point in the conversation, and the events of Game 2 of the Mets-Dodgers National League Division Series on Saturday night almost certainly pushed the situation across the goal line, when L.A.'sChase Utley essentially ended shortstop Ruben Tejada's season on this play.
On the same day as the Kang injury, some executives spoke privately about how a simple adjustment of forcing the runners to slide at the base, not at the defender, made a lot of sense, and MLB executive Joe Torre told reporters after Game 2 that this precise alteration will be put in play, as an experiment, for the Arizona Fall League.
This is for the sake of player safety, yes, but also for the sake of money, just as was the case with the catcher-collision rules. For players to repeatedly be put at physical risk on the sort of play that isn't close to being integral to the sport — the way that throwing a pitch and swinging a bat are — will no longer be deemed acceptable when general managers gather in the offseason to mull changes.