The “Ruben Tejada Rule” Will Be the Next “Buster Posey Rule”


By now, everyone has seen what transpired in game two of the National League Division Series between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the seventh inning, Howie Kendrick sent a groundball to Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy, who proceeded to make a flip to shortstop Ruben Tejada. The throw was behind Tejada, stopping his momentum as he reached back while simultaneously trying to touch second base. Tejada proceeded to spin around, trying to get into position to make what would have been an ill-advised throw to first base to get the double play.

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Chase Utley was running from first, coming into second base hot in an attempt to break up the double play. Utley slid late and came in high, barreling in to Tejada’s left leg, causing a fracture that would end Tejada’s postseason. To add insult to injury, Utley was deemed safe despite not touching second base within the boundaries of the play, and the Dodgers would go on to score four runs in what would eventually be a 5-2 victory to even the series.

Now, baseball will likely add a “Ruben Tejada Rule”, which comes from similar circumstances as the “Buster Posey Rule”. In 2011, Posey, the San Francisco Giants‘ catcher, suffered a gruesome leg injury while attempting to block the plate from Miami Marlins’ runner Scott Cousins. The ensuing collision would end Posey’s season and, before the 2014 season, put a rule in to effect to prevent such a thing from happening again. Rule 7.13, colloquially known simply as the “Posey Rule”, states:

"A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe."

Now, after Tejada’s injury, MLB is already putting a system to prevent such a thing from happening again. In the Arizona Fall League, players will be required to slide directly into the bag rather than to the left or right. The AFL is also where the play clock and pace of play rules that Rob Manfred was so adamant about where first used.

MLB already has a rule in place that is supposed to protect middle infielders from the reckless slide that Tejada fell victim to. Although it is rarely enforced, the MLB official rules, rule 7.09(e) states:

"If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner."

By those standards, Utley would be out, and Kendrick would be out as well, resulting in a double play that would end the inning and keep the Mets ahead 2-1. Instead, everyone was safe, and the Dodgers scored four times. Of course, these kinds of things happen when they’re left up for an umpire’s interpretation. A more concrete rule has to be in place.

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This isn’t the first time a “take out” slide at second base has injured a player. In fact, it happened quite recently. Just last month, Pittsburgh Pirates’ shortstop Jung Ho Kang suffered a fracture and left knee injuries that would sideline him for  six to eight months when the Chicago Cubs’ Chris Coghlan went into second base hard and way right to break up a potential double play. Kang had his left leg planted to make a throw, and Coghlan’s slide bent it backwards.

Giants’ fans will remember the Marco Scutaro and Matt Holliday incident as well. In the 2012 NLCS, Holliday slid in to second base very hard, and quite late, barreling in to Scutaro, the second baseman, in an attempt to break up a double play. Scutaro, who gave away around 75 pounds to the much larger Holliday, thankfully wasn’t seriously injured, and played the rest of the way, even earning NLCS MVP honors.

Kang and Tejada were both out of the basepath as they attempted to make their respective throws, and a slide directly into the bag, like there will be in the AFL, would have prevented both instances. In the Holliday instance, his slide over the bag would also be be allowed to happen.

Such a slide is not just dangerous to the infielder, but also leaves the runner at risk. The number one thing in sports, not just baseball, has become player safety. On Utley’s slide, he took a hard hit to the head, and (as weird as it is to say) he is lucky that he didn’t suffer serious head trauma. Of course, as Giants’ fans know, concussions are extremely tricky, and symptoms can pop up at any time. A runner not only puts his opponent in harm’s way with such a slide, but himself as well.

For his slide, Utley earned himself a two-game suspension for games three and four of the series, but he will appeal, and could have it pushed back, or redacted all together. Whether warranted or not, sometimes a player has to be made an example of. In this case, Utley is the example.

If player safety is truly priority number one, the rule change will be for the best, making the game safer for those who are playing. It’s really just a shame that someone has to be seriously injured, whether a star player or in such a high-profile game, for action to be taken. A player’s season has ended, and if the Mets were to continue their postseason after this series, Tejada won’t have the privilege of being involved. After such a devastating injury, his entire career trajectory could be altered for the worse.

Rather than being proactive, and making a change before things get out of hand, MLB is being reactive, waiting for a big blow that opens everyone’s eyes to make a change. On the other hand, while any possible change is too late for Tejada, it could save another player down the road. And that’s a start.

Next: The Eddy Julio Martinez Saga Continues