ATLANTA -- Because of the frequency with which it could be applied, the slide rule implemented this year to protect middle infielders will seemingly have more of an impact on how the game is played than the plate-blocking rule that was instituted in 2014.
Braves right fielder Nick Markakis was reminded that he will need to alter his approach after his seemingly harmless slide into second base resulted in a double play during the seventh inning of Monday's 4-3 loss to the Nationals on Opening Day.
"We're taught certain things as baseball players, and we know what's right and wrong," Markakis said. "I'm not going down there trying to hurt anybody. I'm just going down there trying to make him move his feet a little bit. I'm not letting him turn the double play."
With Monday's game tied, 2-2, Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon fielded an Hector Olivera chopper that was seemingly hit too soft to result in a double play. But when second baseman Daniel Murphy pointed out that Markakis had not maintained contact with the bag through the completion of his slide, umpires cited Rule 6.01 (j), which was instituted in February.
The rule reads: If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A "bona fide slide" for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:
(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
"Rules are rules and it is what it is, but at the same time, that's what we're taught to do and that's what we've been taught to do all our lives," Markakis said. "It's a new rule and it's something we've got to adjust to. It's going to be tough. When you're running down the line full speed, that is going to be the last thing you're thinking about. But we're going to have to think about it."
This rule was instituted in response to what transpired when Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley broke former Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's leg with what appeared to be more of a roll block than a slide during last year's National League Division Series.
The new rule became a hot topic of conversation when it resulted in the final outs of the Rays' victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Toronto's Jose Bautista's attempt to break up a double play with the bases loaded and his team trailing by a run in the ninth inning resulted in a double play when it was deemed that Bautista slid past the bag and interfered by reaching his left arm to make contact with Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe.
Braves backup catcher Tyler Flowers is part of the players' union negotiating committee that will remain in contact with MLB about this new rule. Flowers conceded there is a chance this rule could eventually be amended in the same manner that the plate-blocking rule was after it was first instituted.
"I don't think the rule is far off, just like I don't think the initial home plate rule was far off," Flowers said. "The interpretation and application of the rule was [initially] off in regards to home plate, and I think specifically with Bautista's play, they're being a little too literal with it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.