Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik have lockers next to each other in the Giants’ clubhouse, so while Panik was busy answering questions after Thursday’s game about losing a double play to changes in the “neighborhood rule,” Crawford was elsewhere, out of the way.
Friday afternoon, though, the Giants’ shortstop weighed in on MLB’s new rules this season governing double plays at second base.
“Not the biggest fan of them,” Crawford said.
In particular, Crawford said he objects to outlawing the “neighborhood play,” which previously gave infielders leeway around the bag to avoid an incoming runner. Infielders now must tag second base while possessing the ball – in part because runners now have to make a “bona fide slide” attempt to both reach and remain on second base.
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“I think the rule was supposed to be put in place to help prevent injuries and kind of protect middle infielders a little bit,” Crawford said. “And I don’t think the way it is now is going to do that.
“In the past you were able to, as a middle infielder, protect yourself by maybe coming off (the bag) a split-second early. That was the neighborhood rule – you’re allowed to come off a split-second early to kind of protect yourself and get out of the way of a runner even if he was able to slide off the bag.
“Now they can still slide through the bag. And if you have to stay on there a split-second to make sure you have possession of the ball while you’re on the bag, you’re leaving yourself open to the guy sliding straight into you. I don’t agree with that.”
The distinction Crawford is making is that while runners are no longer allowed to alter their path to make contact with an infielder, contact is still allowed as long as the slide is deemed permissible.
“They can still slide through the bag plenty hard as long as they hold onto it,” Crawford said. “To have to stay on there over the bag a little bit longer, I think it’s not preventing injuries or helping us.”
The Giants encountered the rule change first-hand in their 12-6 win over the Dodgers on Thursday, when what looked like an inning-ending double play in the second was overturned after replays showed Panik’s foot had already come off of the base when he received the throw from Crawford.
As a result, Crawford, who received his 2015 Gold Glove Award before the Giants’ game against the Dodgers on Friday night, said he might be consciously thinking about his footwork the next time he turns a double play.
“When it’s literally a matter of a couple of inches that Joe was over the top of the bag while he caught the ball, I might have to think now I need to really focus on staying on there, catching and then throwing, where before it was kind of all one motion of getting my feet set as I’m catching it and throwing,” Crawford said.
The overturned double play Thursday resulted in the Dodgers scoring a run that would not have counted if the play stood. But the Giants came back to win, so the new rule did not directly affect the outcome of their game.
One game in the first week of the season between the Rays and Blue Jays did turn as a result of rule’s other side: Toronto’s Jose Bautista was called out at second for sliding past the bag while trying to break up a ninth-inning double play, and the game ended on that determination, which was made via replay review.
Crawford cited that play Friday while indicating he isn’t a fan of the new rule as a whole.
“Protecting middle infielders aside, it’s affected games already this season,” Crawford said. “It’s affected the outcomes of a couple games where it’s up to the judgment call of an umpire that’s in New York to say whether or not (a runner) was going after the infielder or going out of his way to slide into him.
“It just opens the door up to a little too much discretion of an umpire that’s not even at the game.”