Controversial MLB rule change could make Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. even better

Ronald Acuña Jr. needs no help stealing bases but Major League Baseball may be providing him with another advantage.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Three
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Three / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

In 2023, Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. swiped a league-leading 73 bases. Acuña possesses speed that not many do but the pitch clock and bigger bases played a part in his absurd amount of steals. Now, it appears Major League Baseball is enforcing a new rule that could provide even more of an advantage in 2024.

We all know that Spring Training is the time when umpires are a little extra strict on new rules so that the managers and players can make the adjustments by the time the regular season comes around. We saw this a season ago with the new pitch clock rules.

One of the biggest changes entering the 2024 season is a rule related to fielder obstruction. In a Spring Training matchup between the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers, Francisco Lindor was called for obstruction on what seemed like a sure-out.

The cardinal rule when there is a play at any base has always been that the runner must be provided a sliding lane to the bag or plate. There has been a major tweak to this and now fielders are not allowed to block any part of the base. Take a look below at how strictly umpires are enforcing this new rule.

This seems excessive and a judgment call that can be difficult to make at times. Sure, instant replay may be able to provide some assistance in correcting any missed calls related to obstruction, but if it is this close, what is called on the field may stand.

It honestly looks like a really bad call anyhow as Lindor still allowed the runner a lane to slide. I don't know what infielders are meant to do otherwise. If he doesn't block the base at all, there's almost no reason to even make a throw down.

If this rule is enforced to the caliber it was in the Mets and Tigers game during the regular season, Ronald Acuña Jr. could steal more bases than he did a season ago. Many are projecting Acuña to slow down a little on the basepaths, but this rule change alone could lead him to shatter his preseason projections.

He doesn't need any help being better on the base paths but this kind of enforcement almost guarantees Ronald will be running more often than he was last season. What do you have to lose at that point? The advantage goes to the runner with this rule.

However, it could also lead to some fans of Major League Baseball further devaluing stolen bases with this rule enforcement. A lot was said in 2023 about Acuna's 73 steals being less-than-impressive because the base size changed. We certainly don't want him to lose any more credibility for how talented he is.

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