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Kang injury should lead to a change in the rulebook

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan came to bat twice after his slide into Jung Ho Kang ended the Pirates infielder's season Thursday afternoon. As one member of the Cubs noted later, Pittsburgh -- one of the most hard-nosed teams in Major League Baseball, perhaps the most hard-nosed -- had chances for retaliation, in the first hours after seeing its second-best player helped off the field for the last time this year by two athletic trainers.

But the Pirates pitched to Coghlan twice rather than throwing at him, an indication of how they felt about the nature of his slide, which, within the current context of the rules, was perfectly legal.

Rather than slide into the second-base bag on an attempted double play, Coghlan slid full speed at Kang's legs in an effort to disrupt Kang's throw, while being within an arm's length of second. This is all permissible, and it's the way runners have been attacking this play for years. Within the current context of the rules and the culture of Major League Baseball, it's an aggressive but fair play.

Kang acknowledged this within a statement released through his agent, Alan Nero: "It is unfortunate that what would be considered heads-up baseball would cause such a serious injury," Kang said. "That said, Coghlan was playing the game the way it should be played. I'm confident he meant me no harm. I appreciate everyone's support."

The force of Coghlan's slide shattered Kang's left leg and wrecked his knee, and afterward, rival evaluators mused over the nature of the play and whether a rule change should be made, at a time when MLB has placed greater importance on player safety.

Two years ago, the sport worked through an overhaul of the rules regarding catcher collisions, essentially working to eliminate them by ruling that runners can no longer target catchers.