Sunday, October 11, 2015

On Chase Utley, And "Hard-Nosed" Double-Play Breakup Slides

It's six hours after NLDS Game 2 as I write this, and I've spent about an hour reading up on this in earnest on the interwebs. And I still feel really conflicted.

First and foremost, I am very glad the Dodgers won. We needed a spark, after sleeping through last night's game and preparing to sacrifice another great starting pitching performance tonight. And sure enough, Chase Utley's slide into second, taking Ruben Tejada out of the play and removing the threat of a double play that would end the inning, pivoted the whole game. The Dodgers tied the game on that play; consecutive three-strikeout-victim Adrian Gonzalez came up and doubled in Utley and Howie Kendrick (from first) to make it 4-2, and we didn't look back. After watching so many breaks fall the opposing team's way in the playoffs, it was unbelievable to see the baseball gods smile on the Dodgers for a change.


Secondly, and not far behind that first point--I feel horrible for Ruben Tejada, whose leg was fractured on that slide.

Here it is, once more:

I don't think Tejada could have made that double play anyway. So I'm not sure why he was pirouetting to being with--but that isn't the point, I know.


Most of the pundits I read last night say it was hard-nosed, but clean. The Baseball Tonight crew was 2-1 in favor of it being clean, with Dallas Braden and Doug Glanville on Utley's side.'s David Schoenfield thought it was dirty, blaming all of baseball:

This is the reward you reap as an industry. Chase Utley's "slide" that sent Ruben Tejada out on a stretcher with a fractured fibula in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers Division Series was within the boundaries of how the game is played and called by the umpires but also clearly dirty and malicious. Just a few weeks ago, everybody fell all over themselves saying that Chris Coghlan's slide that sent Jung Ho Kang to the sidelines for the season wasn't dirty. So this is what baseball deserves for letting this nonsense linger 45 years after Pete Rose destroyed Ray Fosse, 38 years after Hal McRae crushed Willie Randolph and just a couple of years after they actually did move to protect catchers in home-plate collisions: A stinking heap of controversy, angry baseball fans across the country, casual fans turned off by obvious rules lunacy and a crucial playoff game that turned because baseball has been too gutless to call this the right way.

Chief Baseball Officer (and former Dodgers manager) Joe Torre is also conflicted, though he said he thought the slide was a little late:

Q. You said you're still talking about it. In what regard?

Torre: We still -- I'm still in charge of determining if it's something that shouldn't -- like the slide was over-the-top type of thing. As I say, it was a hard slide. ... Looking at it a number of times, I thought it was a little late. So that's what I'm digesting right now.

Q. You would review it to see if you need to impose any discipline?

Torre: Again, I'm looking at it just to see if there's anything we feel should be done. [...]

Q. Does it help that Chase used his arm to try to grab the bag, trying to sort of sell the play: 'I'm trying on get the bag and not try to hurt anybody'?

Torre: I sure hope as hell that Chase Utley -- I mean, he's been a great player for a long time, and he's played hard. I certainly don't feel that he was trying to hurt somebody. I think his goal was breaking up a double play, and in doing that, someone broke their leg. He was, I agree, he was within range of the bag, yeah. It wasn't like the fielder was over here, and he went right at him and couldn't reach the bag. Yeah, that's where it becomes not cut and dry. So it's all this stuff that we're going to look at and digest.

Bill Plaschke, unfortunately still employed by the LATimes, said it was dirty, which probably indicates it was a fair play. Plaschke manipulates the quotes in the article to feign disgust from both dugouts, but it's a stretch.

Mike Vaccaro of the NY Post incites a riot against Utley, but more so due to Utley's Phillies history rather than this particular play. So there's a pattern, Mets hate Phillies. I don't blame them.


Mets coach Terry Collins didn't address the cleanliness of Utley's slide in the post-game conference, which was pretty amazing to me. "The umpires handled it great," Collins said. "They handled it right."

If I was in Collins' shoes, I would have gone apeshit, whether I thought the slide was clean, or not. I was surprised at how poised he was in that press conference. Lord knows what he's saying in the locker room to fire up his team, however.


And what the heck is up with Bartolo Colon in that clip? Instead of running over to help his injured teammate writhing on the ground, he saunters out toward second base at Jabba the Hutt-like speeds. Or maybe that was hurrying?


Chase Utley is one hard-nosed motherfucker. Honestly, you watch that slide from the opposite angle, and Utley not only gets a knee to the head but he also has his head knock squarely into the ground afterward. That he could stand up and run to the bench afterward is remarkable.

Now, Utley has a history of this sort of stuff. Here's Utley, one month ago in San Diego, doing the same thing to Jedd Gyorko--allowing the Dodgers to tie the game. "And that was all Chase Utley," said Nomar Garciaparra in the commentary.

And here's Utley again, going in strong on Ruben Tejada in 2010.

So is it personal? I don't think so. I do think Utley plays hard and in that situation, is going for the takeout. Should Tejada have a broken leg as a result? I don't think that's right, either.

I guess there is some question about whether I would have felt differently if this had come from a more tenured Dodger rather than Chase Utley, a trade-deadline rental (and former divisional rival to the Mets). Maybe it's good that it was Chase Utley and not Adrian Gonzalez or Kike Hernandez (the latter of whom then wouldn't be scoring on the same play, I suppose).


Anyway, I'm still a wreck over this play. My thoughts are with Ruben Tejada on his broken leg. I'm sure we'll see Utley, or some Dodger, get plunked Monday in New York. Here we go.


Just a reminder...



spank said...

i don't feel bad about Tejada at all. it's part of the game. shit happens. anyways it's just a fracture not a break. big difference. kind of annoying listening to peeps wanting rule changes to protect middle infielders from collisions. i blame the oyster pubes rule. once you start changing rules to coddle players it will never stop and then you end up like the NFL. leave it alone. peace.

karen said...

I think it was a clean, hard play. I hate that Tejada was injured so badly, no one wants to ever see that but Chutley did what any veteran warrior would do especially in a playoff situation. We all know that this will carry over into Game 3 and I just hope we don't see anyone else hurt. But clean, hard nose baseball is what I want to see. We talk about players not having heart anymore, that they are a bunch of overpaid prima donnas. I think both Chutley and Ruben Tejada showed they both have a lot of heart. If we all want to sit around and talk about all that's wrong with our game let's start with the DH...

BJ Killeen said...

I hope Matt Harvey gets stupid and then gets tossed from the game. Either way, Kershaw has been itching for a good fight...

Dusty Baker said...

Good god don't go soft on us now, Saxy!

Fred's Brim said...

I am OK with it all, it's not the way you want to win but not so much that I'd give it back. When it first happened, it was the first time in 2 days I was happy watching baseball. I was proud that he did it busting his ass. But when I saw how late the slide was, I was little sick to my stomach. And then to not call him out? That wasn't right.

But Mets fans make me not care about the justice of it all

Fred's Brim said...

I am a little terrified to wear my LA hat on Tuesday

Dusty Baker said...

Good god, FB, don't go soft on us!

Steve Sax said...

I am not going soft. I just re-fixed all the formatting in that article. Don't touch it, guys!!!

QuadSevens said...

Seeing past slides by Utley that were same way shows, to me, that he was not trying to hurt Tejada. Tejada should have known better than to turn his back to the runner on that play as well. It was bad all around but clean by the rules. Gonna be interesting on Monday to see who gets plunked.

QuadSevens said...

And he's suspended.

Fred's Brim said...


it's probably for his own good that he lays low for these New York games anyway

QuadSevens said...

Utley says he's going to appeal. Kurkjian is "surprised and confused" by suspension.

Steve Sax said...

Kurkjian is surprised and confused by his own reflection in a pool of water, so I wouldn't take that comment seriously