Chase Utley is one of those Major League Baseball players who gives it 110% every time he hits the field. He’s the kind of guy you want at the plate in a clutch situation, simply because you know he will be giving it everything he’s got. While his numbers this season are down tremendously from where they were a few years ago when he was an all star, this doesn’t mean that Utley isn’t trying his hardest to bring a World Series ring to the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, because of one play Saturday night, some baseball fans are questioning whether perhaps Utley is taking things a bit too far in trying to bring that championship to L.A.
It all happened in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series. The New York Mets, trying to take a 2-0 lead in the series, were matched up against a Dodgers team filled with veteran players who have been to the post season many times in the past. Chase Utley, who the Dodgers acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies back in August for his playoff experience, and his aforementioned “passion for the game” caused quite a controversy as he apparently tried to break up a double play by sliding very hard (and perhaps a bit late) into Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada. The play worked, and Utley effectively broke up the double play, but instantly there were players, fans, and coaches around the league debating on the cleanliness of Utley’s actions. The ruling on the field ended up calling Utley safe at second base, as well as Kendrick at first.
In the video (seen below), Utley is definitely in reach of the second base bag, but his slide comes late. He is almost even with the bag when he begins his slide. Tejada is upended, and almost flipped entirely around. When he comes down, he obviously appears to be in extreme agony. It was later found that he had suffered a broken leg.
According to the official MLB rulebook, concerning “take-out” slides:
(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
According to this rule, you would have to argue with the umpires call, and deem that both Utley and Kendrick should have been called out. However, it remains a judgement call, one which has always been left in the hands of the umpires.
The LA Dodgers went on to win the game 5-2, tying up the series 1-1. As far as potential disciplinary action, MLB has not yet determined if any action will be taken on Utley.
“I’m still in charge of determining if it’s something that shouldn’t — like the slide was over-the-top type of thing,” explained MLB chief baseball officer, Joe Torre to ESPN. “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.
“Again, I’m looking at it just to see if there’s anything we feel should be done. hat recourse would I have? … Well, I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess, is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that’s in question right now.”
Any suspension of Utley could be a major hit to the Dodgers who have relied on Utley’s experience and clubhouse presence to get them where they are. It should be interesting to follow this story in the coming days as the Mets may try and retaliate on the field in some way or another.
What do you think of the slide? Was it legal? Should Utley have been called out? Should he be suspended?