Utley’s Suspension Ridiculous – From the Bird’s Nest
I was on my way home from Houston last night when I read Chase Utley was suspended for two games because of his play Saturday night.
I am a Dodgers' fan. Since childhood. There. My confession
I got home Saturday night just in time to see the play where the Dodgers' Chase Utley took out the New York Mets' Rafael Tejada in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLDS.
Here's what I saw:
Utley slid hard Very hard. Utley slid late. Very late. Chase Utley has always played the game that way. So do many, many other players in major league baseball. Many slide hard. Many slide late. In fact you'll find plays like this throughout the history of major league baseball.
Let me regress and say I hate the fact Ruben Tejada was injured. Hate it. He's a very good young player with a bright future. HIs absence will hurt the Mets.
There is a rule in Major League Baseball that deals with plays just like the one that occurred Saturday night. It is rule 5.09 which states a batter is out when......
A batter is out when --
(m) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire's judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:
Rule 5.09 (a) (13) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire's judgment play.
In other words, if, in the umpires' judgment this rule was violated, then Utley should have been called out and the batter should have been called out as well: a double play. Obviously, in the judgment of the umpire, this rule was not violated. We can argue whether the umpire was right or wrong in his judgment...hell, we do that about 50 times a game.
And, therein lies my issue with this whole thing.
We've seen Major League Baseball admit umpires miss judgment calls. It's been happening for years. And, until now, there has be no do-over. Players have been fined or suspended for taking part in bench clearing altercations after the fact. This isn't the same thing. This is Major League Baseball (in this case, Joe Torre, who I personally revere as a manager and a man) stepping in, deciding a rule was not interpreted correctly and penalizing an individual after the fact.
Notice, the rule does not say, "A player shall be suspended for two games."
In fact, if you look at the video, the rule, as written was not broken. It is written for someone who deliberately goes out of the baseline. That didn't happen in this case. It was a late, hard slide. But Utley didn't go out of the baseline.
As I said, this is not the first time we've seen this in baseball. Fans in this area will remember Preston WIlson of the Marlins barreling into Craig Biggio, tearing the Hall of Famer's ACL and MCL in the process. Biggio referred to the slide as "hard and clean." Preston Wilson was not suspended. Biggio went on to say whenever he went in hard to break up a double play, he got hit by a pitch the next time he came up to bat. And, he didn't have a problem with it.
This, coming on MLB's decision to create a rule that now protects catchers after the Buster Posey injury (something else Biggio says was a mistake) makes it obvious we're going to see the rule modified after the season. I'm not in favor of it, but that's their decision.
But Joe Torre has totally overstepped in this case.
The umpire's judgment was it was not an illegal slide. If they had, a double play would have been called. There is no "suspension penalty" in the rule book for someone who slides illegally. And, Torre admits he believes Utley did not intend to injure, which should render the rule moot anyway (the rule says "deliberate, unsportsmanlike act.")
So what do we know?
After play after play after play in baseball history, going all the way back to Ty Cobb, where hard, aggressive slides are commonplace...after more than one instance where a player was seriously injured because of hard, aggressive slides at second base, suddenly Chase Utley is told what he did was illegal (after the umpires said it wasn't) and suspended him for two games.
Why is this happening?
It's the playoffs. It's magnified. There has been an outcry from fans. Someone got hurt (and Tejada plays for a team in New York...there, I said it.)
I don't like what Utley did. I thought he went in very late. But I've said that scores of times over the years watching baseball.
Plain and simple, Joe Torre and Major League Baseball have overstepped badly. They've decided to make stuff up as they go without regard to precedent, umpires' judgment and even the rules of the game.
If you click this link, you'll see Chase Utley making a similar play when he was with the Phillies in 2010. What you don't see (which I saw in a different video) is Utley asking the shortstop if he's ok after the play. The shortstop has no issue with what happened.
The shortstop? Rafael Tejada of the New York Mets.
The difference in that play and this one is the position of Tejada's body. It's very possible the same result might have happened in 2010 had Tejada been in the same position he was Saturday night.
We've seen in the past where people in authority make up punishments as they go without regard to rules or precedent. And, that's what makes this even more disturbing. By deciding on a suspension (not a valid punishment according to the rules of the game), Joe Torre, a great player, manager and Hall of Famer, has joined the ranks of czars who make up the rules as they see fit.
Joe Torre, yesterday, for one brief moment, became Roger Goodell.