With baseball’s playoff run reaching fever pitch in the division series, Major League Baseball finds itself in a tough situation with Los Angeles’ Chase Utley hard slide into New York’s Ruben Tejada. The Dodgers’ Utley tried to break up a double play with the slide and, while he successfully broke up the play, he also broke the second baseman’s leg.
Utley was suspended for Games 3 and 4 in the National League Division Series, but with Utley’s decision to appeal the suspension, and MLB’s delay in hearing the appeal, the second baseman will appear tonight for Game 3 with Game 4 up in the air if the league does not hear the appeal tomorrow.
The Dodgers have taken it’s player’s side, saying the play was legal and typical in baseball.
“The Dodgers stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension issued tonight by Major League Baseball,” the team said in a statement.
Mets fans were outraged when the officiating team did not punish Utley immediately for endangering and, ultimately, seriously injuring another player. In the past, MLB rules allowed hard slides as a way to break up the double play. But recently the league has been looking for ways to minimize the injury potential of the maneuver. MLB’s Joe Torre, after the game finished, laid down the suspension, citing a rarely-used rule.
“While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base,” Torre said in a statement.
It’s turned the focus away from the other division series between the St. Louis Cardinals and upstart Chicago Cubs and focused on Tejada’s serious injury and Utley’s overly aggressive manner. While Utley will likely feel singled out as dangerous second base slides have gone unpunished previously, the MLB is technically correct to deal with this issue now before it gets out of hand.