It was the slide seen round the world.
With the Mets holding onto a rail thin 2-1 lead, Howie Kendrick lined a hard grounder up the middle behind second base. Daniel Murphy did his best to get to the baseball and flip it over to Ruben Tejada at second to start, what the Mets hoped, would be the start of a double-play.
Instead, Chase Utley had other ideas. The former Phillies second baseman who has been relegated to bench duty with the Dodgers used his body like a heat seeking missile at Tejada’s legs, trying to take him out and disrupt a double-play. This was only the beginning of one of the biggest controversies in baseball playoff history.
The initial ruling was that Utley was out at second because the umpire thought that Tejada touched the bag. However after a replay challenge by Don Mattingly, it was determined that Tejada never touched second base, and never made a baseball move to first for a double play, thus Utley was awarded second.
This has created nothing but anger and confusion about regarding intent of the runner as well as appropriate interpretation of the neighborhood play.
In most cases, it is alright for a base runner to try to take out a middle-infielder on a an attempted double play, but on this play it is next to impossible to argue that Utley’s slide was not reckless.
1) Utley was out of the base line when he began his attempted slide.
2) He never once made an attempt with his foot, or a hand to slide towards second base.
3) While he didn’t slide spikes up, he slid late and crashed into Tejada, who was defenseless on the play. 4) While Tejada never touched the bag, neither did Utley.
Utley’s slide was dirty plain and simple. His hit was so hard, and illegal, it would make Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom wince. Many have said that Utley is a hard-nosed player, but here is a simple fact: all players at this point in the season are playing hard. Utley has a history of sliding aggressively hard into second; make that of what you will.
As a fan who has seen countless baseball games, and as a broadcaster, who has called over 300 ball games in the minor leagues, I have never seen a play as ugly as the slide by Utley.
No matter what the interpretation of neighborhood play and replay rules, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the umpire had every right to call Utley out for interference, which should have been called.
It leads to many different conclusions about the way the umpires both on the field and in the League are calling games.
1) Instant Replay and it’s complex rules aren’t helping. The initial ruling on the field was that Utley was out, once that happened it cancelled out the ability for the Mets to appeal at second base after the play was reviewed and overturned by Major League Baseball. Sure one can say the Mets should have just tagged Utley out, but that was impossible when Tejada is on his back with a broken leg, and with the initial ruling being an out. Baseball has rule booked themselves into paralysis.
2) Many have said that if a bigger star shortstop were involved on the play, like a Troy Tulowitzki, then Major League Baseball would be creating a Tulo Rule immediately that would be similar to that of the Buster Posey rule at home plate.
Conspiracy theory’s aside, one thing is evident that Major League Baseball needs to reevaluate intent by a base runner, and begin to protect its middle infielders from serious harm.
Major League Baseball and its umpires blew it big time. Utley should have been out. The Mets should have still had a 2-1 lead in Game 2. Now if this play turns into the play that helps the Dodgers win this series, it’s the “Tuck Rule” of Major League Baseball.