Dodgers Even Up Series on Controversial Call


Good thing it’s a Sunday, because most media outlets are a little preoccupied with football right now. But since baseball people are still talking about it, let’s talk about the play from last night that may have shifted the series.

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Scene setting: Dodgers have runners on the corners. Enrique Hernandez on third, Chase Utley on first with one out. Howie Kendrick hit one up the middle and all hell broke loose.

Utley took out shortstop Ruben Tejada at short. About an inning later, the Mets reported that Tejada had fractured his fibula. Let’s break this play down, because Adrian did it in last night’s recap but I have feelings too.

1. That slide was dirty. The slide was barely a slide, but it was a dirty play. All takeout slides are dirty. How those are legal is beyond stupid. The point of takeout slides is to literally take out the fielder. Hence the name.

2. That slide was legal. Utley slid very late, which makes it a lot sketchier. By the umpire’s judgement, it was legal. The only issue with it was how late it was. There have been slides in borderline center field in attempts to break up the double play. I’d argue those are even dirtier, because at least Utley could have reached the base on this slide. Had Utley not tried to break up the double play, he would be criticized for not hustling and not trying to take Tejada out.

3. Tejada didn’t touch the bag. Dodger fans should be all-too familiar with the neighborhood play, which they were on the wrong side of too many times to count. The neighborhood play allows for Tejada to not have to hang in there and get destroyed.

Had the toss from Daniel Murphy been more on-target, it would have been a neighborhood play and Tejada would not have had to touch the base or tag Utley. Because the throw pulled him off, it wasn’t an automatic out and became reviewable. The Dodgers asked for a challenge, and because Tejada didn’t touch the base, Utley was called safe.

4. This is where it gets stranger, because Utley also did not touch the base.

This rule is just as dumb as the neighborhood rule. A lot of people have been asking how a player can be safe without touching the base, which is an extremely valid question. Counterpoint, how can a player be out if he isn’t tagged/the base isn’t touched? This is along the lines of the neighborhood play where by rule, they don’t have to touch the base. But this is much more rare, I hadn’t even heard of it before yesterday. But again, baseball has some really dumb rules.

So at the end of the day, Utley was called safe. No outs were recorded on the play, Kiké scored to tie the game. Corey Seager flew out, but Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner hit back to back doubles and gave the Dodgers a 5-2 lead.

These takeout plays happen way more often than they should. Solution? Eliminate neighborhood plays and take out slides. MLB prioritized player safety regarding home plate collisions.

Justin Upton is so right. Home plate collisions had been around forever and it was always known as great, hard-nosed baseball. Pete Rose colliding with Ray Fosse AT AN ALL STAR GAME is one of the iconic moments in baseball history. When Buster Posey got taken out at home and had his leg broken, they changed the rule for catchers blocking the plate, pretty much eliminating the collision at home. Rightfully so, because any play with a high likelihood of injuring another player should be illegal. Much like takeout slides. Much like intentionally hitting a batter. If I see someone take out someone like that watching football today I’d be disgusted. It was disgusting. I’m sure Utley wasn’t purposely trying to break Tejada’s leg and end his season, but it happened. Even if Tejada didn’t get injured, that type of play should be illegal.

Sep 17, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates interpreter H.K. Kim (L) and trainer Ben Potenziano (R) assist shortstop Jung Ho Kang (27) from the field after Kang suffered an apparent injury against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, it’s not. The umpires handled it exactly right. Utley did what pretty much every player is taught to do, which is break up the double play. He did that very well, as no outs were recorded on the play.

Dodger fans, have a bit of sympathy. I’m ecstatic that the Dodgers won and aren’t going to New York down 2-0. But I needed to shower after that win. That didn’t feel like a good win. It was a crazy win and it was nice to see the Dodgers come back like they did. But it still feels icky. Put yourselves in the Mets’ shoes. Had Seager or Jimmy Rollins been taken out like that, we would all be livid as well. If Cardinals fans had souls, I’m sure they would have felt bad about Joe Kelly drilling Hanley Ramirez in the ribs two years ago, taking him out of the playoffs. Don’t be like Cardinal fans.

Mets fans, calm down. The only injustice here is that Tejada broke his leg. The umps called everything according to the book. Have problems with the book. Have a problem with the injury. Hell, have a problem with Utley. I’m sure his 12 year Phillies career already endeared him to you guys. It was a very unfortunate play. But two wrongs don’t make a right, so the fans hoping Utley gets a fastball to the head or wishing harm on his family need to never procreate. It’s a freaking game people.

Also, from the “every team does this” department.

It is part of the game, so baseball, do better. Change the rule. Protect your players. There’s no reason Utley’s slide should have been legal, much like there’s no reason Murphy’s slide should have been legal. But for way too often, these plays have been shrugged off as “gritty, hardnosed baseball”. Utley himself even called it “winning baseball”, according to the New York Daily News. I guess it technically is, seeing as the Dodgers won the baseball game. But it’s still legal. Which is the worst technicality ever, but it is.

If Utley gets suspended, I wouldn’t be shocked. For what it’s worth, unless Tejada had a cannon for an arm, they weren’t going to turn a double play on that anyways and the game would have been tied. The only way the Mets got robbed is by losing their starting shortstop. Also, the slide is kind of overshadowing the apparently awful concussion protocol in baseball, because how is Utley right back in the game after taking a knee to the head and hitting his head on the dirt.

This play also overshadows what was an incredible pitching matchup between Zack Greinke and Noah Syndergaard. Finally, it overshadows the fact that BARTOLO PITCHED PEOPLE.

Recap. “Slide” was dirty. “Slide” was, unfortunately, legal. And that’s the problem, that baseball allows for these plays. Get well soon, Tejada.