Utley’s Controversial Slide


Keith Birmingham

Chase Utley takes out Ruben Tejada (http://www.insidesocal.com/dodgers/files/2015/10/Utley-Tejada-slide.jpg).

On October 11, baseball fans witnessed an event that could significantly change both the New York Mets’ and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ World Series odds. In the bottom of the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers second-baseman Chase Utley tried to break up what would’ve been a double play by sliding hard into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. Tejada ended up breaking his leg and was carted off the field. Utley, meanwhile, was issued a two-game suspension, leaving him unable to play in what could be the Dodgers final playoff games.

While what Utley did was with no doubt a dirty play, some, particularly Dodgers fans, say that Utley’s punishment is too severe and that he instead should’ve only been issued a fine. Utley has substantial playoff experience, making him a valuable veteran for the Dodgers.

Ironically, Utley did a similar slide against Tejada in 2010. Luckily, neither Utley nor Tejada was injured on that play.

Keep in mind, sliding hard into second base to break up a double play isn’t necessarily illegal, it’s how major leaguers are taught to play the game, especially in the postseason. There is absolutely no harm in playing hard when trying to ensure your team a victory. However, Utley deliberately missed the bag altogether and was trying to takeout Tejada. With that being said, there is no way that Utley was trying to hurt Tejada for the benefit of his team; he was doing what any other teammate would do in trying to prevent an out.

Many fans are advocating for Major League Baseball to create new rules protecting infielders, especially middle infielders, because many infielders have been injured by sliding baserunners trying to prevent outs. Another example of this was when Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang broke his leg after Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan slid hard into second base while trying to break up a double play. Kang, a South Korean offseason signee, played a key part in Pittsburgh’s playoff push. Kang has been possibly the most consistent shortstop in the National League and is now out for 6-8 months.

Although it is by no means a contact sport, baseball has had it’s fair share of collision-related injuries. In 2011 when Giants catcher Buster Posey got injured after a collision with Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins at home plate, Major League Baseball enforced a rule that banned plate-collisions when the catcher is not directly in the runner’s base-path or blocking home-plate. Major League Baseball will have a tough decision to make about the legality of hard slides into second base this offseason. Hopefully, MLB officials will make the right decision and keep the rules the way they are with regards to baserunners sliding into infielders.