If you follow baseball what happened at second base involving Chase Utley and Ruben Tejeda is well-known to you. The picture of Tejeda flipping in mid-air and breaking his leg is on TV and in all newspapers. This is my take on what I saw. First, in my many years of watching baseball I have seen many worse slides trying to break up a double play than the one between Utley and Tejeda. Would we be having this debate if Tejeda had not broken his leg? The Mets’ players and fans have been quick to condemn Utley and label him a dirty player. If the player making the slide was the hard-nosed David Wright would the Mets fans be saying the same thing? My answer is an emphatic no. In fact they would be complementing Davis Wright for being a hard-nosed player. It is understood throughout baseball lure that the job of a player is to break up a double play. Sliding hard into second base is part of the game of baseball.
I will give my take on what I saw by addressing some of the many questions being asked about this incident.
Was Utley’s slide a dirty play? My interpretation of the sliding rule is that as long as the slider can touch second base with a hand or a foot he is allowed to slide as hard as he can. My view of the slide is that Utley was close enough to second base. My answer to this question is no, the slide was not a dirty play.
Was the umpires’ ruling wrong? This brings into play the neighborhood rule. It was clear from the replay that Tejeda definitely did not touch second base. But, I do not think the neighborhood rule applies because the reason he missed second base was not to avoid the slide but because Murphy’s throw was a bad throw. Therefore, the ruling that Utley was safe at second base was the correct one.
What punishment should Utley receive (if any)? Well, on Monday morning I just heard that the MLB has suspended Utley for the next two games. However, Utley has appealed this decision and since the appeal will not be heard today Utley will probably be in the starting lineup tonight. I believe that when the appeal is heard Utley’s attorneys will correctly show many films of much worse take-out slides and state that none of these players were suspended. I agree with this statement and believe Utley should not be suspended.
Will Harvey retaliate in game 3 at Citi Field tonight? I don’t believe so. I am sure that both teams will be warned before the game starts. So if Harvey throws at Utley he will have a quick shower. The game is much too important for Harvey to risk being ejected. However, this clearly may affect how Harvey pitches. Will he be willing to throw inside pitches? If he is afraid of throwing inside this clearly may affect his performance. I believe a Mets pitcher will eventually retaliate against Utley but we won’t see this until next year.
Should the rule on sliding into second base to break up a double-play be changed? The neighborhood play which allows the player receiving the throw to be close to second base and then get out of the way of the sliding player attempts to protect the player. Let me say I do not want to see any player hurt. The only change I could see to the rule is to force a player to slide directly into second base touching the second base with either two hands or two feet.
Should the so-called neighborhood rule on a double-play be changed? No, the neighborhood rule is the only protection a player receiving the throw has. It would be silly to take away that protection.
In conclusion, sliding hard into second base has been part of baseball for many years. We should not change this part of baseball. However, I am for anything that will increase the safety of the fielder. Please comment here or on the Sandlot Stats Facebook page with any solution you may have.