Chase Utley suspended for games 3 and 4 of the NLDS
If the Mets intend to retaliate against the Dodgers for the collision caused by Chase Utley’s late slide, they may have to do so against someone other than Utley.
Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, announced on Sunday Utley has been suspended for games three and four of the National League Division Series for his, “illegal slide” into Tejada at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
“I recognize that there has been much commentary and many questions regarding the unfortunate play in last night’s game in which Ruben Tejada was injured,” Torre said in a statement. “As I said after the game, the determination of whether a baserunner has intentionally interfered with a player attempting to turn a double play is left to the judgment of the Umpire on the field, and that judgment call is not subject to review. I should add that determining where to draw the line between an illegal slide and a legitimate hard play is an extremely difficult call for our Umpires.
“However,” Torre continued, “after thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline. 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.
“We have been in discussions with the Players Association throughout the year regarding potential rule changes to better protect middle infielders, and we intend to continue those discussions this offseason,” he concluded.
The rule is specific as follows:
APPROVED RULING: In this situation, the batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball to drop untouched to the ground, except when the Infield Fly rule applies.
(13) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play;
Rule 5.09(a)(13) Comment (Rule 6.05(m) Comment): The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for delib- erate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.
“The New York Mets completely support the decision made by Major League Baseball to suspend Chase Utley for two games and feel this was the appropriate course of action. With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball,” the team said in a statement.
Utley will appeal his suspension.
“The Dodgers stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension issued tonight by Major League Baseball. The club will have no further comment at this time,” the Dodgers said in their statement.
Torre then spoke with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports during Sunday’s telecast of the American League Division Series between the Rangers and Blue Jays on FOX Sports 1 and made additional comments about his ruling on Utley.
“I was sitting behind the first base dugout last night,” Torre explained. “I know Chase plays very hard. From my angle, it looked like a hard slide. It wasn’t until I looked at video that I saw how late the slide was. It was based on the fact that he slid very late and it appeared to me he hit Tejada and the ground at the same time.
“I thought it was a little bit much,” Torre continued.
Torre said they’re experimenting with a possible rule change in the Arizona Fall League right now, designed to strictly force the runner to slide into the bag.
“We’re more concerned about keeping guys on the field,” he said. “In fact, in the Arizona Fall League, we’re doing some testing on having the players go into second base as opposed to going for the infielder.”
What this basically means is the league has acknowledged not only Utley’s illegal and late slide as being a violation of the rules, but also the judgment of second base umpire Chris Guccione was also poor in that he didn’t invoke these rules at the time Utley committed to his slide and took out Tejada.
It’s sad, because all of this should have been invoked during the game, all without the need for review. And, based on the interpretation of this rule, both the batter and the runner should have been called out since Tejada never dropped the ball, meaning the Mets should have been out of the inning with a 2-1 lead after the rule invoked an automatic double play.
Tejada’s leg would still be broken and the Mets would still be picking up the pieces from that mess, but at least the Mets would’ve had a lead to show for it, at the time anyway.