Recapping the seventh inning collision, and what the call should have been
In the seventh inning with runners at the corners and one out, Bartolo Colon on the mound and the Mets leading 2-1 in game two, Howie Kendrick grounded a ball behind the second base bag in which Daniel Murphy fielded and flipped to Ruben Tejada.
Chase Utley, the runner at first base, slid directly into Tejada, who never touched second base, taking Tejada out in a dramatic in-the-air flip.
But Tejada never touched second base, either.
Either way, Utley was ruled out on the play, and the runner at third came into score to tie the game at two a piece.
Two minutes or more later, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called for a review of the play, claiming Tejada’s foot came off the base because of a bad throw, taking the neighborhood play out of the equation.
The thing is, the neighborhood play at second base is not a challengeable play per baseball rules, yet Mattingly either got away with the challenge or coaxed the umpiring crew to review the play anyway.
The call on the field was overturned, and Utley was ultimately reviewed safe which completely changing the complexion of the inning.
Remember, Utley never actually touched the base, as he slid right into Tejada without touching the bag with clear intent to take Tejada in a direction away from the base, and then he just jogged off the field.
Essentially, Utley was ruled safe after never touching second, on a call that should not have been reviewed.
Now, Major League Baseball seemed to indicate after the game the neighborhood play was never in consideration because of Murphy’s throw, and the second base umpire simply ruled Utley out on the play, believing Tejada’s foot was on the bag.
This is why the Mets never appealed the call that Utley was ruled safe at second after the review, because the neighborhood play was out of the equation and a strict judgment call was in question.
So basically, the umpires got that right at the severe expense of the Mets, but it still was not the proper call on the field, simply because they decided Utley’s slide was not interference.
But, clearly it was, although there’s no way to prove Utley intended to hurt Tejada.
Here is MLB Rule 6.01(6):
If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
Here is amended MLB Rule 6.01(a)(10):
6.01(a)(10)to clarify that the batter-runner is awarded first base when a baserunner commits non-willful or unintentional interference.
The amended rule should not apply, as his willingness to slide clearly away and late into Tejada should have been classified deliberate and willful interference on the play.
If anything, these are the rules which should have been invoked, and the umpire didn’t have the right, “judgment.” The umpires should have called interference on Utley and ruled it a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. That would have been truly the proper call.
The real questions are these:
- Was is was it a clean slide? Some say yes, some say no. Either way, this was the pivotal moment for both clubs, and the Mets lost that moment in a big way.
- Why did the umpire not immediately believe the neighborhood play was in effect, when that rule is designed to protect an unguarded fielder from collisions like this. It should have zero to do with Murphy’s throw and still protect the fielder on the play.
- Why wasn’t the neighborhood play invoked Joe Torre himself insists the umpire had to make a very quick judgment on the call?
MLB COO Joe Torre said the league will be extensively reviewing Utley’s slide into Tejada to determine any intent.
Torre insisted it was determined Utley was in reach of second base, which is why the slide was determined to be legal and non-interfering. And, since Utley never touched second base, he would have been ruled out had the Mets tagged Utley with the ball.
Of course, the player with the ball was lying on the ground with a broken leg.
In the end, it was just an ugly, weird, and costly moment for the Mets in many ways.