Larry Bowa says Ruben Tejada should have known to bail out of the double play
The late and subsequently labeled, “illegal slide” by Major League Baseball from Chase Utley into Ruben Tejada on Saturday night in Los Angeles continues to be talked about and broken down, with multiple angles and multiple opinions contorting the incident itself.
Current Phillies coach Larry Bowa – who also managed Utley in 2003 and 2004 – offered his own opinion and take, telling George King of the New York Post Tejada should have known Utley was capable of sliding into him in the manner he did.
“Chase is not a dirty player,’’ Bowa told King. “It might have been a late slide, but if anything, [Tejada] should have known it wasn’t a double-play ball.’’
In the heat of the moment, regardless of it being a playoff game, Tejada is only aware of the situation and his responsibility in that situation. He’s not thinking about Utley’s past behavior, or even what Utley has done to him in the past.
He’s thinking about catching the ball and turning the double play. Whether its ultimately a double play that can be turned isn’t a factor – there are plenty of attempted double plays which don’t get turned.
And, Tejada caught the ball and spun away from the base towards right field in his attempt to throw, and that’s when Tejada was hit.
Based on Utley’s momentum towards the outfield side of the base, he might have collided with Tejada even if he had bailed out, anyway. And, Tejada’s back was mostly to the runner – he never saw Utley until he spun around, and by then it was too late.
Also, the tying run was on third with one out in the seventh. He’s trying to turn that double play no matter what.
That’s baseball, as every single player likes to put it. So that’s not entirely fair to Tejada.
“Chase is not a dirty player, he plays hard,’’ Bowa insisted.
Nobody is debating Utley’s desire and willingness to play hard. In fact, any purist would appreciate Utley’s grittiness, and respect what he’s accomplished in his career. Throughout all of the years Utley terrorized the Mets with his own heroics for his Phillies ball club, the Mets would most assuredly had taken a player of Utley’s pedigree at any point during those miserable years.
But in this case, a rule specifically identifies Utley’s actions as illegal, play should’ve been stopped and the appropriate action should have been implemented on the field by the officiating. And while the league was late to rule on this (it should have been ruled an automatic double play on the field with better judgment), they themselves classified Utley’s slide as, “illegal.”
The problem is no longer about Utley and the slide anyway. What’s done is done.
It’s about the judgment in the heat of the moment, and being able to identify and apply the rules properly in-game.
Yes, Tejada’s leg would still be broken, but the spirit of the game is negatively impacted not only by a manager’s ability to even challenge that call, but through a failure to apply the appropriate rules which are designed to protect and prevent what happened to Tejada from taking place.
That’s what the rules are for. They’re not there to be applied a day or two after the fact.
They’re not there as a suggestion for the players and the six umpires on the field plus the replay crew, either.