Watch Chase Utley slide through a river of media shit and came out clean on the other side

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10 October 2015: Los Angeles Dodgers Infield Chase Utley (26) [3234] lies on the ground after colliding with New York Mets Infield Ruben Tejada (11) [8250] during game 2 of the NLDS between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. The Dodgers defeated the Mets 5-2. (Photo by Chris Williams/icon Sportswire)

The two-game suspension will be overturned and the court of public opinion will help Chase Utley’s image heal a lot faster than the leg of Ruben Tejada. Why? Because the slide was clean.

By Kyle Magin

Baseball is a dirty game played by dirty men contesting vast fortunes in literal dirt. The sooner you accept that as a premise for anything that happens on a baseball field, the less outraged you will be.

On Saturday, the outrage machine (greased and fueled by the New York sports media) began chugging along after a takeout slide by Los Angeles Dodgers’ pinch hitter Chase Utley resulted in a broken leg for Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada in a 5-2 Dodgers victory.

You can see the play here:

[mlbvideo id=”521658783″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]

Does Utley slide right at Ruben Tejada? Yeah. His goal was to break up a possible double play in the 7th inning with one out and runners on the corners. Utley’s play kept the inning alive and resulted in him being awarded second base during a four-run inning in which he scored. Similar plays occur countless times during a season without injury. Runner goes in hard, breaks up double play (or doesn’t), everyone gets up and wipes the dirt off and we go on.

The reason we’re talking about this particular play is that it:

  1. happened during a New York-LA series during the postseason. Sneezes, the position of the moon in relation to venus and a dog’s pick for game 4 will all receive intense coverage during a New York-LA series during the postseason.
  2. resulted in a leg break. Dodgers fan Twitter is packed full of the other 17,777 times plays like this happened this season without injury. Wade into that at your own peril.

Before we get into the reaction across baseball, we need to address the risk Tejada knowingly took in receiving the ball and attempting a double play. Tejada is at fault here for escalating the situation to a point where he risked a collision. For context, let’s look at this play by Cubs’ second baseman Starlin Castro in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Cardinals:

[mlbvideo id=”521491283″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]

The similarities are striking. Both players are receiving the ball with their back to the play and a second out potentially available. The situation and pressure are roughly the same–Tejada could have ended an inning and preserved a Mets’ lead if he turns two, Castro could have ended a Cubs playoff game in the bottom of the ninth (but all of his runners were on the right side of the infield and he was not risking an immediate run).

Castro–who has about 300 more big league games to his name, though both players are 25–wisely elected to receive the ball and step off the bag to secure one out. Tejada increased his risk by turning into the runner and firing a pea to first after receiving the ball on the outside of the bag. He valued–whether consciously or subconsciously–the reward much more than his own health in the calculus.

Now then, back to the outrage machine, clipping along at a sensible 350 CCs. Because an outlier play happened to produce an outlier result (a broken leg), people are calling for rule changes in baseball. Someone will inevitably ask umpires to tighten their reading of what constitutes the baseline, and we’ll get into all manner of subjective gobbledygook about the runner’s intentions and his angle upon approaching the base because it’s a sport followed by a lot of old men with time on their hands, and those guys love quibbling. It’s why they get up in the morning.

All of that sets aside the fact that we should be doing some victim blaming here. A middle infielder with a perfectly good out inside his mitt decided to turn into a runner in hopes of a greater reward 90 feet away. Utley did not act alone in this tragedy, and we should allow for some risk in the game lest any ball batted up the middle with a runner on first become an automatic double play. The game need more offense and more middle infielders hurdling baserunners for excitement, not less.

Baseball is a dirty game played by dirty men contesting vast fortunes in literal dirt. The sooner you accept that as a premise for anything that happens on a baseball field, the less outraged you will be.

1 COMMENT

  1. I understand it is Baseball but Chase was coming in too high on that slide (or non-slide).
    Here is hoping that the Mets settle the score in an old fashion baseball way.

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