Not an Intentional Dirty Play

As a member of the Valley Voice staff, I am privy to articles prior to their coming out in print. In fact, I am tasked with copy editing the publisher’s column each issue, which doesn’t amount to much, only occasional fact checking or reducing a run-on sentence or paragraph.

But, with regard to his current column on the recent playoff game between the Dodgers and Mets and “the play” of the playoffs, which baseball fans, everywhere, are talking about, when Chase Utley, a 2015 mid-season trade Dodger, slide into Met’s second baseman, Ruben Tejada, resulting in a broken fibula for Tejada and no doubt a lot of bruising for both players, phew, it has lead me to writing a column of my own.

We had already been emailing back and forth about the play. We openly share our feelings about anything baseball. I did not know he was going to write about it, until I received his column.

In his column, Oldenbourg admits to being a lifelong Giant’s fan and “so from my perspective the Dodgers are a soulless roster of high-paid prima donnas. Not a team at all, but a collection of very self-interested individuals.”

Herein lies the rub.

I grew up a Dodger’s fan, but not a Giant-hater. I do not think every Giant is a “soulless prima donna” (although high-paid fits). Nor, do I think the team “a collection of very self-interested individuals.”

Doing so would be, well, profiling. Something that society looks down upon. Something I look down upon. I do believe that many (not all) Giant fans have been taught to hate the Dodgers, so much so, that they spend more time cheering against and hating the Boys in Blue, then they do cheering for their own team.

Perhaps, he was referring to the top players that make up the Dodger team and the seeming endless amount of money available to purchase contracts. Given that, I agree. While I do not consider the boys to be “soulless prima donnas,” the Dodgers do have an abundance of players, often on the bench, who would be regulars in their position on several other major league teams. Does that make them prima donnas? No, they just want to play.

Admittedly, I don’t love all Dodger players, past or present. I will cheer for them, as they are part of “my” team. I don’t dislike all Giants . . . maybe some. But, I rather like and admire some too, like Posey and Baumgartner. I appreciate a good ballplayer, a good athlete, no matter what team, especially if he, or she, has a good attitude and represents their game well.

With all the trading going on in baseball today, it is difficult to keep up with who is playing where. Even more so when you can’t follow your team on television, because of a blackout when a network and provider cannot come to an agreement for two years now, but that is for a different pet-peeve rant.

Utley was traded to the Dodgers from Philadelphia in late August. He has been a Dodger for less than two months and less than half the season. I am not sure I even fully consider him a Dodger yet. He apparently brought with him a history with the Mets, and had actually had a similar slide into Tejada at second, a few years back.

I have seen countless replays of “the” current slide and discussion in newspapers, on radios and on the internet ad nauseam. Was it dirty? I am not sure I would call it that. Was it proper? Not sure I would call it that either.

Los Angeles Times writer Houston Mitchell wrote in his blog¸ “You usually don’t try to play dirty by slamming the side of your face into a guy’s knee.”

Good point.

It was a play similar to many I saw growing up watching baseball.

Admittedly, I spent years away from the sport. Although an avid follower in the ‘70s and ‘80s, my life took changes taking me away from baseball fan-hood for a couple of decades. A few years back, my interest was renewed, despite the many changes that have occurred in the sport.

Baseball, in general, is not played as aggressively as it used to be, and is played by many more individuals in any one game. It used to be that one pitcher pitched the game, unless he was doing poorly and had to be replaced. There were no 7th or 8th inning specialists. Pitchers weren’t limited by pitch counts. Nor, did position players need to be replaced by a pinch hitter for the multitude of pitching changes in any given game.

But, I digress, again. My point is that a play, like Utley’s slide, would not have been considered particularly nasty back in the day. Actually, it may have only been a hiccup in the commentary today, if Tejada had not been injured.

And infact, just in a game earlier this year, a slide made by Met’s infielder Daniel Murphy in a game against the Dodgers was similiar to that of Utley’s – late and outside of the bag

There is little doubt that Utley’s slide was intended to break up a double play. It was not intended to hurt Tejada. Utley did not know that Tejada was making an awkward landing from catching the ball, and that the slide would turn into the collision that it was. He heard he was called out and left the field.

However, that call was reversed after the play went under review and revealed that Tejada’s toe did not reach the bag, nor did he tag Utley.

Thus Utley was awarded his base, despite the fact that he also had failed to touch the bag. This, apparently, was by the rulebook. Had the call not been made, Utley most likely would have gone to the bag.

I have mixed feelings about Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torres’ call to suspend Utley for the next two games. If Utley was within current rules of baseball, and it sounds as though he was, he should not be suspended. If he was not playing within the rules, he should have been called out for interference. You should not suspend someone for playing within the rules.

Mitchell wrote, “If Utley deserved to be suspended, shouldn’t the umpiring crew get some sort of punishment for blowing the call? Seems to me that when you blow a call of this magnitude (and going by the rulebook, Utley should have been called out for interference), then the umpiring crew should get some sort of punishment.”

However, I do feel that with the new “Buster Posey catcher’s rule 7.13,” to protect runners and catchers from collision injuries, a new ruling should be considered for sliding into bases. If that type of ruling were in effect, Utley would have been in error, and an umpire on the field could have made the call.

Utley has filed a protest for his suspension. As of Monday night, it had not been reviewed. Utley suited up and sat on the bench during Monday night’s game in New York. Mets’ fans booed him, when his introduction was made. They chanted for him to make an appearance in the game. They wanted revenge.

As the Mets blew the Dodgers away in a 13-7 win, Utley was not called upon to pinch hit, or to play. The Mets, no doubt, took added pleasure in their win. Certainly, the fans did.

This paper will have gone to the printer prior to Tuesday night’s game. Let’s hope for nothing, but a well-fought game and good sportsmanship.

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