Cut Utley Some Slack

Now that this year’s playoffs is officially over, congratulations Kansas City, I would like to take us back to a play that caused much controversy, enough so that my roommate, Caleb Bloye, felt the need to write an article about it — Chase Utley’s slide. I’m here to say that we should give the guy a break. Let’s look at the context of the situation.

There was one out with Chase Utley on first and Enrique Hernandez on third , Howie Kendrick was up to bat and hit a ground ball up the middle, Mets second baseman, David Murphy, fielded the ball and tossed it behind the shortstop Ruben Tejada at second, who proceeded to make an ill-advised spin move to try to complete the double play.

Because a double play would have ended the inning, Utley had to take Tejada out. This is playoff baseball not a regular season game, the simple context of the game necessitated that slide; I would argue that most ball players in Utley’s situation would have done the same thing.

Do you actually believe that Utley hurt Tejada on purpose? Absolutely not, Utley said after the game, “… I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever. I only had intent to break up the double play.” So who is to blame here? I say the MLB, because of their lack of keeping players accountable prior to Utley’s slide.

The MLB’s policies on sliding are shown below:

Rule 6.05 reads: a batter is out when –

(m) 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 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, 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.

Another rule that applies to the same situation is Rule 7.09 (e)

If the MLB had taken their rules seriously prior to this event Utley wouldn’t have made that slide in the first place. There is no need to make Utley the scapegoat where the system created this situation for him. The MLB needs to take the blame for not having strong legislation, and even weaker enforcement. That weakness led to Tejada’s broken leg, not just Utley’s slide.