MLB overreacts with two-game suspension of Chase Utley

MLB overreacts with two-game suspension of Chase Utley
Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley upends Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada to break up a double play in the seventh inning in Game 2 of the NLDS. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A little Billy Joel please, I'm in a New York state of mind. And apparently so are you and everyone else in the world of baseball.

It is unavoidable at the moment, New York being center of the media world – or is that all civilization? – and where the Dodgers and Mets will resume their National League Division Series Monday, the Mets understandably feeling aggrieved after losing their shortstop in Game 2 on Chase Utley’s now infamous slide.

And as New York goes, so often does the rest of the country. That’s not lost on Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, who played his entire 14-year career in New York with the Yankees. Indeed, to many in Los Angeles even after Mattingly has spent the past eight years with the Dodgers, the last five as their manager, he remains a New Yorker.

So while much of the baseball world throws its arms up all aghast at the play, Mattingly had an interesting perspective Sunday. And that was before Major League Baseball’s stunning two-game suspension of Utley.

“If it would have been their guy, they would be saying, `David Wright, hey, he's a gamer. He went after him. That's the way you gotta play,’ ” Mattingly said. “But it's our guy. It's different.

"I know how … the New York media gets a little bit going and it gets dramatic. But for me you can't have it both ways. If David would have done it, it wouldn't have been any problem here in New York."

He is absolutely correct, of course. They’d have a statue erected to Wright outside Citi Field by the start of Game 3 if the situation were reversed.

Only now somewhat shockingly, at least to those in Los Angeles, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre has decided the play was worthy of a two-game suspension. He termed it an illegal slide and called it a rolling block.

If this had happened during the regular season, there's no way Utley gets a suspension. And you have to wonder if it hadn't happened against a player from New York, if it would have happened.

Utley can appeal, and will appeal, but this is over-the-top enforcement because the whole baseball world is watching. It smells like politically correct baseball. You just can't play by one set of rules in the regular season and another in the postseason.

Let's face it, it was a freak play. Everyone in the stadium knew Utley was going to come hard to break up the double play. Every player on the field would have.

Yes, he absolutely slid late. But no, he wasn't out of the base path. Utley could have slapped the bag as he went by, but his focus was on disrupting the double play.

Shortstop Ruben Tejada spun backwards after receiving a late feed from second baseman Daniel Murphy that was behind him. As Utley charged in to slide, Tejada had his back to him. He was completely exposed and totally vulnerable.

So when Utley hit him, Tejada's feet flew out from under him he went airborne. It looked bad and made the play appear worse than it actually was.

"I look at it as a baseball play," Mattingly said before the suspension was announced. "It was a hard, aggressive, legal slide to me.

"Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays. We love the way he plays. He's got a reputation for playing the game right, playing it hard, and we're behind him 100 percent."


Mattingly's support for Utley seemed stronger Sunday than immediately after Saturday's game. But by then, most of the world had turned against Utley. And, of course, Tejada was left with a broken leg and lost for the rest of the series. That, the image of Tejada flying through the air and the New York media all labeling it a dirty play, had conspired against Utley and the Dodgers.

"Let's say he didn't get hurt," Mattingly said. "There would be rumblings, but it goes away. Guys talk and chat, but if nobody got hurt, it wouldn't even be talked about hardly today. It would have just been a hard slide, and there would have been controversy back and forth if it was hard. But since someone got hurt, now it's a story."

It was a big story, though, and MLB just made it a bigger one. All very unnecessarily.