The Chase Utley Slide: Fair or Foul?

Despite what was a strong pitcher’s duel at its core, last night’s NLDS Game 2 between the Dodgers and Mets will be most remembered for the already infamous seventh inning slide by Chase Utley. In a 2-1 game with runners at first and second base, Howie Kendrick came to the plate to face Bartolo Colon. Kendrick would hit a hard ground ball up the middle that was fielded by Daniel Murphy who was able to flip the ball to shortstop Ruben Tejada for what appeared to be a possible double play. Chase Utley, who was running hard on the play, did what any player is taught to do and did his best to break up the double play.

As you can see above, Chase Utley slid directly at Ruben Tejada, who was off to the right of second base, and did not end up touching second base at all after colliding hard with Tejada’s legs. Now at face value, this was just another example of a good hard slide to try to break up a double play. The issues start to arise when you give the play a closer inspection.

However when you look closer at the slide, it appears that Utley made more of an effort to slide at Tejada than he did to slide into second base. We obviously cannot speculate on Utley’s intentions on the slide and he clearly did not want to deliberately injure Tejada but that ended up being the result of the play. After Tejada was carted off the field following the play, it was later announced that he had a broken fibula and would obviously miss the remainder of the series and postseason.

Whether it was Utley’s intent to injure another player or not, the slide can be seen as at least somewhat dirty or uncalled for by anyone with an objective viewpoint. Utley deliberately slid away from the base to make contact with Tejada, all while avoiding any contact with the base at all. According to the rule, listed below, when this kind of play occurs it is a judgement call for the umpire to make on whether the slide had malicious or dangerous intent. And if that intent is there both the runner and the batter can be called out on the play, which obviously did not happen in this case.  

After a replay challenge on the field by Don Mattingly, it was ruled that Utley was safe because neither himself or Ruben Tejada touched second base on the play. Due to Utley being called out on the initial play, he was allowed to come back to second base to continue the sequence. Of course two batters later Adrian Gonzalez hit a double into right field which scored two runs and gave the Dodgers all the runs that they needed. On a night that was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel, the winning run scored on one of the most controversial plays in recent memory.

Now looking back, I have nothing against Chase Utley personally. I do think the slide was intentional and was dirty, but I do not in any way think that Utley wished harm upon Ruben Tejada. Whether the slide was intentional or not, Utley does have a history of dirty slides. This includes another dirty slide against Ruben Tejada from five years ago as well as perhaps the most egregious of all three slides against San Diego Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko last month. 

With that being said, I definitely do not expect this to be the last of this issue as the Mets and Dodgers return to New York for Game Three on Monday night. I definitely expect Chase Utley to get hit next time he steps to the plate for the Dodgers. But hey thats baseball.

6 Responses

  1. Michael Zaman

    It seems like Utley’s slide was late because of Tejada’s position and decision to attempt the double play. Utley slides at the moment he realizes Tejada is going for the double play.

    • R.Z.

      that is how it happened, but these fans keep watching it in slow motion or something. The throw pulled Tejada in front of Utley who was almost at the base, and looked to me like Utley actually ducked to avoid a collision. I mean what is he suppose to just give up on the play?

  2. bmmg39

    Utley did not go out of the base path and he was not “past second base” when he began his slide. He also probably didn’t anticipate that Tejada would do that spin move instead of touch the bag and move directly toward first. To call his play dirty is outrageous.

    • Thall

      Are you kidding? To call this play anything but dirty is ridiculous. If you can watch that and seriously think he made an attempt to slide you’re outrageous.

      • bmmg39

        His body traveled over the bag; i.e. he was still in the baseline.

      • Thall

        That’s great. Being in the baseline is not the only determining factor when deciding whether it was interference. You know that, right?

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