Sunday, October 11, 2015


Chase Utley is a borderline Hall-of-Famer whose late start as a major leaguer has doomed him to a long, possibly infinte Veterans Committee purgatory. All across his career he's shown a command of the "little things" that win ball games.

Two of the most prominent of these "little things" are extra OBP in the form of walks, and superior, intelligent baserunning (as measured by stolen base success rate and out-on-the-basepaths stats).

All of the evidence surrounding Utley suggests that he is a thinking man's player.

Er,'re not on the base--and you've just screwed up
how people will remember you for the rest of recorded time...
So it's a "dirty old shame" (as Karen Carpenter would croon for us, had she not been the victim of her own takeout slide) that Chase Utley is now likely to be remembered mostly for a play on the basepaths that looks uglier and uglier the more it is replayed.

Worse yet is the unconscionable set of errors made by the umpiring crew in interpreting and ruling on what should have been the result of that play--which not only resulted in a needless season-ending injury to Mets' shortstop Ruben Tejada, but allowed the Dodgers to score four runs in an inning when the proper call would have resulted in them scoring none at all.

The irony is that the umpiring crew made one of the most egregious errors in baseball history while using the very system designed to prevent such errors from occurring.

So, as the title of this post indicates, what we have on our hands now is a "big painful mess that needs the rug the size of Jupiter in order to be swept out of view."

Utley's "slide" was probably not 100% intentional. It's one of those things that happens in athletic contests on rare and unfortunate occasions when two people moving in opposite directions wind up moving right into each other's path. The results are cataclysmic.

But the fact that Utley was uninjured as a result of the collision indicates that his intent was of a magnitude that cannot be overlooked by MLB. Plays of this nature, when there is even a scintilla of evidence pointing toward non-accidental intent, must be legislated in a way that makes it clear that no grey areas will be tolerated. The present and future health of players, particularly middle infielders, needs just as much special attention from MLB as is the case with catchers.

The simplest solution for baseball when such a play occurs--one that results in an injury--is to eject the player who caused the injury. Eject him immediately and without exception or recourse to appeal. (This does not apply, of course, when two teammates collide--only when injuries occur on the basepaths.)

The "big painful mess," aside from Tejada's needless season-ending injury, is that Utley was not called out (for any of three legitimate reasons which were, against all odds, completely overlooked) and a double play imposed as a penalty for causing the injury. (Replays indicate that Tejada was attempting to position himself for a throw to first when Utley slammed into him.)

We've previously suggested that players who cause injury, whether this way or by charging the mound (Carlos Quentin-->Zack Greinke), should be suspended for the length of the time that it takes the injured player to return to action. Applying that in this case, Utley should be suspended for the rest of the post-season.

This will make teams think twice about condoning the type of behavior that creates unnecessary risk on the playing field--something that a smart player like Utley certainly knew was the case, and had the option to not "put into play" in last night's game.

Joe Torre, who is getting too old to be involved in such serious matters, is almost certain to whitewash this--his hands are tied by the shabby actions of everyone involved in last night's "painful mess." But MLB can institute a coherent, consistent policy with respect to this "terror on the basepaths."