By: Paul DiSclafani
Major League Baseball has suspended Dodgers infielder Chase Utley for the next two games of the NLDS after the league deemed he made an illegal slide into Reuben Tejada, fracturing his fibula.
During his press conference in the aftermath of the Dodger’s 5-2 win in Game 2 that evened the series, when asked point-blank if he thought the play was dirty, Torre hinted at what might come in the future. “I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that is in question now.”
After further review, all the fans, media and players that have been blowing up social media sites were right after all. It was a dirty play.
“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement. “While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a) (13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.”
Most of the baseball community felt that this suspension was justified, but don’t ask that to the Los Angeles Times. The Times blasted MLB with a headline of “MLB Overreacts with two-game suspension of Chase Utley”.
The quoted Mattingly as saying, If it had been their guy, they would be saying, ‘David Wright, he he’s a gamer. He went after him. That’s the way you gotta play.’ But it’s our guy. It’s different. If David would have done it, it’s wouldn’t have been any problem here in New York.
“Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays,” Mattingly continued, ”We love the way he plays. Let’s say he (Tejada) didn’t get hurt. There would be rumblings, but it goes away. But since someone got hurt, now it’s a story.”
Mattingly and the Dodgers just don’t seem to get what the rest of the baseball world is complaining about. What Utley did was just plain dirty. He ran full speed into Tejada without even attempting to slide. It was obvious on the replay that he wasn’t just playing “hard-nosed” baseball and trying to break up the double play. That’s what Torre said in his statement.
Of course Utley’s agent, Joel Wolfe, didn’t get the gist of the issue either as he said in a statement, “Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play. “We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions. Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada’s injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody.”
It wasn’t about his intent to injure. Nobody truly believes that Utley went into that situation trying to hurt Tejada. But that was a result of his actions and he needs to take responsibility.
The Mets had a different approach and supported the decision, although nothing will bring Tejada back for the series. ” We (The Mets) feel this was the appropriate course of action,” the team said in a statement. “With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball.”
Utley will most likely have his appeal heard early Monday morning. If the appeal is upheld, Utley will be eligible to play in Game 3.
Let’s see if he has the guts to come out of the dugout.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Instead of talking about the great pitching performance by the Mets Jacob deGrom and two home runs off Zack Grienke, the focus of players, media and Major League Baseball centered around the “take-out” slide Chase Utley employed against Reuben Tejada in Game 2 of the NLDS, effectively changing the course of the game and ending Tejada’s season with a broken fibula.
“’Slide’ would be generous” said Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had the best view of the play some are calling “hard-nosed” while most are calling just plain dirty. When asked what he thought of Utley’s slide, Michael Cuddyer said, “He hit Tejada before he hit the ground. That’s not a slide, it’s a tackle. It’s up to you to decide if tackling is legal in baseball”
Infielder Kelly Johnson was incredulous when he was asked about “The Slide”. “How is it a slide if he hits the player first? If he hits the dirt first, I don’t have anything to say. He has a broken leg because he was crushed”
Mets manager Terry Collins, ever the politician, had some things to say through gritted teeth when asked what he thought. “He broke my shortstop’s leg, that’s all I know.”
Even Major League Baseball didn’t know what to make of it in a bizarre post game press conference with the league’s Chief Baseball Officer, former Yankee skipper Joe Torre. After fumbling around for words to explain how Utley could be called safe when he never even touched the bag and insinuating, incorrectly, that any Met with the ball could have tagged him out as he went off the field – even in the dugout – , Torre touched on the slide itself. “The lateness of the slide, that concerns me.” Torre said. “But we’re still talking about it. I’m still in charge of determining if it was an over-the-top thing. I’m looking at it to see if there’s anything that should be done.”
Utley and the Dodgers, of course, didn’t feel there was anything wrong about the slide that broke up the double play and allowed the Dodgers to tie the game 2-2, eventually leading to a four run innings and a 5-2 win that tied the NLDS at one game apiece.
“The tying run is on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play,” Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever. I didn’t realize his back was turned. It happened so fast.”
Dodger manager Don Mattingly backs up Utley’s claim. “I know Chase is not trying to hurt anybody,” he said. “He’s just playing the game the way he plays it. He plays it hard, he’s aggressive.”
None of that nonsense is going to cut it in the Mets locker room.
Utley’s “slide” started as he arrived at the bag, not before it. He didn’t even hit the ground until he hit Tejada at full force with a rolling, cross body block. As a second baseman by trade, Utley should understand the difference between a clean, hard slide trying to break up a double play and what happened in this game. But Utley has a history of taking out runners at second in this fashion during his 13-year career, being accused of the same thing against Tejada back in 2010.
“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,” David Wright said back then. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.”
Kelly Johnson, an infielder who has played both short and second, was livid after the game. He wasn’t questioning Utley’s desire to play hard, it was the method of delivery.
“Chase is playing hard,” he said. “He’s doing his thing. He’s in the moment. That’s not the issue. The issue is he hit our shortstop first before hitting dirt. The question is at, one, is that illegal? At what point do we say, ‘Hey, man, we missed something here.’ We’ve got rules at home plate to protect our guys. What’s the difference? Ruben stuck his neck out there to make a play to try to get the bag and then to turn to make a throw. And before he can get the ball out of the glove he’s getting tackled.”
Even players not involved in the game, got into the game via social media. Padres outfielder Justin Upton said, “If that was a superstar shortstop (like Troy Tulowitzski), we would have a “Tulo” rule being enforced tomorrow”, referencing baseball’s new rule protecting catchers that is called “The Buster Posey” rule.
The subject of protecting certain players over others didn’t sit well with Johnson, either. “I want to know why there’s not something in place to protect us (infielders),” Johnson said. “and not jump into, break fibulas and knock people out of the game.”
In the TBS broadcast booth, Mets SNY announcer Ron Darling compared the play to football. “If this was the NFL, Uutley would have been flagged for interference on a defenseless receiver.”
When asked point-blank if he thought the play was dirty, Torre hinted at what might come in the future. “I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that is in question now.”
And what was Utley’s intent? Wright can’t help you. “Only Chase knows what his intent was,” said the Mets Captain, “You’re going to have to as Chase what the intent was. Reuben had his back to him and couldn’t protect himself. When he’s running to second base with Reuben’s back turned, I don’t know what his intent was.”
Game 3 is Monday night at Citi Field with Matt Harvey on the mound for the Mets. You think Chase Utley gets into the batter’s box? Enough said…
By: Paul DiSclafani
Chase Utley continues to haunt the Mets, even though he is now living 2,500 miles away. The former Phillie took out Reuben Tejada at second base as he tried to turn a double play in the seventh inning, leading to four runs and helping the Dodgers tie the NLDS, beating the Mets 5-2.
The Mets were protecting a 2-1 lead in the seventh, thanks to second inning home runs from Yoenis Cespedes and rookie Michael Conforto, when Bartolo Colon relieved starter Noah Syndergaard with runners on first and third with one out. Colon got Howie Kendrick to tap one over second base that Daniel Murphy tracked down and flipped to Reuben Tejada for the force at second. But Utley barreled into Tejada as he spun around to try and complete the double play, knocking him to the ground and allowing Enrique Hernandez to score from third and tie the game 2-2.
As Tejada lay on the ground in pain, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged the call at second. X-Rays revealed that Tejada has a fractured right fibula, ending his post season. Looking at the replay, Utley never made contact with the base and went right at Tejada, flipping him like a helpless NFL receiver making a catch.
After reviewing the play, the out was overturned as it was ruled that Tejada never touched the base. Utley was put back at second – even though he never touched the base – because if a call is overturned, the umpires can put the runners back on base.
With first and second and still one out, Addison Reed relieved Colon and got Corey Seager to fly out to left for what should have been the final out of the inning. Instead, Adrian Gonzalez, who had struck out three times against Syndergaard, pulled a double down the line in right, scoring both Utley and Kendrick and giving the Dodgers their first lead of the series, 4-2. Justin Turner then doubles into the right field gap, scoring Gonzalez to make it 5-2.
The Mets never recovered.
Replays showed that Utley came into Tejada hard, not even beginning to slide until he was passed the base. This will be discussed for the next couple of days as to if this was a dirty play. When asked after the game if he felt the play was dirty, Mets manager Terry Collins said, “It (the play) broke my shortstop’s leg, that’s all I know. It’s over, it’s done, There’s nothing we can do about it. My argument was that is was a roll block and he didn’t touch the bag, but the umpires said they reviewed the whole thing. They handled the call right.”
The Utley play and the Mets unraveling in the seventh overshadowed the great performance from Syndergaard. Although he was charged with three runs – he was responsible for the two that scored in the seventh – Syndergaard was dealing the entire game, mixing pitches and blowing the Dodgers away with 100 mph fastballs. Syndergaard struck out 9. But he was working long counts and was up to 115 pitches
The Mets got to Cy Young candidate Zack Grienke early, touching him for two runs in the second inning on solo home runs from Cespedes and Conforto. Conforto’s home run was a rocket off the foul pole in his first ever postseason plate appearance. Cespedes has not hit a home run in 60 AB’s.
But the Mets couldn’t put anything together against Grienke or the Dodger bullpen the rest of the way, managing just five hits.
Now the series switches to Citi Field and the Mets are not going to forget a borderline dirty play that cost them their shortstop. Matt Harvey will be on the mound for Game 3. A series that seemed to be going the Mets way because of their pitching just took a wrong turn.
POSITIVES: Curtis Granderson had two of the Mets five hits and also worked out a walk … Jonathan Niese got his first relief appearance, getting the final out in that miserable seventh … Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out 2 … Mets pitchers have struck out 25 Dodgers in two games.
NEGATIVES: David Wright hit into two double plays following Granderson hits … Without Tejada, Wilmer Flores will have to play short. This not only weakens the defense up the middle, but removes his bat off the bench. Juan Uribe is not available. Mets only had two runners in scoring position all game.
By: Paul DiSclafani
And now it begins.
After a roller coaster season that started with hope of a winning season and dreams of a Wild-Card berth, the Mets head out to Chavez Ravine in California as NL Eastern Division Champions to play the Dodgers for the NL Divisional Series in the first leg of the post season.
Everything that has happened between April 1 and October 8 is meaningless. An entire season of blood, sweat and tears over 162 games that earned each team the right to play in the post season is wiped from the books. Every error, every strikeout, every walk-off hit, every inning of every game. Everyone starts with a clean slate.
So why do we do these “preview” articles while citing chapter and verse as we refer back to the season that was? Because although you won 20 games in a season, or you hit 45 home runs, that doesn’t mean you are going to duplicate that success (or failure) in the playoffs. However, history is always there for us to refer to. You can’t change the past, but past performance is not indicative of future success (or failure). Didn’t I hear that on a commercial somewhere?
But the Mets and Dodgers do have a history that is not only linked on the field, but off the field as well. The expansion Mets were fashioned after their two National League parents, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, taking the Dodger blue and the Giants orange as their colors. Mets owner Fred Wilpon, a long time Brooklyn Dodger fan, was instrumental in designing the façade of the new Citi Field to resemble Ebbets field, home of the Dodgers, so much so in fact that the entrance rotunda is named after and dedicated to the iconic Dodger, Jackie Robinson.
In the early days of the Mets franchise, you could only count of big crowds a couple of times a year. Opening Day, and games against the Giants and Dodgers. Many baseball fans, who lost their beloved Dodgers and Giants to the Left Coast in 1957 embraced the expansion Mets in 1962 as their own.
Subsequent generations never had that connection to the Dodgers and Giants and now see their games as more of a nuisance when we go out to the West Coast with start times at 10:05. What games were more important to Mets fans this year than the ones against Washington?
And now the postseason is about to begin. As Hall Of Fame Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy used to say, “Fasten Your Seat-belts…”
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Mets (90-72) won the NL East during an incredible six-week hot streak that began in August. The Mets hung close enough to the Nationals during the season to make a run at them after obtaining five players before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline that reshaped their offense and shored up their bullpen. They ripped off 21 wins in August and had an 8-game winning streak in September that moved them to 9.5 games ahead of Washington and got the countdown started to their first postseason appearance in nine years. Suddenly the specter of Carlos Beltran taking a called strike three in Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 and the subsequent collapses down the stretch of 2007 and 2008 became a distant memory. Although they are limping into the playoffs with just one win in their last six games, the Mets and their fans are ready for October baseball.
The Dodgers (92-70) took their time fighting off the Defending World Champion Giants, but won the NL West for a third straight season under skipper Don Mattingly. The Dodgers have been to the post season six times in the last 10 years. Under first year president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and new General Manager Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers had the highest payroll in baseball this season, $285 million, but it paid off. They have not one, but two candidates for the Cy Young award in Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke and their sweep of the Padres in the final regular season series of the season earned them home field advantage in the NLDS. The Dodgers tied with the Cardinals for the most home wins in 2015, 55.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES:
The Mets had just gotten swept by the Cubs at home, dropping to 40-40, when they headed out for a 9-game West Coast road trip that started in LA. Noah Syndergaard and Kershaw matched pitch for pitch in a game the Mets won 2-1 with a run in the top of the ninth. Zach Grienke then beat Matt Harvey the next night, 4-3 before the Mets and rookie Steven Matz took the rubber game, 8-0. The series win gave the Mets a confidence boost as they finished the trip 7-2 just before the All-Star break.
Then the Dodgers came to town in late July and were the catalyst to the Mets turnaround. With Kershaw starting the first game of a four game series, the Mets put up a lineup that included John Mayberry Jr (.165) hitting cleanup and Eric Campbell (.176) hitting fifth. Kershaw dominated, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning. How the Mets managed three hits at all is still a mystery. The next day GM Sandy Alderson promoted AA outfielder Michael Conforto and traded for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. After another Dodger win, 7-2 on Friday, Johnson and Uribe arrived on Saturday and had an immediate impact as the Mets won the final two games of the series. Johnson hit a home run in his first AB as a Met and rookie Conforto went 4-4 in a 15-2 win (Mets had 21 hits) and the next night, Uribe drove home the winning run in the 10th, missing a home run by inches.
The Mets won the regular season series, 4-3