Chase Utley should not be playing in Game 5 of the NLCS clincher. Not after the Los Angeles Dodgers infielder’s purposeful slide broke the leg of New York Mets second baseman Ruben Tejada in Game 2. For that, Chase Utley was handed a slap on the wrist for Games 3 and 4. It can be assumed that his actions were essentially rewarded.
There is a lot of strategic gamesmanship that takes place in sports, especially in baseball where one slight action can give a team the edge. Gamesmanship does not call for plays such as Chase Utley’s. As far as the edge given in his slide, well, it could help propel the Dodgers to the NLDS versus the Chicago Cubs.
The fact that Chase Utley has a chance to play in Game 5 is laughable. What is worse is that he was supposed to be suspended for two games. Utley undoubtedly appealed his two-game ban. His appeal reportedly will not be heard until next week.
Just when it seems that Major League Baseball was beginning to have the playoff storylines that they wanted, controversy rears its ugly head. MLB has dropped the ball here.
Chase Utley used his power to appeal the suspension, which he knew would allow him to play (via LA Times) for the remainder of the series with the Mets. If it is true that Utley’s appeal ruling (via ESPN) will not take place until Monday at the earliest, he will also be eligible for the first two games of the NLCS if the Dodgers advance.
This is a great way for Major League Baseball to reward Chase Utley. Who is a repeat offender for his hard slide outside of the base pad.
Ruben Tejada is just one of Chase Utley’s slide victims. San Francisco Giants shortstop Gregor Blanco’s season came to an end due to an aggressive play by Chase Utley. The only difference was that Blanco was the baserunner on this play.
SB Nation shows the play in a gif. Gregor Blanco is attempting to slide into second base. Chase Utley politely introduces Blanco to his knee. The Giants were without their shortstop for the rest of the season.
The scenario that set up the ugly incident is more telling. Blanco was taken out by Chase Utley in the ninth inning. There was a 4-4 tie. The Los Angeles Dodgers were trying to restore order by keeping the Giants at bay in the standings. Without Gregor Blanco, the Giants were missing a good defensive infielder, and lost all of the momentum built from having won every game in their series versus the Dodgers.
Knowing that Chase Utley plays aggressively and is regarded as a gamer, Rob Manfred’s office should have thrown the book at him. Any appeal should have been heard immediately, without much delay.
With ESPN reporting that the appeals process will not begin until Monday, there are no guarantees that a decision is finalized the same day. Also, Manfred’s office could determine that the slide was simply a baseball play. In this case, the advantage is on Chase Utley and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A play like his slide to second base should be unappealable, much like a drug or P.E.D. suspension. If that is too extreme, how about considering a shorter turnaround time for the appeals process. Monday will make nine days since the play took place. Major League Baseball would have done better by not suspending Chase Utley at all. Having everyone wait so long for the appeal to be heard does a disservice to the suspension process. It is not unrealistic that MLB does not want to give one team or the other a competitive advantage. If that is the case, then Major League Baseball should say so.
Chase Utley should not be allowed to play in Game 5 of the Dodgers versus Mets series. The reason for that is because he was suspended for a dirty baseball play. Having Chase Utley be available is a farce. It rewards the wrong type of gamesmanship.
[Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Sport]