10/12/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
"He plays the game hard". "It's part of the game". "He was doing his job, trying to break up that double play". Those were all things that were said after the Los Angeles Dodgers Chase Utley slid into the New York Mets Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Saturday. A day later, Major League Baseball said the play was illegal and that Utley will be suspended for Games 2 and 3 of the NLDS.
The controversial play not only broke up the double play, but Utley ended up being ruled safe after replay showed Tejada never touched second base. It also allowed the tying run to score for the Dodgers. Had the slide been called illegal on the field like it should have been, the double play would've counted and the inning would've been over. And who knows, maybe the Mets would've won the game and need 1 more victory to move on to the NL Championship Series. But enough about that end of the play.
The play also resulted in Tejada ending up with a broken leg, thus ending his season. And no matter what anybody says, it's clear that Utley's slide was nowhere near second base. He went out of his way to slide into Tejada. And it wasn't even a slide that looked like a baseball slide, it looked like a soccer slide tackle. And even it was called correctly on the field, the Mets would still be without their starting short stop for the rest of the post season. This play comes less than a month after another take out slide by the Chicago Cubs Chris Coghlan resulted in the Pittsburgh Pirates Jung Ho Kang being seriously injured. Kang's injuries may actually be worse than Tejada's, as he is expected to miss 6 to 8 months. That play was another play where Coghlan's slide was nowhere near the base.
With professional sports putting a premium on player safety and making changes in their respective games to protect players from injury, it's time for MLB to do away with the take out slide. Home plate collisions have been banned in MLB for the past 2 seasons, due in large part to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey being seriously injured on a home plate collision in 2011.
I understand playing the game hard. I understand a player wanting to help his team. But something has to be done here. I'm not saying sliding hard into the base needs to be taken out of the game, because it shouldn't be. If a player ends up taking an infielder out because he tried to slide into the base and contact was made there, that's a good, hard play. But as for sliding out of the way, completely missing the base, and the only intention being to slide into the infielder, it's time for MLB to take out the take out slide.
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