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By Jon Weisman
Jackie Robinson safe at home in 1949. Davey Lopes safe at first in 1977. The heat of Hanley Ramirez’s rib fractured by a pitch — two years ago this very day — still simmers. And above all, Reggie Jackson’s hip.
Nothing tops their notoriety in Dodger postseason history, but entering that pantheon is Chase Utley’s slide, a play we will be talking about for years.
I’m not someone who believes baseball is a contact sport, who believes aggression must mean collision, or that collision is synonymous with manhood. Most recently, baseball legislated baserunner-catcher crashes out of the game, and it’s hard to see any way that the game is poorer for it.
So I do think we have reached the tipping point for trying to protect infielders on plays at the bases — if not already when the season of Pittsburgh’s Jung Ho Kang ended, then certainly now that the season of New York’s Ruben Tejada has. The base should be the only goal of the baserunner.
This is from Dodgers-Mets this past summer. Daniel Murphy makes no attempt at bag. It's part of the game. pic.twitter.com/vuzOeDDctD
— Blair Angulo (@bangulo) October 11, 2015
I have spent many of my waking hours (and they have been mostly waking hours) since Saturday’s seventh inning thinking about how I would have felt had the uniforms been reversed on the play, as they were, for example, when Daniel Murphy veered into Jimmy Rollins when the Dodgers played the Mets on July 26. Murphy certainly came in lower on Rollins than Utley did on Tejada, but he was farther out of the baseline and his intent to disrupt was no less.
Neither baserunner, in July or October, wanted the infielder to get hurt — and it’s worth noting that both baserunners are infielders themselves who know exactly what kind of jeopardy they’re creating.
So if Rollins had been injured on this play the way Tejada was — and it certainly could have happened, judging by how vulnerable Rollins’ left leg looks in the screengrab by Blair Angelo above — the fury would have reverberated from New York to Los Angeles, just as it has in the past 12 hours from Los Angeles to New York. Imagining this happening to Corey Seager at this moment in time sends shivers.
But in July, it didn’t happen. Rollins walked away from the play, and as a result, no one gave it a second thought. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or a leg, or a spine.
New York tabloid covers. #mets #dodgers pic.twitter.com/Tdnc10qJqQ
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinMedia) October 11, 2015
If that were Rollins or Seager being driven off in a cart, my fury would be unmistakable. But my fury wouldn’t be at the baserunner. It would be at the sport that has turned a blind eye to that play forever.
“This also used to be hard-nosed baseball.” — Grant Brisbee, SB Nation
My guess is that next year, things will be different.
Al Kenderes (@Coach__K)
Interesting shot by Blair of Murphy sliding into Rollins. The one sided NY Tabloids would never show something like this!!! It puts the issue in perspective.
The college rule was changed by NCAA several years ago to make the runner slide only at the bag and not through the bag due to injuries. In MLB we protect the catcher (who is wearing shin guards) with the Posey rule. It is unexplainable why the same protection is not applied to mid-fielders. We want to see players play hard….but no one wants to see anybody get hurt intentionally.
I agree,. Baseball has had the “Brake-up-the-double-play-slide”, even though it’s not a slide, since anyone can remember. Fortunately not many were hurt by it and very unfortunately Ruben Tejada was.
It’s part of the game, until some rule says it’s not.
I’m hoping Tejada has quick recovery.
This has indeed gone on for a long time, and I read a couple of comments that might strike Jon as worth exploring:
1. We miss Vin. He would have rattled off a bunch of examples. But someone commented that he has said or suggested that too many players don’t really know how to slide properly.
2. One comment I read was that in the 1950s, there would have been no complaining about it, and the next Dodger batter would have wound up flat on his back in the box, and then everything would have resumed as normal.
This was a freak, unfortunate play resulting from a ballplayer playing the game as it should be played. The Cardinals breaking Hanley Ramirez ribs was way more egregious and totally cost the Dodgers that series. Utley has been banged up hundreds of times during his great career turning double plays and never bitched about it publicly once. With that said, that may have been the most exciting inning I’ve ever witnessed in person, and I’ve seen 2 no hitters. Terry Collins is acting like an irrational parent at a PTA meeting. He needs to man up and STFU. If the Mets retaliate tomorrow that is too part of the game. Go Dodgers.
To his dying day, Yogi claimed that he tagged Robinson before the plate…I grew up in Brooklyn , and Dodger fan. I love 1950’s baseball. If Utley had slid AT THE BASE ON ANY ANGLE, this is a great play – such as I had watched when baseball was baseball (see catcher home plate block/tag, etc.). He made no attempt at the bag, which to my 70 year understanding, had to be part of breaking up a DP ; therefore it’s a cheap shot.