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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.
— 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.