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By Jon Weisman
Speaking to reporters tonight after the Dodgers’ arrival in New York, manager Don Mattingly backed Chase Utley a day after his hard slide into Ruben Tejada.
“Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays,” Mattingly said. “We love the way he plays. He’s got a reputation for playing the game right, playing it hard, and we’re behind him 100 percent. … From my assessment of it, you know, I look at it as a baseball play. It was a hard, aggressive, legal slide to me.”
Nevertheless, Mattingly said he was aware of the potential that Utley would be disciplined by Major League Baseball.
“I have not spoken personally to anyone yet,” Mattingly said. “I know that there was — there’s talk of, talking to Andrew (Friedman) and those guys, we would find out something.”
Mattingly added that he wasn’t concerned with the likelihood of the Mets retaliating in some fashion, but it didn’t sound as if he would be surprised by it either. Nor did he feel either pitcher or manager needed to be warned against throwing at a batter before Game 3 of the National League Division Series begins Monday.
“The five years I’ve been here, we’ve had a few altercations,” Mattingly said. “I don’t feel like we’ve started any of them, but we really haven’t backed away either. … It’s one of those things you just don’t worry about. You just handle it.”
To no one’s surprise, the condemnation of Utley out of New York has been furious. Asked to address that, Mattingly imagined what the reaction would have been if it had been a Met making the slide.
“If it would have been their guy, they would be saying, ‘David Wright, hey, he’s a gamer; he went after him. That’s the way you gotta play.’ But it’s our guy; it’s different. So I know how the kind of the New York media gets a little bit going, and it gets dramatic, but for me you can’t have it both ways. If David would have done it, it wouldn’t have been any problem, here in New York.
“If nobody got hurt, it wouldn’t even be talked about hardly today. It would have just been a hard slide. … But since someone got hurt, now it’s a story. So I mean, that’s just the way I look at it.”
Indeed, someone did get hurt, and where there is complete agreement in both clubhouses and on both coasts is the regret over Tejada’s injury.
“Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt,” Mattingly said. “Nobody wanted to see Ruben get hurt. I know Chase put out a statement today, or at least talked to some people, talking about the way he’s played. Tried to reach out to Ruben and apologize. He feels terrible, I know that, about him getting hurt. We don’t want that. We want to be the best team, and we want to win because of that.
“I thought their guy was courageous. Honestly, Ruben on that play could very easily have taken the out. But he plants and is trying to turn two. At that point he knows Chase is coming. He knows anybody would be coming. So he makes a decision at that point to try to turn two. He plants that foot and tries to spin and get two. Chase gets good secondary and is going to break it up.”
One amusing comment from Mattingly came when he was asked whether criticism toward Utley was unfair.
“I don’t get involved with the Twitter, because that usually is nonsense for the most part,” Mattingly said. “But I’ve seen some good and some bad.”