It was one of the most talked about plays last year during the NLDS. When Phillies veteran Chase Utley slid into Ruben Tejada of the Mets, it broke up the double play all right. Unfortunately for Tejada, it also broke his leg.
Here’s a replay of his body being turned into a rag doll:
Chase was initially suspended for two games but filed an appeal. MLB recently decided to drop the suspension because there wasn’t a rule in place at the time of the incident. In Utley’s defense, he was doing what players have been taught to do since little league. Go in hard and try to take the defender out. It’s a play which has been ingrained in baserunners at an early age and gets progressively more intense once they reach the majors. We’ve witnessed it countless times.
Many less serious injuries have resulted from these tactics, both to the runner and defender. Tejada’s broken leg injury, however, took it to a level that demanded increased scrutiny. The majority of fans and analysts were of the opinion that Utley went beyond the force necessary. This year, the adoption of safety rules will hopefully help to prevent it from happening again.
Everyone enjoys aggressive baseball, myself included. I love Utley’s fire. I don’t want to see that taken away by having every aspect of the game excessively monitored for safety. But if a season-ending injury can be prevented like the one Tejada sustained it will be worth it. For the fans, for the teams, and most of all, for the players.
The new slide rule states that: 1) A baserunner must make contact with the ground first when they slide 2) They must try to stop at the bag and not intentionally continue on into the defender. No more human torpedoes that wind up plowing into a player’s knees, etc. No more deliberate routes taken out of the pathway to second base. If a runner makes illegal contact with an infielder both he and the batter will be out. In other words, stay down and aim for the bag only.
Along with the slide revision comes the elimination of the neighborhood rule. Infielders will now be required to actually touch the bag when attempting to turn a double play. I support this rule. The slide rule will increase protection so it should not be that hard to accomplish, since prior to the rule change they were landing somewhere close to the base anyway. It will give an edge to the offense by forcing the defender to be more cognizant of where his feet are before firing to first.
Expect confusion and controversy when officials begin to enforce these new rule changes. The same thing occurred with the home-plate collision rule. But since its adoption you have not seen any horrific injuries like the one Buster Posey endured back in 2011. I never want to see this kind of injury happen again.
I am all for increasing player safety without compromising the integrity and tradition of the game itself. The Ty Cobb era of ferociousness is gone. There will still be plenty of hardball on the field. Injuries will still occur, but not as a result of a deliberate attempt to impede a play.
I hope more fans, like myself, will have greater respect and admiration for players who continue to run as hard as they can on the basepaths, while exhibiting cleaner steal attempts. Reducing serious injuries is a win, win for everyone. Owners don’t want their star assets that they have invested so much money in to be on the receiving end of these brutal injuries. They are already prone to injury from normal wear and tear over the season. The fans don’t want to have their favorite players taken out for avoidable mishaps either. If some prefer the Roman gladiator style of competition, ringside seats can be purchased at The Octagon. There’s plenty of violence to go around for everyone inside the cage.
Chase Utley now wears a Dodgers’ uniform. Los Angeles will play the Mets twice this year. I hope Mets fans don’t continue to make Utley a scapegoat. Ruben Tejada has stated that he was indifferent to MLB’s decision and just wants to move on. New safety rules are here to stay. Break a leg players! In a good luck way.