My Two Cents on the “Utley Slide”


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Utley’s final play as a Phillies player.

Chase Utley is a former Phillies player, and one who I generally liked. That’s about the extent of my bias, as he now plays in the playoffs, for a team I don’t like, against a team I don’t like. Last night in game two, Utley made a bit of news. The stir he caused involved a highly controversial slide into second base that broke up a double play, caused a confusing sequence of events regarding the umpires calling the play, and ended the season for Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

Most Phillies fans on Twitter and the internet defended Utley’s play. Mets fans reacted with everything from general dislike for Utley to calling for Matt Harvey to put a fastball into his skull in game three. I take the position that there are two different questions here-

  1. Was the slide legal?
  2. Was the slide dirty?

My answer is yes, and yes. In the opinion of the umpires on the field, and myself, Utley didn’t stray out of the baseline to the level needed to call him out for the slide. The contact itself, however gruesome, was legal. He could have touched the bag, and he is allowed to make contact. Many Mets fans are saying it’s illegal. I think they’re wrong.

So if it was legal, how was it dirty? Utley did not even attempt to start sliding until he was about even with the bag. While he was close enough to the bag to be legal, he slid in a manner that showed no attempt to really reach the base safely. He slid to make hard contact, and with reckless abandon. I’m not trying to guess his intent here, because I have no way to do so. I see David Wright and Jose Reyes attempting to do so, and just smell sour grapes from them both. His intent does not matter though. The play itself was dirty. Players usually don’t slide even with the bag, right into a shortstop with his back turned. Whether he intended to hurt Tejada or not isn’t relevant. The play put Tejada at an abnormal risk, and left him with a broken leg. I think the Mets and their fans have every right to not like it.

And that’s kind of that. People complaining that the slide was “illegal” because Utley’s butt didn’t touch the ground first, or that he missed the bag, are grasping at straws they knew they wouldn’t get calls from. People defending Utley should just stop. The play was ugly. Ruben Tejada won’t play anymore. The series will go on. Watch the play for yourself.

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