By: Joe Messineo

Why Chase Utley’s Slide Doesn’t Mean MLB’s Rules Have to Change


When Dodgers 2B Chase Utley slid into Mets SS Ruben Tejada and broke the fielder’s leg in Game 2 of the NLDS, the whole baseball world took notice. The Mets barely hid their contempt in postgame interviews, while the Dodgers rallied around Utley. Outside observers, including current MLB players, sounded off. Star OF Justin Upton tweeted that the MLB would change the rules right away if the injured player had been a superstar shortstop like Troy Tulowitzki. Utley was suspended by Major League Baseball for two games, though he remains active as he appeals the decision.

Very quickly, the battle lines have been drawn. There are those who think Utley’s slide was illegal, and those who think it was just good hard baseball; there are those who think we need new rules to protect players, and those who don’t. Utley’s defenders tend to side against new rules, which makes sense. Utley’s detractors tend to support new rules – and that definitely does not make sense.

No New Rules Necessary

The case for keeping the existing rules is exceedingly simple: Utley already broke the ones we have.

Major League Baseball has already said that Utley violated the interference rule by sliding into Tejada. In fact, he violated it so flagrantly that he was suspended for two games by MLB’s Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Joe Torre.

The suspension means two things. First, of course, it means Utley broke the rules. Second, and most importantly, it is an admission that the call was missed on the field.

Under the existing rules, Torre is saying, the umpires should have called both Utley and batter, Howie Kendrick, out on interference. That would have ended the inning with the Mets still up 2-1, the Mets would have been prohibitively likely to take the series, and Utley would still get his suspension. The rule should have worked; it was already there, it just needed to be enforced.

What is the Point of New Rule?

Okay, so what? Ruben Tejada’s leg is still broken. Mets fans’ dreams may still be broken depending on the outcome of Thursday’s game. What good was the rule?

There’s no denying that, in this case, the rule didn’t save the Mets. But that’s not a reason for a new rule. Chase Utley was in violation of the existing rule, and you’re either in violation or you’re not.

The most that supporters of a new rule could say is that it would make situations like Utley’s more black-and-white. But Utley’s situation already is already black and white: almost no current players outside of the Dodgers organization are supporting him, and observers have overwhelmingly condemned the play. Baseball has suspended Utley, just as they have suspended players in the past for the same play (contrary to what some observers are saying, the rule has been the cause of suspensions before, most notably when Albert Belle drew a five-game ban for taking out a second baseman without sliding at all). This is a black and white case, and it is covered by an existing rule.

Yes, You Can Still Want a New Rule

Does this mean a new rule would accomplish nothing? No, of course not. It just means is that any new rule will have nothing to do with what Chase Utley did, because what Chase Utley did is already clearly and plainly illegal in baseball.

A new rule could change the legality of what the rest of the Dodgers and all of the Mets do, which is take out the relay man on a double play with a well-timed, legal slide within reach of the base. There are plenty of examples of that in highlights from across the league to check out, and they all look very different than what Utley did.

About Joe Messineo

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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