On Saturday night in Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series, Chase Utley of the Dodgers attempted to breakup a double play in the 7th inning. LA trailed 2-1 and the Mets had a chance to end the inning with the lead if they turned the double play. Utley, a career second basemen, did not begin his slide until he was equal to the bag and more or less tackled Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
Utley was roughly five feet away from second base when he barreled into Tejada. The umpire ruled Utley out. Utley did his job, the run from third base scored, evening the game at 2-2. However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged the umpires call that Tejada was on the base. The replay showed Tejada’s toe never did touch the base.
Utley, though, never touched second base himself.
During their 10 minute review, the umpires called Utley safe. Even though he never once touched second base. Utley took an illegal detour out of the baseline to deliver a late, dirty slide that injured Ruben Tejada. Chase Utley was rewarded for his behavior.
Major League Baseball replay rules stipulate that “neighborhood plays” on potential double plays are not reviewable. Yet, during Game 2, the umpires reviewed a classic example of a neighborhood play.
Another rule reads “If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a fielder in the act of fielding with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.”
Essentially, the umpires reserved the right to call Utley out for interference and awarded the Mets the double play, preventing the tying run from scoring. The Mets would have ended the 7th inning with a 2-1 lead, barreling towards a 2-0 lead in the best of five NLDS.
The second base umpire had a perfect view of the play. There is simply no excuse for blowing that big of a call. That the umpiring crew then got together, reviewed the play and called Utley safe without him ever touching the bag is incompetence of the highest order.
Joe Torre, the Chief Baseball Officer for MLB, is in charge of overseeing umpiring. Following the game, he backed up the crew, saying “(The umpire) did not think it was a violation. It was a judgment.” He went on to say, “It certainly was late. That concerns me, the lateness of the slide.” So, if it was late, how was it not a violation?
Chase Utley was rewarded for breaking the leg of an opponent. The Dodgers went on to take the lead and win the game. Game 3 of this series is scheduled for Monday night. We’re likely to see Matt Harvey retaliate and hit one of Utley’s teammates. Maybe Harvey will get thrown out of the game, it would be a fitting end to what has been a black eye of an umpiring quagmire in this series.