OCT. 12: MLB wants Utley’s appeal hearing to take place today, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but the MLBPA would like more time than that to prepare. Rosenthal adds (also via Twitter) that a pair of sources expressed doubt that a hearing would take place today, so Utley could very well be available for tonight’s contest. Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times hears the same (Twitter link), with a source calling a Monday appeal hearing “highly unlikely.”
OCT. 11: Major League Baseball has suspended Dodgers infielder Chase Utley for Game Three and Game Four of the NLDS for what the league has deemed as an “illegal slide” during Saturday’s Game Two win over the Mets, according to a statement released today. Here is the full text from MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre:
“I recognize that there has been much commentary and many questions regarding the unfortunate play in last night’s game in which Ruben Tejada was injured. As I said after the game, the determination of whether a baserunner has intentionally interfered with a player attempting to turn a double play is left to the judgment of the Umpire on the field, and that judgment call is not subject to review. I should add that determining where to draw the line between an illegal slide and a legitimate hard play is an extremely difficult call for our Umpires.
“However, after thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline. While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.
“We have been in discussions with the Players Association throughout the year regarding potential rule changes to better protect middle infielders, and we intend to continue those discussions this offseason.”
Utley is appealing the suspension, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the league will try to have Utley’s hearing tomorrow so he could potentially play in Game Three that evening (both links to Twitter).
During the seventh inning of last night’s game, Utley’s hard slide into second base not only broke up a double play and allowed the tying run to score, but Tejada also suffered a fractured fibula on the play. The Dodgers scored three more runs in the inning and went on to even the NLDS at 1-1 after their 5-2 victory in Game Two. As per the rule cited by Torre, since Utley’s slide was in violation, the batter (Howie Kendrick) should’ve also been called out and the inning should’ve been over.
Needless to say, the play has generated an immense amount of controversy over the last 24 hours over whether Utley’s slide was dirty pool or a hard-nosed attempt to break up a double play. Former big leaguer C.J. Nitkowski, writing for FOX Sports, polled 65 current and former players about Utley’s play, with the majority agreeing that it was legal but “legal and dirty.” Interestingly, 55 of the 65 players didn’t think Utley should be suspended for the slide, an opinion obviously not shared by the league. In his latest Insider-only post, ESPN’s Buster Olney believes that Utley’s play will lead to a rule change preventing runners from making contact with fielders, akin to the rule instituted a few years ago barring collisions at home plate.