On Utley’s slide


Second base is a danger zone these days, as anyone who watched the Dodgers’ Chase Utley barrel into Ruben Tejada Saturday night knows.

But Utley, who didn’t slide so much as approach Tejada as if he were a pulling guard clearing the way for the running back behind him, isn’t the only offender. Ask the Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang, whose season was ended by a slide that veered wide right. Or the Cubs’ Addison Russell, whose season might have been. Or the Astros’ Carlos Correa, whose leg was stretched into an unnatural position.

It’s been an epidemic this season of reckless slides into second base, all under the guise of “it’s a part of the game.” It’s not, no more than a beanball is.

It’s one thing to slide aggressively into second base, trying to break up the double play. It’s another not to begin your slide until you’ve reached your destination.

MLB will surely address it in the offseason, and take steps to protect the middle infielder the way it did the catcher when Buster Posey went down. That’s too late for Kang or Tejada.

The Dodgers defended Utley, saying it wasn’t his intent to hurt Tejada. Presumably not, but it’s not his intentions which were questioned but his actions. Chris Coghlan, whose slide at Kang seems tame by comparison to Utley’s, offered words of regret, which Kang accepted. And when the two teams met in the playoffs, Kang could only support himself with crutches, not Coghlan’s words. 

Like smokers who’ve quit and are the loudest to rail about second-hand smoke and the evils of smoking, the worst offenders are often middle infielders. Utley has spent a career at second base. The Yankees’ Didi Gregorious rolled high into second base in the wild-card game Tuesday. He’s a shortstop. Coghlan started his career at second base.

All of them should know better the risks of sliding as they have. Or maybe they feel after careers of dodging, ducking or leaping over those kinds of slides, it’s their turn to deliver one. Breaking up the double play is a convenient alibi.

The Mets vented after the Dodgers’ win, and who can blame them. They lost their shortstop, the out and the game. Joe Torre, speaking on behalf of MLB after the game, said Utley was awarded second base even though he never touched it, but would have been called out had he been tagged.

Two thoughts, Joe. 

  1. That Utley didn’t touch second base sort of supports the case he should’ve been called out for interference (without even addressing the point of the danger of the slide).
  2. Tejada probably would have been happy to tag Utley out.  Too bad he was immobile because his leg was broken.
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