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Sunday News and Notes: Chase Utley's late takeout slide may effect more than the NLDS

Chase Utley's slide not only changed the complexion of the NLDS, but also may end up as the deciding factor in changing MLB rules.

This "slide" may change the rules for slides at second base.
This "slide" may change the rules for slides at second base.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last night's playoff games

Cubs win Game 2, even NLDS against Cardinals |

Dodgers rally vs. Mets in Game 2 to even NLDS |

If you didn't watch the end of the Dodgers-Mets game last night, here's the play that changed the game and perhaps the series. With runners on the corners and one out, a ball was hit up the middle. Chase Utley, who was at first base, slid into Ruben Tejada, who was turned around to catch the flip from Daniel Murphy:

Utley was called out, but a later review called him safe. The Dodgers later took the lead in that inning, and held on to win, tying the series at a game apiece. Ruben Tejada left the game on a cart, and X-rays revealed a broken leg. Tejada is obviously out the rest of the postseason, and there's a non-zero chance that his career is in jeopardy.

Some comments on this play and its aftermath:

  • If Tejada had been facing Utley, he likely would have avoided serious injury (middle infielders always try to jump before contact with the runner to prevent this very thing from happening), but to me that's irrelevant. The slide was late, and directed at Tejada. Regardless of intent, even by today's rather loose moral baseball standards, I think it was a dirty slide. The "targeting" rule is in place, but let's face it, the rule is almost never invoked, and not in a play at second base. The slide was legal in today's environment.
  • The neighborhood play was not invoked, according to MLB officials, because the throw took Tejada out of position to make the double play. I strenuously disagree with this.The neighborhood play exists to protect infielders making a double play, and any play in which a middle infielder makes a pivot like that should have had the "neighborhood play" exception invoked, whether the double play was probable or not.
  • Joe Torre is going to review the play, and may discipline Utley for the slide. In an interview after the game, Torre repeatedly noted that he thought that the slide was late. That's too little, too late, though. Maybe a suspension would forestall any retaliation on the field.
  • Utley was called out by the second base umpire, and so jogged off the field. He was later called safe, and was allowed to return to second. I've seen some arguments that Utley should have been out because he didn't touch the base, but a runner called out by an umpire shouldn't expect to have to touch the base. Of course, that he didn't touch second base speaks to the trajectory of the slide.
  • MLB was already going to review plays at second base before this incident, and after last night it's a certainty that some rule change will at least be voted on by the teams and players. Whatever specific rules eventually make their way into to the 2016 rules, I hope the outcome is similar how plays at home plate are now treated. Player safety was behind the home plate rule change, and should also be the driving force behind rule changes at second.

Latest 40-man Roster

(embiggened version here)

Oct 11 2015

Francisco Lindor did catch teammate Jason Kipnis in bWAR, which is an amazing feat. The team roster is more or less frozen until after the World Series. The Indians will need to add both TJ House and Nick Hagadone to the 40-man roster, so two players will need to be DFAed. I'd guess that Adam Moore and Michael Martinez would be the first two to go, but they wouldn't be the last to be designated this winter. Jerry Sands, CC Lee, Jayson Aquino, Michael Choice, Tony Wolters could all be DFAed  before the end of the year.