It appears this story has come full circle, with Chase Utley’s suspension finally being dismissed by MLB. While Mets fans might not like it, this was the right call.
Yes, Utley was the one who broke Ruben Tejada’s leg, the game of baseball and its antiquated system of rules no one bothered to write down is actually to blame for the play. It seems he shares that opinion.
Utley spoke to the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett about the play, the suspension and eventual revocation of said suspension and explained MLB’s thinking, as relayed to him by Joe Torre.
“I talked to Joe Torre at length on the phone and he expressed to me that what happened in the playoffs, after looking at other slides over the course of the years, it was not much different from those and there were no penalties there,” Utley said. “So with that said, they rescinded the suspension.
This is the point that drives home the matter. When baseball has been played a certain way for as long as we can remember, of course plays like the one that ended Tejada’s season will happen in a game of such high stakes as an NLCS.
Now, this isn’t me saying the rule shouldn’t have been changed or even that Utley’s slide wasn’t dirty. Multiple things can be true, here. The rule did need to change. Utley’s slide was dirty. Torre was right to rescind the suspension. The shades of gray matter and, in this case, those shades become all the tougher to define when the rule wasn’t written down in the first place.
Think of it this way: If the street you drive on regularly had an inherent speed limit, but nothing explicitly defined, what would stop drivers from going 100 on a road that should have a 40 MPH limit? Then, if police officer decided to, out of the blue, hand out a speeding ticket on that road with no precedent, the ticket wouldn’t hold up in the court of law, even if a limit was retroactively put in place.
So, Utley avoids suspension and a rule is now in place to try to avoid such an injury in the future. Tejada’s injury sucked for everyone involved — for Tejada more than anyone else, obviously. In this instance, however, the situation was handled perfectly and turned out exactly as it should have.
One can only hope this is one of the first steps in putting all of baseball’s unwritten rules — the ones worth keeping, at least — down in writing.