I missed the play live – thank goodness for instant replay and online access.
So searching for a replay, I also looked for comments – to see what others were saying about the play – and quite frankly (no pun intended) was surprised with what I read.
Frank Thomas, on Fox Sports commenting about the play stated “This is the way the game of baseball is played.”
Really? Really Frank?
The Traditional Viewpoint
How do you explain your traditional viewpoint in juxtaposition to the American League’s adoption of the designated hitter rule (of which you benefitted)? Or the current play-off series format? How about batting helmets? How about the adoption of free agency? How about replays in baseball? These rules haven’t been around for a hundred years. The point is that changes occur, sometimes slowly over time, and sometimes quickly & suddenly.
This is an issue about safety – and the immediate need to rectify an issue that should have been addressed a long time ago.
Mr. Thomas is a traditionalist – the play, while forceful, is within the parameters that Mr. Thomas finds acceptable. Its not acceptable to many others, so Mr. Thomas needs to accept that differing opinions exist, including executives in the MLB office.
The Players Code of Baseball
Mr. Thomas I presume, is of the school that baseball will take care of itself internally, and that it doesn’t need, want, or desire the intervention of the executive office of major league baseball.
Mr. Thomas, like many, believe that the baseball players will “self-manage” the situation themselves going forward.
Mr. Thomas doesn’t have any problem with the Mets, meting out their own form of justice – likely in the form of plunking Mr. Utley to let him know of their dissatisfaction with his playing behavior.
In the court of public opinion, Mr. Utley has a history of provocative base-path running and sliding. Mr. Utley hasn’t garnered many fans of his path-running style among opposing players; so I was surprised by Mr. Thomas’s defense of the play.
Mr. Utley, for example may become the target of NY pitchers deliberately hitting him (plunking) while taking his turn batting during the game– this being done to let him know about their dissatisfaction with his approach to base running – and to let him know not to do this to their teammates in the field.
Plunking players is a symbolic gesture which provides immediate satisfaction – but little else other than sending a message of dissatisfaction – and hardly a sufficient repayment for a significant injury that occurred to one of their players.
Mr. Utley, may also become a target while fielding his position, which is ironically, second base, where his infraction occurred.
Opposing runners, in sympathy of what happened to Mr. Tejada, may routinely approach 2nd base similarly to Mr. Utley’s slide, exposing Mr. Utley to receiving (similar) high risk injury himself.
A better approach is to eliminate the drama and self policing and create better, if not clear and concise rules which umpires can implement.
The Negative Side of Retribution
Mr. Thomas, in his purist approach to the game has overlooked the legal implications resulting from escalating retribution.
What happens, if in retribution, Mr. Utley is (physically) hurt (particularly) during the current play-off series, or even during play the following year?
What if Mr. Utley takes issue and files a lawsuit?
Vigilantism, performed during professional sports is not the answer.
Innovation / Reform<
This controversial play has significant ramifications for major league baseball.
MLB’s immediate announcement by Mr. Torres levying a two game suspension on Mr. Utley has raised the ire of the LA Dodgers and traditionalists alike.
The NY Mets, the team opposing the LA Dodgers in this round of the play-offs, and for whom Mr. Tejada plays second base when the injury occurred, immediately announced their support & approval of the suspension.
The two game suspension of Mr. Utley distances the MLB executive office from the play as well as the umpires while conveying a moral / ethical concern about the injury that Mr. Tejada incurred.
The truth is, if and when Mr. Utley appeals his two game suspension, he is likely to win his appeal because of the way the umpires handled the call – in his favor.
The umpires had a couple of choices: they could have ruled that Mr. Utley interfered in the play which would have allowed a double play call, and ended the inning.
The umpires could have invoked the “neighborhood rule” which would have also invoked a double play and ended the inning.
One thing is for sure – the high level of subjectivity in making the call by the umpires has created a controversy on many levels.
By the book, Mr. Utley may be vindicated, but the long overdue process of updating rules to protect mid-fielders hopefully, will now begin.
Undoubtedly, playing short-shop & second base in major league baseball is a high risk position with career ending injury potential.
Allowing players to egregiously injure opposing players while running the base-paths on the premise / justification that it’s a necessary component of the game is without merit.
Mr. Utley, unknowingly, may have opened pandora’s box in his pursuit of professional sports excellence.
It now becomes the timely obligation of MLB, the players, and the Players Association to review his behavior on-field and determine what is best for the sport.
Lets watch tonight and see what happens.