LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — Major League Baseball has suspended Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley for Games 3 and 4 of the NL Division Series, after his controversial slide into New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
Utley broke Tejada’s right leg during the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 5-2 win Saturday night while trying to break up a double play at second base.
Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, said after a thorough review from all angles, he concluded Utley’s slide merited a penalty.
“I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13), which is designed to protect precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base,” Torre said in part in a statement.
The Mets released a statement late Sunday in support of the suspension.
“The New York Mets completely support the decision made by Major League Baseball to suspend Chase Utley for two games and feel this was the appropriate course of action,” the Mets’ statement said. “With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball.”
But Utley’s agent called the penalty “outrageous and completely unacceptable” and said there would be an appeal, which means Utley may yet still play on Monday night at Citi Field.
“A two-game suspension for a legal baseball play is outrageous and completely unacceptable. Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play,” Wolfe said in a statement.
In their own statement, the Dodgers said they stand behind Utley and his decision to appeal.
MLB hopes to call a special hearing Monday and make a ruling in time for the game, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported.
The best-of-five NL Division Series is tied at one apiece.
Torre, a former manager of the Dodgers and Yankees, was at Dodger Stadium for the game on Saturday night.
The comment he referenced in the Official Baseball Rules to Rule 5.09 (a) (13) says umpires could have called an inning-ending double play if they decided Utley had gone outside the baseline and interfered with Tejada fielding the throw.
“The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base,” the comment says. “Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.”
With the Dodgers trailing by a run in the seventh inning Saturday, Utley slammed into Tejada at second base to make sure the Mets could not complete a double play that would have kept them ahead. Utley went in high and hard, crashing into Tejada’s legs and flipping the shortstop head over heels.
The tying run scored, Tejada was wheeled off with a fractured fibula and the Dodgers rallied for three more runs in the inning, going on to a 5-2 victory that evened the series.
Utley was only about a foot off the base. Torre said second base umpire Chris Guccione ruled it was a legal slide on the field.
Mets manager Terry Collins earlier Sunday told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola, he was upset about losing Tejada for the remainder of the playoffs.
“I lost a pretty good piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m not very happy about it. I’m not going to get into it. This is not the place for me in my background in what I think needs to be done. But again, I was pretty shaken up by it because I thought it was something that didn’t need to happen.”
Before the suspension was announced, Collins said he would support whatever Major League Baseball decided to do regarding the incident.
Meanwhile, pitcher Matt Harvey said before the announcement that he would “do what’s right” when he takes the mound in Game 3 of the series at Citi Field. He did not specify what he meant, but Star-Ledger Mets beat writer Mike Vorkunov weighed in Sunday night with CBS2’s Steve Overmyer on TV 10/55 — recorded before the suspension was announced.
“It sure seems like there’s something coming for the Dodgers Monday night; retribution of some sort,” Vorkunov said.
Vorkunov predicted that tension would increase in the games to come.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this series got a little bit testy. You’re not going to try to make it malicious because that would obviously be dangerous and obvious,” Vorkunov said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if the guys go harder into second base now; if those type of near plays; you know, if everything just gets a little more animated.”
As CBS2’s Steve Langford reported, Mets fans were not pleased with Utley at all Sunday afternoon.
“Utley went out of the way to take him out, so it’s all right — still got to take care of business at home,” said Anthony Giuliano of Staten Island.
At the Mets Shop near Times Square, fans from near and far were gathering for the game. Jesus Cosme is a Mets fan and his wife a Dodgers fan, and they took the redeye from Los Angeles to New York to go to Game 3.
But what they both agreed upon is how they said Dodger Stadium did not show much class when Utley hit Tejada.
“A lot of the fans were cheering when he went down,” Cosue said. “They did start clapping once he got up and got carted off.”
For some Mets fans, what happened to Tejada could be considered something of a federal case.
“I thought it was deliberate, and I thought the umpire missed the boat,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
But one die-hard Mets fan told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern he didn’t think Utley went too far.
“I don’t think he was that bad to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’ve seen worse than that.”
Another baseball fan from Bayside thinks Utley should get suspended for breaking Tejada’s leg “because of the way he flipped him.”
“He didn’t even touch the base,” he said.
“That’s a judgment call,” Torre said before the suspension was announced. “…They get a chance, one shot to look at it … I can’t fault the umpire for everything he had to look at.”
Torre also said umpires were correct to award Utley second base after the Dodgers asked for a video review, which determined Tejada did not touch the base on the play. Utley did not touch the base on the slide.
“He never needed to touch the base because the umpire called him out,” Torre said. “You’re correcting the umpire’s mistake. In that situation, going to replay and they see the runner never touched the base, but the umpire called him out, by replay rules we can correct the situation and put the runner on the bag.”
Torre said Tejada had not been subject to the protection of the “neighborhood play” which allows fielders to not touch the base but still be credited with the out. The throw Tejada received from second baseman Daniel Murphy took Tejada away from the bag.
“This wasn’t a neighborhood play because spinning around and reaching for the ball and stuff like that,” Torre said.
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