NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s no surprise that Chase Utley was one of the most reviled people in New York City back in October. But according to a report, the situation was so ugly that his family received death threats.
The Dodgers second baseman’s hard slide into second base in Game 2 of the National League Division Series left Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada with a broken leg.
Major League Baseball suspended Utley two games, but he appealed, allowing him to continue playing in the postseason. Officials later overturned the suspension.
When the series made its way to Flushing, Mets fans greeted him with a deafening chorus of boos. One fan held up a sign reading “Chase Utley (hearts) ISIS!” Mayor Bill de Blasio even declared that Utley was “guilty as sin” and should serve his suspension.
But behind the scenes, the venom was even greater. Citing people familiar with the situation, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Utley’s family was threatened. And Utley did not stay at the team hotel in New York, although that is reportedly Utley’s occasional custom.
“That was the plan prior to anything,” Utley told the newspaper. “It was probably better off that way.”
Utley is now set to return to the Big Apple for a three-game series. Although Tejada now plays for the St. Louis Cardinals, Mets fans are likely to let Utley know they haven’t forgotten what happened.
The Mets didn’t seek retribution when the teams squared off in L.A. earlier this month, but Utley, a six-time All-Star, said he expects to be thrown at this weekend.
Utley said he never meant to hurt Tejada and that he was just playing hard to disrupt a potential double play in a big game.
“Looking back on it, knowing that he was going to spin, he wasn’t going to get off his feet, I would have done things differently, knowing that he was going to get hurt,” Utley said. “But I can’t take that back. So I imagine the fans will let me have it.”
The play prompted a rule change preventing rolling block slides. It’s been called “the Chase Utley rule,” a tag the infielder reportedly dislikes.
If you ask Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Utley was doing nothing more than giving his all.
“Chase was playing the game the way he’s always played,” Kershaw told the L.A. Times. “Obviously you never want anybody to get hurt. The game being in the playoffs, and all that stuff, magnified everything. But there’s been a whole lot of slides a lot worse than that over the course of baseball (history). … Some of the stuff he had to go through, it wasn’t fair.”
Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren, who was on the Mets’ staff last season, agreed.
“Your player got hurt, so everybody was upset about it,” Geren said. “But you look at it, and that was just the way the game has been played since I played (in the 1980s and ’90s). In fact, I’ve seen some of the other ones in the ’70s that were incredible.
“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”