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A confused San Francisco Giants fan tries to make sense of the neighborhood play

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Oct 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (11) collides with Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley (26) at second base during the seventh inning in game two of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

And here’s a little tidbit I learned in my cruise down the information superhighway looking for the answer: Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly and second baseman Chase Utley are no strangers to the whole replay review issue when it comes to the neighborhood play vs. the force out.  On September 3, 2015 in a game between the Dodgers and the Padres, a Padres runner made it to second after the Dodgers second baseman, Utley, fielded the ball. The umpires ruled that the runner was safe because the second baseman never touched the bag.

Ian Denomme wrote all about it in Big League Stew on September 4, 2015. “While he may not have directly touched the bag on the exchange, it’s a relatively routine play in baseball circles know as the “neighborhood play.” Utley has probably done the exact play many times without incident. Dodger manager Don Mattingly challenged, but the call was upheld.”

Mattingly was upset with the umpire, and he had this to say:

“He told me he didn’t believe in the neighborhood play so I guess he changed the rules tonight and it is something for the league to think about, really…I didn’t realize he could actually change the rules during the game.”

During the Padres/Dodgers September 4, 2015 game (the next day), another second base force out/neighborhood play issue came up. Only this time, like the most recent one, the baserunner was Utley. The second baseman was not on the bag, not even close when Utley went into his slide. But Utley didn’t slide into the base, he slid into the second baseman–who, like Tejada, got knocked head over heels by Utley. Utley was not close to second base. He couldn’t even reach it if he tried. Utley was out, but there was an on-field delay while Mattingly had a discussion with the ump. The game resumed.

I’m starting to see a couple of patterns. One is Utley’s penchant for sliding into second basemen. Apparently karma isn’t high on his list of things to worry about. The other is that as long as umpires are going to be inconsistent about the neighborhood play/replay review issue, Mattingly is going to ask for a review if the call doesn’t go his way.

Fast forward to October 10, 2015‒same shoe, different foot. This time the other team’s second baseman wasn’t touching the bag when Utley “slid into” second base (read second baseman). And Donnie Baseball likes the way the umpire in the September 3rd game applied the  rule. He asked for a review of the play at second when Utley was called out after sliding in‒late and off the base, and according to the MLB–illegally. But wait a minute, neighborhood plays aren’t reviewable, right? So the play was determined to be–nudge∗nudge, wink∗wink–a force out/fielder’s choice.

After the replay review, the call was overturned and Utley returned to second base and Mattingly finally got the call to go his way. Instead of being the second out of the inning, he scored the second run of the inning. The tying run scored on the play in question–you know, the one that wasn’t a neighborhood play, but the hitter that came up after Utley flied out. That might have been the third out. There’s a good chance that the outcome of the game was affected by that one (not so) simple call.

My question is this–are there consequences to Utley’s illegal slide? Would the outcome of the game have been different if  the call on the field had been confirmed? If Mets manager Terry Collins continued the game under protest, that might be an issue.

As for the players, Utley has been suspended for games three and four of the NLDS because the slide was ruled illegal. He is appealing, so it looks like he’ll get to play until the appeal process is over. Who knows when that will be? Ruben Tejada, whose broken leg is in a cast, is on the DL. He’s done for the year. There’s no way to appeal that.

As for me? I’m still confused.

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