Major League Baseball today rescinded the two game suspension of Chase Utley for his take-out slide of Ruben Tejada during the National League Division Series.
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According to Joel Sherman, Joe Torre explained the situation:
The decision by the MLB to change course on its suspension of Chase Utley may lead to future issues when a player goes out of his way to harm another player.
First, Utley was allowed the opportunity during the playoff series to appeal his suspension, and therefore continue to play during the rest of the playoffs. Although the New York Mets were able to top the Los Angeles Dodgers, the player who was injured, Ruben Tejada, was not able to continue. Tejada may or may not have made a difference in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, but we never got an opportunity to see it.
Then after an off-season in which it was unknown if Utley would retire which would have made his suspension a moot point anyway, his suspension is then rescinded. The minor solace that a Mets fan took about his punishment at the time, now is gone.
And to make matters even worse, Utley is being somewhat commended for spurring talks with the union. As though his slide was a good thing. Let’s get real!
As a former second baseman, I know what it is like to stare down a runner making his approach to second. It is understood that you protect yourself, but also make the play for the team. When a player is not playing the game with the safety of all the players on the field in mind, it creates an environment of aggression. Baseball is not football, and never will be.
There is one solution to the problem in sports of suspending players who hurt others, and it is pretty simple really.
When a player is found to have intentionally injured another player in professional sports, and it causes the other player to miss time, the offending player must sit a minimum of the amount of games missed by the injured player. (No if, ands, or buts.)
If an NBA player undercuts another, and he is subsequently out with the injury for a month, the player who caused it is also out for a month, minimum.
Torre mentions that inconsistency in the rule meant no suspension. But that means that intent to cause bodily harm does not lead to any punishment. Just because it was hidden inside of a play that did not have a consistent rule, does not mean that the intent to harm was not there.
And again, Utley is seen as a martyr in this situation, becoming the villain of New York. But the true victim was Tejada, who lost the remainder of his season due to his injury. Because of the lack of a rule in place, Utley was allowed to play without consequences.
Utley is a shell of his former self on the field, and it won’t make any difference in the Dodgers season whether he sits the first two games or not. But the rules of the appeal process in baseball, which allowed the time and emotions of the moment to pass, should also be changed.
That issue will be in my next article.