The Utley Rule: 7 Months Later

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Game 2. NLDS. Seventh inning. Howie Kendrick at the plate with the tying run on third and Chase Utley at first. Kendrick hits a ground ball up the middle, fielded by Daniel Murphy who pitches it to Ruben Tejada…

Chase Utley, in a move performed by hundreds of players before him, performs a take-out slide to break up the double play. What resulted was a media and fan firestorm that has continued to tonight. The Mets and Dodgers continue their season against each other this evening–the first such meeting between the two teams since the NLDS. All eyes will be on the Mets pitching staff and how they treat Chase Utley tonight at the plate. But all of this, the media attention, the Utley rule, and the view of Utley as a “dirty player,” is all just a misplaced attempt by the “make baseball fun again” crowd to smear the takeout slide as a dirty play.

Seed SackIs the Utley Rule Necessary? Probably. No one would say Ruben Tejada’s broken leg was a positive outcome to the play, and by-and-large, players will be safer because of it. But to suggest this particular takeout slide was an outlier is simply not true.

Those are just two examples of players (one of them arguably the most revered baseball player of all time) who played the game hard. Utley’s slide wasn’t in July with the Dodgers up 8. It was in the NLDS. In the seventh to tie the game up. Can we really publicly crucify a player (and a middle infielder, at that) for going in hard like so many of the game’s greats before him to break up a double play and tie the game?

I argue no. The Utley rule is needed. It is going to keep the young greats like Correa, Lindor, and Simmons from getting hurt and may extend the careers of veteran middle infielders who don’t have too many takeout slides left to take. But before we skewer Chase Utley as a villain, let’s remember the Jackie Robinson’s of the game who played the game just as hard. Take it easy on Chase Utley, and enjoy the game tonight, folks.