Chase Utley, Ruben Tejada, and the Future of the “Take-Out-Slide”

via MLBTradeRumors.com

by Michael Reistetter

 

On Sat, Oct. 10, the New York Mets held a 2-1 lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of NLDS Game 2. With one victory already in the series, they were well on their way to taking a “two games to zero” lead back home to New York. Then came what will forever be infamously known as, “The Slide.”

 

To break up a double play, Chase Utley of the Dodgers, performed a “take-out-slide,” on Mets Shortstop, Ruben Tejada, at second base.  Utley’s hard and blatantly late slide tied the game for the Dodgers, but ultimately left Tejada with a broken fibula.

 

What made matters more complicated is that after Utley was originally determined out by the second base umpires, a play review was conducted. The call was reversed, and Utley was subsequently rewarded second base, despite never even touching the bag. Earning the momentum for the first time all game, the Dodgers rallied for three more runs and went on to win 5-2.

 

An outpour of displeasure with the slide followed on social media. Fans, and even players, voiced their opinions about what they believed to be a “dirty” slide.

San Diego Padres Outfielder, Justin Upton, notably tweeted,  “If that was a superstar shortstop we would have a Tulo Rule being enforced tomorrow,” referring to Blue Jays Shortstop Troy Tulowitski. The tweet also strongly alluded to 2011 ban on a collisions at home-plate that came in the off-season, following a year where All-Star catcher Buster Posey suffered a broken leg after being barreled by a runner.

 

According to MLB Vice president of Operations, Joe Torre, the umpires concluded the play could not be categorized as a “neighborhood play.” In “neighborhood plays,” a middle infielder is allowed to either graze or even miss the bag entirely if he indeed has both control of the ball and is positioned towards the first base direction for a potential throw. This play failed to meet the standards of what constitutes a “neighborhood play” because Tejada’s back was turned as a result of receiving a less than adequate toss from second basemen, Daniel Murphy.

 

Utley was subsequently handed a two-game suspension, appropriately during the two games in New York, after the league determined his slide was executed with “malicious intent.” Despite appealing his suspension, Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly, chose to bench Utley for the two New York games. This was likely a means to protect Utley from facing retaliation by the New York Mets for injuring Tejada.

 

In his post-game press conference, Joe Torre also declared that in this year’s Arizona Fall League, where the top minor league prospects from each team are assigned, the league will test out their tentative plan: To have players slide directly into bases.

Frankly, illegalizing the only contact aspect of the game left it easier said than done. To require veterans to all of a sudden unlearn an involuntary skillset they were taught as children is absurdist in nature. But with the the age of play review technology, instant replay, and social media scrutiny, the league will ultimately have no choice but to do away with the take-out-slide, a play embedded in the early roots of America’s past-time, altogether.