This is the reward you reap as an industry. Chase Utley's "slide" that sent Ruben Tejada out on a stretcher with a fractured fibula in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers Division Series was within the boundaries of how the game is played and called by the umpires but also clearly dirty and malicious. Just a few weeks ago, everybody fell all over themselves saying Chris Coghlan's slide that sent Jung Ho Kang to the sidelines for the season wasn't dirty. So this is what baseball deserves for letting this nonsense linger 45 years after Pete Rose destroyed Ray Fosse 38 years after Hal McRae crushed Willie Randolph and just a couple of years after they actually did move to protect catchers in home-plate collisions: A stinking heap of controversy, angry baseball fans across the country, casual fans turned off by obvious rules lunacy and a crucial playoff game that turned because baseball has been too gutless to call this the right way.
Look, there was a time when this is how baseball was played, when John McGraw and the famous Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s played baseball with spikes up, looking to draw blood whenever possible. Of course, it also was a time when players would frequently fight umpires or even jump into the stands and brawl with spectators. The remnants of those times still exist today, whether it's that "eye for an eye" mentality in intentionally throwing at batters or runners sliding viciously into middle infielders at second base, even if they're several feet off the bag, several feet past the bag or barreling in more like Kam Chancellor on a running back than a baserunner sliding into a bag.
A new rule would be easy to write: The baserunner must slide directly into the bag. This is how the game is played at the high school and college level, and nobody suffers their manhood as a result. Slide hard, but slide safe.
Now, I can even say that Utley's slide did break the rules and that, in fact, not only should he have been called out (Tejada not touching the bag is another issue completely), but the batter should have been called out, as well.
Rule 6.05 reads:
A batter is out when --
(m) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire's judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:
Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire's judgment play.
Was Utley trying to reach the base? No. Did he leave the baseline? Yes? Was it deliberate, unwarranted and unsportsmanlike? Yes. CALL THE RULE. IT'S ALREADY ON THE BOOKS.
Or you can use Rule 7.09:
It is interference by a batter or a runner when --
(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
Deliberately and willfully? Again, yes. CALL THE RULE. IT'S ALREADY ON THE BOOKS.
The Dodgers won the game 5-2. The series is even.
I would have loved to see how the game would have otherwise played out.
Utley was out three times: 1) willful interference 2) neighborhood play 3) never touched bag, abandoned field #FireChrisGuccione
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) October 11, 2015
that was a really weak attempt at a slide by utley😡😡😡😡
— Jose Reyes (@lamelaza_7) October 11, 2015
Sorry, but anybody who can look at Chase Utley's slide, and say "that looked clean," is dumb or lying.
— MLB Bulletin (@BulletinMLB) October 11, 2015
Lots of instant reaction to Chase Utley's slide. pic.twitter.com/xwiZY7c23j
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 11, 2015
To be fair, Utley plays the way he's told to play. This isn't on him, although not every player would slide with that degree of intent. You can certainly argue that Tejada should have just received the throw like a first baseman since turning a double play from that angle was unlikely. Still, that's not enough for me to excuse the slide.
This has nothing to do with "It's the way the game has always been played." We evolve. Play the game the right way: clean and fair and by the rules.