Utley not in Dodgers’ Game 3 lineup, still could play
Chase Utley joined the ranks of John Rocker and Pete Rose as the object of Mets’ fans ire, the focal point of boos and profane chants.
By the fifth inning Monday night his name had become a party tune, with the crowd chirping gleefully, "We want Utley!" and "Where is Utley?"
Two days after his slide to break up a double play broke the right leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada at Dodger Stadium, Utley remained eligible to appear while appealing his two-game suspension.
But the marked man never got in as the Mets took a seven-run lead by the middle innings and routed Los Angeles 13-7 for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL Division Series.
Impromptu choruses of derision broke out among spectators warming their vocal chords on the No. 7 subway line heading to Citi Field’s first postseason contest. The ballpark became a bit of a target field — some fans even brought photos of Utley superimposed over a bull’s-eye.
Fans booed fiercely when Utley was introduced. Tejada, using a blue cane decorated with orange Mets logos, was cheered boisterously.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his view earlier Monday, pronouncing Utley "guilty as sin."
What did Utley think of the reception?
Steve Brener, a Dodgers director of publicity in the 1970s and `80s and now a team consultant, stood between a pair of reporters and Utley after the game and said Utley did not want to answer questions. After dressing, Utley left silently.
Under the sport’s collective bargaining agreement, Utley’s hearing is to start within 14 days of Major League Baseball receiving the appeal, and penalties are held in abeyance pending a decision.
"I feel like MLB got, you know, maybe a little bit bullied into suspending him. Never happened before. I’ve seen slides a lot worse," Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said.
John McHale Jr., the baseball executive who will hear the appeal, listened to the positions of management and the players’ union on timing and is expected to set a date Tuesday.
Instead of Utley, Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly played regular starter Howie Kendrick at second.
"Howie’s been swinging the bat good, and we feel like he gives us the best chance to win today," Mattingly said.
Kendrick was 3 for 8 in the first two games of the series, while Utley went 1 for 2 in a pair of appearances as a pinch hitter. Batting leadoff, Kendrick went 2 for 5 with a three-run, ninth-inning homer.
New baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred met before the game with Mattingly, Mets manager Terry Collins and each team’s top baseball executive, New York’s Sandy Alderson and Los Angeles’ Andrew Friedman. The umpires did not start the teams with warnings about hitting batters in retaliation.
"Donnie and I totally agreed. We just said the one thing we wanted to make sure didn’t happen was that nobody on either side or the umpires got too carried away," Collins said. "We all know during the course of a game someone’s going to get knocked down, not intentionally. There’s going to be someone who slides, makes a funny slide or something, and it’s all part of the game. And he said, `I totally understand.’"
Rose became a Mets enemy in Game 3 of the 1973 NL Championship Series at Shea Stadium, when he took out shortstop Bud Harrelson trying to break up a double play, leading to a brawl. Fans later threw beer cans, cups and a whiskey bottle toward Rose’s left field position, and Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson pulled the Reds off the field for almost 20 minutes.
Rocker drew ire after he was quoted in a December 1999 Sports Illustrated story he would rather retire than play in New York. He said "Imagine taking the 7 train … next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time." That drew him a 14-day suspension, and when he returned to Shea with Atlanta, the Mets limited beer sales to two per person at a time instead of four.
Utley was penalized Sunday by Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, who said Utley’s takeout was an "illegal slide."
The tying run scored on the play, the first of four runs in the inning, and the Dodgers went on to win 5-2 and tie the series at one game apiece. If umpires had ruled the slide illegal, they could have called an inning-ending double play, which would have left the Mets ahead 2-1.
"I feel terrible about Ruben’s injury," Utley said in a statement Monday. "Now my teammates and I are focused on Game 3 and doing everything we can to win this series."
Notes: McHale had been MLB’s executive vice president of administration from 2002 until April, when he received his new title. He has continued his role of hearing appeals of on-field discipline.