MLB suspends Utley two games for illegal slide; Utley to appeal
NEW YORK — Safe at second base — and suspended for two games.
Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chase Utley was banned for two playoff games by Major League Baseball on Sunday night following his late takeout slide that broke New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s right leg.
Utley’s agent called the penalty "outrageous and completely unacceptable" and said there would be an appeal.
Appeal by Utley will cite a number of similar slides that did not result in discipline.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 12, 2015
The Mets and Dodgers are tied at 1-all in the best-of-five NL Division Series. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday night at Citi Field.
An appeal would allow Utley to play until the hearing process is complete. MLB would likely try to resolve the matter Monday, before the series resumes.
In handing down the penalty, MLB executive Joe Torre called it an illegal slide. Umpires ruled it a legal play Saturday night, and Utley was even awarded second base after a replay review showed Tejada never touched the bag with his toe.
Torre said after a complete examination, he concluded Utley’s slide merited punishment.
Utley’s agent, Joel Wolfe, saw it differently.
"A two-game suspension for a legal baseball play is outrageous and completely unacceptable. Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play," Wolfe said in a statement.
"We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions. Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada’s injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody. We will be appealing this suspension immediately."
When the Mets and Dodgers played in the 1988 NL Championship Series, there also was a suspension. Dodgers reliever Jay Howell was penalized three games for having pine tar in his glove — he appealed, and his suspension was cut to two games.
The 36-year-old Utley, a six-time All-Star, has a part-time role with the Dodgers after they acquired him Aug. 19 from Philadelphia. But before the suspension was announced, manager Don Mattingly said Utley might start Game 3 because of his productive numbers against Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (6 for 18 with a homer) and the lefty-righty matchup.
In their own statement, the Dodgers said they stand behind Utley and his decision to appeal.
With the Dodgers trailing by a run in the seventh inning Saturday, Utley slammed into Tejada at second base to make sure the Mets could not complete a double play that would have kept them ahead. Utley went in high and hard, crashing into Tejada’s legs and flipping the shortstop head over heels.
The tying run scored, Tejada was wheeled off with a fractured fibula and the Dodgers rallied for three more runs in the inning, going on to a 5-2 victory that evened the series.
"I recognize that there has been much commentary and many questions regarding the unfortunate play in last night’s game in which Ruben Tejada was injured. As I said after the game, the determination of whether a baserunner has intentionally interfered with a player attempting to turn a double play is left to the judgment of the umpire on the field, and that judgment call is not subject to review. I should add that determining where to draw the line between illegal slide and a legitimate hard play is an extremely difficult call for our umpires," Torre said.
"However, after thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline. While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base."
The Mets quickly released a statement saying they "completely support the decision" and "feel this was the appropriate course of action."
"With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball," the club said.
Torre said MLB has been talking with the players union this year about potential rules changes to better protect middle infielders.
"We intend to continue those discussions this offseason," he said.
Utley batted .212 with eight homers and 39 RBI in 107 games with the Phillies and Dodgers this season. He hit .202 with three home runs and nine RBI in 34 games with Los Angeles.
Utley had a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning Saturday to help the Dodgers rally.