Mancuso: Baseball Needs A Rule Change

(Photo: Twitter: @MLB)

Matt Harvey said tomorrow night he is going to get on the mound and throw a good game. The New York Mets hope he does so at Citi Field against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS, but with Harvey and the Mets there is that loss of a teammate and the word retaliation has to be in the back of their minds.

However, the magnitude and significance of a postseason game is more important at this point for Harvey, the Mets and manager Terry Collins. In other words. no matter what the implications are from that Chase Utley bush league slide, described now as a tackle that disposed Ruben Tejada, the Mets have to tend to their business of winning a baseball game.

The implications and matter as to any punishment to Utley, and amending the rule book, that is being left to Major League Baseball, and for the well being of the game MLB needs to review and act fast. It may have been a play that players have been a victim of for years, but the Utley attempt to break up a double play ball has quickly turned that play into another direction.

Regardless of how one takes a stance on a play that will be talked about for years, it comes down to the safety and well being of a player on the field. If those within the MLB hierarchy are conscious of post concussion syndrome, and they are, then the Utley-Tejada play should lead to another amended rule as it applies to 6.05:

“A batter is out when 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 or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.”

Follow as you read, because not even baseball chief Joe Torre can comprehend the rule, or answer as to why Utley was ruled safe when he never touched the bag. The Mets, if not for a fallen teammate on the field, could have took the ball and tagged Utley for the out and possible double play.

But that became a mute issue when replay ruled the play was basically dead. What did not die, and will not, isTejada has a fractured right fibula, Utley is public enemy number 1 among Mets’ fans, and baseball needs to make a change a rule when it comes to protecting middle infielders.

Utley said it was not intentional, though it was not a typical break up the double play. Review the tape, as this observer has time and time again and it is obvious that Chase Utley had intent to take Tejada out. The slide was a tackle, and he never went for the bag at second base.

Naturally there are various opinions to what transpired, and once again as all sports debates are, comprehending the rule and getting the proper answer are all a matter of who do you believe? As with the famous controversial endings seen in the sport of boxing, this was a baseball play that will go in the record books.

So we need to look ahead and await the findings of Major League Baseball. Does Utley get a reprimand, fine, or suspension? Utley will play on, because if Tejada does not have a bokenn leg than this becomes that typical break up the double play on the field. Yes the play changed direction of the game, the series gets more intense, and the TBS network has a rating bonanza awaiting them Monday night.

Joe Torre said, MLB will determine the magnitude of the slide and take it from there as to any punitive actions against Utley. And the Mets, with Harvey on the mound Monday night , now have all the momentum on their side with a New York loud and angry crowd at Citi Field.

As for the rule, and why change is needed: Baseball and a home plate collision rule with the catcher, runner and the ball seemed to get it right the second straight year. That should be an indication, and more so with the Tejada-Utley play, that intent by the runner to take out the infielder is a rule that needs to be amended.

And don’t forget.Terry Collins used the right strategy out of the bullpen using Bartolo Colon to get the ground ball for a potential inning ending double play. It worked but Utley changed the plan. and the Mets questionable bullpen took over to give the Dodgers momentum and even the series at a game apiece.

With that in mind, here are some of the following comments gathered from baseball personnel, (Names withheld for obvious reasons) and those in the game willing to be outspoken about another safety issue that right now is more important than the outcome of a playoff game:

“Bush league, yeah. High school and college rule you have to slide directly into the base.” By rule, he (Utley) did nothing wrong. Dirty and bush league, yes. Dirty and late slide does not mean it’s an illegal slide.”

“Neighborhood play, that’s another issue.”

“Replay only tells one side of what happened.”

“I was a middle infielder like Chase is,” said a still shaken Mets manager Terry Collins when he met with media Sunday afternoon. “I am also a manager here. I’m not very happy about it. I’m not going into it. what has to be done. I was shaken by it. Got a lot of explanations what happened. Talked about the rule, the neighborhood play…that Chase did not touch the base. It was a late slide. It needs to be addressed.”

Collins added, “ I already thought the umpires once got it reviewed. Eight guys, professionals looking at it, They know what they had to do.”

“Middle infielders have always been subjected to this,” said a longtime scout. “Utley had the intent to take out Tejada and break up the double play. Tejada had his back to the play and unfortunate he was the victim. So I guess you have to say baseball needs to look at the rule, but how do you amend it?”

And the strong comments from Mets’ pitcher Carlos Torres who watched the play from his hotel room down in Port St. Lucie Florida, part of six Mets on a taxi squad in the event a replacement is needed on the roster because of an injury.

“It’s a shame with all the technology we have,” Torres said, “with all the money and time baseball has invested in the idea of replay we still get game changing plays wrong. By getting them wrong in this circumstance we are not only costing the players and city of New York a win, Tejada his health, but we are rewarding the Dodgers and Chase Utley for such a classless play.”

Yes it was a costly play for the Mets, and for baseball as a whole. In the days ahead the play will be the talk and not the significance of October baseball. The Mets can get their retribution with a win Monday night, and with Harvey on the mound they have that opportunity.

However, it now in the hands of those who run Major Leagues Baseball to get it right. A rule at home plate was implemented and now one for the protection of middle infielders needs to be amended.

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.con/Rich Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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