When I first began blogging back in 2011, I wrote a half-dozen or so pieces centered on the Church of the Eternal Bleacher. Here is the inaugural piece.
http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2011/08/san-francisco-giants-baseball-august-26.html I now found this to be a handy tool for delving into the sordid Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada fiasco and have done so with this piece of writing.
Plenty To Say, but Nothing to Add
In the name of Buster, MadBum and One Hunter Percent, now and forever, you’re SAFE!
Welcome to the Church of the Eternal Bleacher, all southpaws welcome.
With the annual elimination of the Los Angeles Dodgers from the playoffs having taken place, the time has arrived for The Church of the Eternal Bleacher to reconvene, for the purpose of conducting an on-the-field examination of the Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada debacle. This is not a trial, per se, to determine guilt or innocence, so much as an analysis of the incident to allow for resolution of three unanswered questions.
The old-school slide that Utley employed, broke Tejada’s fibula and sent him off the field and out of the playoffs, so the first question that looms would be, Is Chase Utley guilty of anything other than being an old-school baseball player?
Secondly, was his slide “dirty,” with the resulting injury to Ruben Tejada, solely on the shoulders of Utley? If so, then what?
The third question is, should the rule covering this specific scenario be revisited, a la the Buster Posey rule?
The Church of the Eternal Bleacher is not here cast aspersions on Chase Utley or the team for whom he currently plays, which is why San Francisco Giants fans have been excluded from all proceedings. Though among the best fans the baseball world knows, they do take matters involving their rival from the south quite seriously, and can understandably be expected to be biased.
We are graced with the presence of many of today’s stars, some of whom will voice an opinion during the following proceedings. A committee comprised of members from The Church of the Eternal Bleacher, will ultimately render a decision, which will endeavor to include appropriate responses to the three questions posed above.
Let’s play ball, beginning with the question of whether Utley is guilty of anything more than playing good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed ball.
According to Derek Jeter, who has spent a minute or two at shortstop, “...if you watch video from years ago, that kind of stuff happened. It’s nasty. It’s tough when it knocks a guy out like that, especially in the playoffs.” Utley’s teammate, Howie Kendrick, had this to say, “It’s baseball. He probably did slide late. It’s kind of unfortunate the guy ended up hurt...”
“Kind of unfortunate”...That phrase is one of those which hits the grass and keeps on bouncing, ricocheting around the bullpen area, as fielders chase it fruitlessly...
When asked his opinion, Chipper Jones intoned, “That was not a slide; that is not how you ‘go in hard.’” Utley himself says he did not realize that Tejada had his back to him, until it was too late, to which I call, “Baloney.”
Utley has the play unfolding in front of him; he sees Tejada taking the throw and sweeping to one side of the basepath, and he has been around long enough to know there is no time for Tejada to make the 180 degree turn. It’s all about the willingness to start the slide after he had passed second base, and the fact that a man got injured unnecessarily.
Justin Turner weighed in with this, “Everyone knows how hard Chase plays the game and [he] did what everyone would do going hard to break up the double play...” Turner, a teammate by the way, dabbles in a bit of hyperbole here, when he says “everyone.” That is blatantly incorrect.
So was Utley’s slide “dirty?” The Dodger organization evidently thought not, as it issued a statement that read, in part, “The Dodgers stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension issue by Major League Baseball.”
There is the school of thought which says the slide was wrong simply because a man got hurt, but there is also that which dictates that the guy playing the position has got to know the risks that accompany his turf. In fact on September 24th, 2010, an almost identical play took place while Utley still played for the Phillies and Tejada was already on the Mets.
The difference between the two plays is that Tejada got his feet out of the way the first time, and was therefore not injured when he was dumped to the ground. Nonetheless, having been upended once already playing against the same player, it would have behooved Tejada to get out of the way, simply because Utley’s actions matched his reputation. Forewarned is forearmed.
In handing down the penalty of two games’ suspension, Joe Torre called the slide illegal. Torre said upon a complete examination of the play he concluded Utley’s slide merited punishment. Torre said it was up to the umpire on the field at the time of the play, to make the judgment call, but that he was not blaming the umpiring crew for the controversy.
All Joe Torre seemed to want was to not have his star players hurting one another. Because the umpiring crew for the game in question did not see fit to penalize Utley, Torre did not do so, either.
Sitting in the back of the room, with plenty to say but nothing to add, was Marco Scutaro, who has played only a handful of games since his debilitating encounter with Matt Holliday during the 2012 National League Championship Series, which the Giants ended up winning, four games to three.
Should the rule be amended?
I don’t know; shall we put the question to Scutaro and Tejada?
I am not surprised that it took the Church of the Eternal Bleacher committee less time to reach consensus on the three questions, than it takes Yasiel Puig to strike out, which he did in three of his six plate appearances during the 2015 playoffs, ending with a batting average of .000.
To answer the first question, the committee ruled that Chase Utley was guilty of being nothing other than an old-school ballplayer, except maybe also being an oaf. Secondly, yes, his slide was dirty but according to an outdated code, Utley can not be held accountable, legally.
Finally, whereas one might have hoped that a rule change was not imperative, it is apparent that as long as there are those willing to play the game with no regard for the safety of others, that something will have to be implemented.
In conclusion virtue is its own reward, and vice versa. Karma is a cruel mistress, praise Buddha for that, and the team from LA got exactly what was coming to it. No one is suggesting that Chase Utley deliberately caused Ruben Tejada’s injury, but his reckless play did exactly that, and the Dodgers paid the appropriate price, praise Buddha for that.
The baseball gods are alive and kicking...