Chase Utley suspended for two playoff games

An unexpected turn Sunday in the controversy over Chase Utley's slide that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. Baseball suspended Utley for the next two games of the Dodgers-Mets playoff series even though, at the time, the umpires on the field did not rule Utley out of line at all. The uproar has been pretty loud since the incident, however, especially among New York fans. Media types joined in calling for Utley's head. An informal poll of baseball players supported the legality of his slide — which clearly was late and aimed at the infielder, as slides at second base often are.

Utley says through his agent that he will appeal the suspension, but the way that works in baseball is that the appeal just goes to the rules executive who declared the suspension in the first place: Joe Torre, the former Dodgers manager. If the suspension stands, the Dodgers will not be allowed to replace Utley on their roster.

chase-utley-reacts.jpg"A two-game suspension for a legal baseball play is outrageous and completely unacceptable," agent Joel Wolfe said. "Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play. 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."

That part about hard slides not usually earning suspensions is irrefutably true. These kinds of slides, even when ruled illegal, don't result in suspensions during the season. But Torre ruled punishment was merited in this case. The rule broken forbids "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 reach the base."

The Dodgers issued a statement supporting Utley's appeal. "Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays," manager Don Mattingly said. "We love the way he plays. He's got a reputation for playing the game right, playing it hard, and we're behind him 100%."

The Mets' statement supported the suspension. Utley expressed remorse for the injury to the Mets' starting shortstop but it was unclear if he contacted Tejada personally.

The Mets and Dodgers have split the first two games of the National League Division Series and play the next two games in New York. The threat of retaliation and warnings from the umpires could end up altering the dynamics of Game 3, especially if pitchers are chilled from pitching inside.

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