Utley Gets Hit Today?

Okay, now it’s just getting annoying. After nearly a decade of torturing Met pitchers (and their fans) while wearing a Phillies uniform, Chase Utley then moves to LA-LA land where he has a vicious encounter with the Mets only real shortstop at a key moment in a playoff game. Adding insult to injury, the play is reviewed and Utley is called safe. Given what’s at stake, the Mets really can’t retaliate for this, but they gain a measure of revenge by winning the series. The sentiment is that they will settle accounts with Chase in 2016.

But…Ruben Tejada, the broken-legged victim of Utley’s psychotic version of “old-school” baseball (enough with this old-school crap, corporal punishment of children, cigarette ads on TV during Prime Time and the use of leeches to treat diseases where all once considered good ideas too) was cut in Spring Training. So, the Mets no longer have a reason, so the story goes, to exact revenge. See ya Ruben.

Until last night that is. ICYMI, in a classic Terry Collins move, he brought in his closer, Jeurys Familia to lock down a 5-1 Met win. This move had “trouble” written all over it from the moment that #27 walked out of the bullpen. For some odd reason, Familia is one of those closers who can’t deliver without the game on the line. He loaded the bases and then walked in a run. With two outs, up to the plate strode Utley. One pitch later, the game was tied and Utley stood on third, struggling to suppress a smirk.

Looking at those throwback uniforms the Mets were wearing and seeing that Dodger Blue, I immediately flashed back to Game Four of the 1988 NLCS. But before I could call my therapist to schedule another appointment, Curtis Granderson alleviated my PTSD with a walk off homer.

Back to Utley. The Mets are sending Noah Syndergaard to the mound tonight. He was the only starter to stand up to the Royals in the World Series last year, brushing back their leadoff hitter and telling the Royals that he is is only 60 feet six inches away if they wanted to do something about it. BTW, that was the only game the Mets won in that all too brief encounter. So if Dodger manager Dave Roberts is crazy enough to pencil Utley in the lineup again tonight, Syndergaard needs to take aim at his (Utley’s) ribs at his earliest opportunity. Again, I am not “old school,” but enough is enough.

It’s early, but I don’t think that the Mets and LA will be hooking up again this postseason.The Giants look really good again and the Mets, Washington and Pittsburgh look to be lining up for one divisional crown and two wildcard spots between them, so I sense this is the year that LA ends up on the outside looking in. I get the fact that the Mets couldn’t retaliate during the playoffs and that the issue appeared to be over when they visited LA earlier this month. So, it’s time to settle this once and for all.

Did Utley re-ignite the fire? There is only one way to find out.

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. meticated May 28, 2016 at 7:33 am
    Leeches are still used today in microsurgery!
    • Dan Capwell May 28, 2016 at 8:27 am
      Lousy Obamacare 🙂
  2. Dan42 May 28, 2016 at 8:51 am
    Thor the Barber, please.
  3. david May 28, 2016 at 10:20 am
    First of all, please Terry don’t send the Family man into the opener of a series that is already in hand. Let Reed, Bastardo, Merrett, Henderson or Robles mop up the Dodgers who went down meekly in the 7th and showed no signs of a fight back.

    Second, I think Sunday is payback day. That seems to be how it is done these days. If that means a Colon 89 MPH fastball between the blades then so be it. The whole Utley thing is a distraction, albeit one that needs to be addressed. Dodgers could be a repeat in the NLDS or NLCS so Mets should send a clear message. A simple brush back would suffice from Thor but the fans are baying for blood and my preference is to not put the job on 23/24 (?) year old Noah. Being the Ace should have its privileges even if, as I expect, he is more than happy to drill him.

  4. argonbunnies May 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm
    Wait, you want to drill Utley for coming up with a big hit? That’s the WORST version of “old school”. That’s nonsense.

    I was all for retribution for Ruben, but the Mets failed to do that, and drilling Utley now would just look like pouting.

    Although, I guess if Thor pegs him just to fire up the crowd, I wouldn’t object to that. (Utley shows no pain at all, though, so to really satisfy the crowd, a pitch to knock him down or make him jump would probably be better than an actual HBP. Does Noah have good enough control to execute “near his head, but not AT his head”? I’d never advocate risking hitting a guy in the head.)

  5. argonbunnies May 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm
    Familia with a 4-run lead? Certainly not necessary, but also not a problem unless he’s been overworked.

    Good hitting on a soft opposite-field liner by Gonzalez. Lucky chopper by Kendrick — if he gets a little more of that pitch, it might be a double play, two outs and no one on. Then another DP chance on a pulled grounder by Puig, but Cabrera was playing toward the middle so it got through. This is regular old Familia — lotsa ground balls. Jeurys wasn’t somehow less than himself coming into the inning.

    Losing his control against Grandal (4 balls) and Utley (1 grooved) was the real problem.

    Save situation or otherwise, Familia hasn’t been the K machine he was for most of last year. Sometimes those grounders will find holes and he’ll give up runs. Expect an average number of blown saves — maybe 5 or 6 — by season’s end.

  6. DaveSchneck May 28, 2016 at 10:51 pm
    With the luxury of posting after the fact, the tossing of Syndergaard was an absolute joke. That umpire should be suspended. The pitch was far behind Utley and nowhere near his head. Everyone, including Utley, knew the deal. Syndergaard actually did the least dangerous retaliation possible, which would have ended the saga.
  7. Dan Capwell May 29, 2016 at 7:49 am
    Right Again
  8. Gregg from Hoboken May 29, 2016 at 8:52 am
    I was surprised that Syndergaard tossed at him. The previous unclaimed opportunities to have sent the message (5 games’ worth, mind you) went unclaimed and it seemed to me the Mets opted out. I doubt the home run was a factor, however. Nor did I feel that Tejada’s being traded removed the reason. Either you stick up for a teammate and allow yourselves to be bullied or you don’t. It shouldn’t matter that he was subsequently traded.

    I found the umpire’s tossing of Syndergaard last night unacceptable. There had been no warning, and it wasn;t a HBP. He inserted himself into the outcome of the game and — in my view — acted emotionally in the heat of the moment. He’s supposed to be the grown-up in the room out there. Instead, he was the foot-stomping child.

    • TexasSportsFan May 29, 2016 at 10:17 pm
      Who was bullied? Utley made a baseball play that turned into something more because Tejada turned his back and didn’t get out of the way. He was simply trying to break up the double-play, not trying to hurt the guy.

      When you go into a game knowing that one team is probably going to throw at an opposing player there’s no warning necessary. You warn when you’re not sure whether something was intentional or not. When you know it’s intentional you eject the player. It was a bad decision on Syndergaard’s part to do what he did, especially at that point in the game. You can argue whether he should have been tossed, but any time you throw at a player you’re taking a chance. Maybe
      they were trying to satisfy the Mets fans who have taken this thing way beyond what it merited. Death threats to Utley’s family? Time to forget this incident, and move on.

      • Dan42 May 30, 2016 at 8:18 am
        No, it was turned into more because they didn’t call Utley out for leaving the base path, and/or obstruction. As for blaming Tejada for turning his back, well beyond what should have been Utley’s target, really?

        I agree it was poorly handled, but let’s not misconstrue how it started.

        • Joe Janish May 30, 2016 at 11:54 pm
          They didn’t call Utley out for leaving the base path because he didn’t leave the base path. There are plenty of photos and video available via google / youtube that clearly show that Utley was in the base path. His shoulder was over the bag when the collision occurred, which is clear evidence he was within the base path.

          He wasn’t called for obstruction because as the runner he had the right to the bag.

          We’ve been over this here before, but I’ll repeat: Murphy put Tejada into a vulnerable position by trying to do the impossible, and failing miserably by giving Tejada a terrible feed. Tejada compounded the situation by being as wildly irresponsible as Murphy and putting himself not only in harm’s way, but by turning his back as if he were a ballerina doing a pirouette. There is no situation, ever, that a middle infielder should be turning his back on a runner. Ever. Tejada was in a vulnerable position due to the combined foolishness of himself and Murphy, both of whom chose to ignore their status as human beings and instead thought they were comic book superheroes with super powers such as that of The Flash.

          25% of baseball is knowing your strengths. Another 25% is knowing your limitations. The other half is knowing how to manage both. And it wasn’t the first time Murphy and Tejada acted irresponsibly — we called both of them out numerous times here through the years. This was the time one of them was personally harmed as a result.

      • Gregg from Hoboken May 30, 2016 at 9:41 am
        I certainly agree that it’s time to now move on, at least as far as Utley is concerned. All the anger at this point is towards Adam Hamari for having, what seems to me, to be an overzealous and emotional response. Some of the level of expecation was raised not by the fans but by the Mets’ own rhetoric in the immediate aftermath of the Utley slide. Collins and the players implied that they would not let this stand. Had they responded that they were going to let their play on the field speak for itself, it’s a different issue. Instead they elected to run their mouths about how they’d square this up.

        The death threats were a disgrace. So would a pitch aimed at Utley’s head. The timing was also odd. This should have occurred sooner.

  9. Vilos May 29, 2016 at 9:44 am
    Lots of points

    1. Great chineese proverb digged up by Rubin today “if you seek revenge, dig two graves”. Only problem is they only used one
    2. When did the Mets get angry at Utley: when the play happened, when they saw the replay and realized what happened, when the media and the fans roared for a circus or when he Utley stands up and continues to perform?
    3. Old school seems to be “right away” as Odor did recently or as Knight did so often in 86
    4. Now, if they chose to not retaliate last year, were they really into last night? Was it anger, was it standing up for whats right “the right way to play the game”, was it a show or were they playing with him?
    5. Anger doesnt seem like it. Standing up probably is. A show could be. Playing with him should have been.
    6. My point: its always part of any game to play with the rivals mind. Utley takes many pitches and has shown it doesnt get to him. But he knew, as everyone else did, that it was an issue. What he didnt know was when and how. He isnt young any more and nagging injuries seemed to have had him down for a while, so pitching to him in a special unpredictable way could be a way to throw him off, more than straight up hitting him.
    7. Last one: what does Alderson have to say?

  10. TexasSportsFan May 29, 2016 at 10:07 pm
    Utley is not psychotic and never smirks. I hope you watched the game last night when he destroyed the Mets and never changed expressions. Already has a hit and a run in tonight’s game. Syndergaard’s decision to throw at Utley was a mistake, and the Mets paid the price. Yes, Utley is old school, but he never tried to hurt Tejada. I’ve seen that slide in hundreds of games by hundreds of players over the years. The difference was that Tejada turned his back and had no chance to get out of the way. When you decide to throw at a player there’s always the risk of being tossed. With Tejada gone, not sure why it was even an issue anymore. It’s a good thing NS didn’t hit him because he would probably have been suspended. Time to end this nonsense.
    • Gregg from Hoboken May 30, 2016 at 9:47 am
      I don’t think Tejada’s departure should matter. A teammate, one who’s been injured by the same player previously, got blindslided and hurt by what was viewed as a dirty play. Just because the teammate is no longer there doesn’t mean the behavior was acceptable, nor the burden of protecting your own removed.

      From your responses you’re very much a proponent of old-school baseball of the sort that Utley’s slide represents. It’s that same old school style of play that dictates and sets precedent for the on-mound sort of answer that we saw.

      • Joe Janish May 30, 2016 at 10:30 am
        Agree with TexasSportsFan – what Utley did was 100% within the rules (of the time), it was Tejada’s — and Daniel Murphy’s — fault for being vulnerable, and the only reason the Mets, Mets fans, and knee-jerk MLB establishment noticed the play was because Tejada broke his leg. If Tejada gets out of the way in time and doesn’t break his leg, no one notices or cares. If Tejada’s leg is at least in a stronger defensive position and he’s merely toppled and bruised, no one cares by the end of October.

        Why is playing by the rules “old school”? Why is it “old school” for the runner to have the right to the base? The game has been fundamentally changed by The “Utley Rule” and the “Posey Rule.” What’s next? What happens if Yoenis Cespedes runs into the left field wall and suffers a concussion? Will MLB outlaw outfield walls? Or will batters be declared out if they hit a ball that incites an outfielder to run into a wall?

        For those wondering about the weirdness of the timing, Utley’s been waiting for a beanball every at-bat vs. the Mets. The longer the Mets prolonged it, the more it was in the back of his head he’d get beaned, and the less aggressive he could be at the plate. Or am I giving the Mets too much credit?

        • argonbunnies May 30, 2016 at 12:52 pm
          I don’t think the Mets planned that at all, but I agree that it might have had that effect. Utley seemed like he was looking inside all series — took some hittable pitches on the outer half for strikes.
        • Dan42 May 31, 2016 at 6:41 am
          After looking at it again, I would have called him out for obstruction since he clearly changed direction at the last minute to hit Tejada, rather than attempt to touch the bag. Utley never attempted to touch the bag, probably thinking he was called out for that reason, if he thought it was for any other reason, why didn’t he touch the bag to make sure an appeal would stand up?
        • Vilos May 31, 2016 at 7:55 am
          Exactly, play with his mind
          Now, if your going to choose a moment to strike, wait for a decisive moment, not in the third inning with nothing much at stake.
          Thanks for your take J, now it would be nice to hear from <Alderson himself
        • Joe Janish May 31, 2016 at 6:38 pm
          Dan42, I think you mean “interference” rather than “obstruction” because per MLB rules there is no situation in which a runner can be called out for “obstruction.” But that’s being nit-picky on my part.

          If you called out Utley for “interference” then to be consistent you would have had to call out at least one runner if not three every single game, because base runners changing direction to break up double plays happened as a matter of course and intent in MLB since the 1880s.

          What MLB should’ve done was change the rule to “the runner shall be called out if his slide results in breaking someone’s leg in front of a national TV audience” because that’s the only reason the rule was changed. The rule was changed twice in history — once when Willie Randolph was upended by Hal McRae and when Tejada broke his leg. Before and in-between, contact between runners and infielders happened every single game, the occasional injuries that resulted were considered part of the process, and the majority of players, fans, and owners barely blinked, much less considered changing the rules.

        • DaveSchneck May 31, 2016 at 9:54 pm
          I agree 100% with JJ regarding the follies on that play by Murphy and Tejada. However, for what it’s worth, which is essentially nothing, that play was an embarrassment to MLB. Under the rulles of baseball, Utley was out when Tejada;s foot was on the bag and the ball in his glove. Iwil never undersand how he was removed from the dugout and put back on the base. The legality of the slide and potential obstruction are subjective. It is hard for me to understand how that was a legit slide when it is clear to any rational human that Utley’s 100% intent was drilling Tejada, most if not all of which occurred on the left field bag side on the bag, and Utley has no concern whatsoever for the 2nd base bag. I am not big on the rule changes, but if it required a rule change to understand that this “slide” is not legal or desired, so be it. I have no problem with contact at 2nd base, but the runner must be going to the bag, not beyond it. If the runner fails to do that, the runner should be responsible for the contact. If the runner makes a slide that gets him to the base and not beyond, the fielder bears responsibility for the contact. It’s really pretty simple.
      • Joe Janish May 31, 2016 at 11:41 pm
        DaveSchneck, I understand your thought process, but the point that gets lost in all of this — the rule change included — is that, previously, the runner had the right to the bag and the defender had to be cognizant of that fact. What that meant to the defender (at any base, including home plate) was that if he was either on the base or in between the runner and the base, he was in a dangerous territory that belonged to someone else. With that in mind, infielders were taught and learned a way to protect themselves from injury — and, for over a hundred years, there were very, very few serious injuries. I get that Tejada’s whereabouts at the time of the collision can be interpreted differently depending on the individual, but the end result is a rule that fundamentally changes that concept; now, who has the right to the base? Both the defender and the runner? Neither? It’s not clear, and so now we will have runners going into the base less aggressively and defenders not as concerned with protecting themselves. To me it is similar to when MLB began ejecting pitchers for throwing inside, which over time effectively taught hitters not to fear being hit by a pitch. Today we have dozens of pitchers who can reach 100 MPH and may not have pinpoint control throwing to batters who don’t know how to get out of the way of wild pitches. How long before someone gets killed? Bottom line, to me, is that baseball has always been somewhat of a contact sport, and for a century players learned how to keep themselves out of harm’s way. But now, with each rule change, clarity turns to cloudiness and players “forget” how to protect themselves. Is that advancement? I’m not so sure.
        • Dan42 June 1, 2016 at 10:04 am
          The other thing that gets lost is that the collision occurred well beyond the bag, and had nothing to do with the runners right to the base. I think the neighborhood play had a lot to do with these situations by condoning what it was meant to cure, and creating sloppy baseball at the same time.
        • DaveSchneck June 1, 2016 at 7:35 pm
          Good point. Agreed, especially on the unintended consequences.
        • Joe Janish June 1, 2016 at 11:26 pm
          Dan42 – good point on the neighborhood concept leading to sloppy play.

          As for the collision occurring “well beyond the bag,” that’s not what my eyes saw. Tejada went flying well beyond the bag, but the actual contact occurred almost exactly at the bag.

          See these screenshots for reference:


          Looking at this frame after the fact, from a spectator position, I can understand your stance that Tejada wasn’t blocking the bag. But in real time, as an aggressive runner making a snap decision on course of action, I process the play much differently. It’s not as though Utley had the luxury of stopping time, looking into the future to see where Tejada would perform his pirouette, and plan to attack him at that exact spot. Rather, he had a few milliseconds to guess where Tejada would receive the ball and figure out a way to try to break up the DP while staying within the baseline and be within arm’s reach of the bag — because that’s what the rules at the time allowed (note in that frame Utley’s hand is just above the bag — he was technically within the rules). Yes, Utley was/is aggressive, but he generally played within the rules and I feel that in his career he wasn’t ever looking to maliciously hurt anyone — he was playing the game to his and its limits.

          Maybe I defend Utley because I always played the game the same way. If I wanted to intentionally hurt people, I would’ve stuck to football. But playing baseball “hard” — to me — was always about understanding the rules, using them to your advantage, and accepting that baseball is a contact sport, which means that at times you need to be aggressive to avoid injury and sometimes it means knowing when to get out of the way. This applies not just to breaking up DPs but also home plate interactions (as runner and catcher), being a batter with a pitch coming at your body, getting hit by the ball as a fielder, running into walls, running into or avoiding other fielders when chasing popups, etc. Terrible things can happen when one player takes the aggressive approach and the other player forgets or doesn’t consider that baseball can be a contact sport. That’s what happened in this play.

  11. David Berg May 30, 2016 at 1:35 pm
    Here’s my take:

    Let’s leave safety up to the players (even Utley)

    Innovative compromise or half-baked lunacy?