Monday, October 12, 2015

The Takeout Slide

New Yorkers, particularly Mets fans, are steamed.

On Friday, in the second game of their National League Division series against the Dodgers, Dodger Chase Utley made a dramatic slide on his way to second base.  His aim was to stop Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada from making a double play that would have prevented another Dodger, then running from third base, from scoring a game-tying home run.

The slide knocked Tejada into the air, and his right leg was broken when he fell. Utley was called safe on second, the Dodgers runner scored, and the team scored four more runs to win the game.  

Here is an interesting discussion of the Ruben-Utley collision with replays from various angles.

As you can see, Utley had a strategic reason to go after Tejada.  His slide had nothing to do with reaching second base -- which he missed by a good distance -- but everything to do with preventing a Mets double play.  

This is called a "takeout slide." Utley performed the same maneuver against Tejada in 2010, but without breaking bones.  Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a broken leg and other injuries in a takeout slide the next year.  (See below.) 

There have been many other cases, of course.

This slide variation looks more like a football tackle's takedown of a wide receiver than anything in traditional baseball.  But it can be very effective, and so has become more common in recent seasons.  Sports radio fans will be discussing its legitimacy for days; Mets fans for years.

After the game, Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager and current EVP of major league baseball operations, overruled the umpires' field ruling and called Utley's play illegal.  Theoretically, that could have cancelled the tying run and the four runs that followed.  But theory is one thing, and real life is another.  Utley was suspended for two games, which means he won't play today or tomorrow when the series moves to New York.

Now Mets fans are doubly angry.  They will be deprived of the opportunity to boo, yell and throw bottles and cans at Utley, (treatment given to Pete Rose following an unfortunate 1973 encounter) because he will not be playing for the two games at Citi Field.  

Ruben Tejada, of course, is out for the season.

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