THE SLIDE – A Full Overview

The Play. The Catch. For years, incredible sports moments have been immortalized, becoming fantastical memories passed down from father to son. Who could forget when Willie Mays made that incredible grab in the bowels of the Polo Grounds to keep the Indians from claiming the lead all those years ago? Or when the Cal Bears decided to play rough with the Stanford Band? Clearly, only the most incredible moments in sports history are worthy of this two-word moniker.

The Slide, contrastingly, will live on in sports lore not famously but infamously, if it is remembered at all. So why is it being sensationalized?

Regardless of the fact that the media overhypes everything, you have to admit, it’s a pretty dirty play. Dodgers fans can say what they want, but look at the footage:

I’m probably the worst baserunner you’ll ever meet, but I’m a decent umpire, and even I can tell that this should not just be left as ‘safe at second’. Sure, it was ruled to not be a neighborhood play, and I can respect that. But there’s the whole question of intention that we have to consider. Watch that video again, and then ask yourself – where was Utley aiming his body? Was it at second base, like a respectable baserunner? Or was it directly at Tejada, hinting at the possibility of, in legal terms, malice aforethought?

Let’s break down Utley’s movements. He is running, not towards second base, but towards the area to the right of second base. He begins his slide upon reaching second base, despite the fact that such a slide would carry him off the base. And he begins this slide with Ruben directly ahead of him, so he is perfectly aware of what such a slide may cause.

So clearly, Utley aimed to collide with Tejada. This leaves two likely possibilities for his intention. The first, is he aimed to break up a possible double play – a common strategy these days. The second is that aforementioned malice. Utley is no Jonathan Papelbon, but this is not your average slide. Playoff games have been known to contribute to the kind of fervor that leads to dirty plays, but would that influence Utley, a World Series veteran? The jury’s still out on that point, but it’s hard to chalk up this slide to simply being accidental when the slider is a 6-time All-Star. Especially an All-Star with a history.

So instead of diving further into conjectures, let’s look at the facts. Utley slid extremely late, and as a result, Tejada broke his leg. (Did I mention that? Tejada is now out for the rest of the playoffs because of The Slide.) The MLB has awarded Utley a two-game suspension for this slide. While I find it a bit strange that this is only worth two games whereas pitchers routinely get five games or more for intentionally throwing at batters, Scott Cousins was not suspended for his collision with Buster Posey, and there isn’t much in the way of precedence for such a collision.

So where do we go from here? Talk has already begun on a new ‘Buster Posey rule’ applying to other infielders, and I think such a move would be wise on the MLB’s part. While they’ve already introduced the idea of ‘neighborhood plays’, like mentioned above, to protect infielders, perhaps a automatic-out for such a dangerous slide, like we see at home plate, would be a good addition to the already-thick MLB rule book.

But the show must go on, and the Mets will try to fill the void left behind at shortstop by Tejada’s injury with Wilmer Flores. They are currently tied in the series with the Dodgers 1-1, and will see them again on Monday.

But before we go, a hand-picked collection of related tweets:

And MLB Tonight’s replay of the slide, for good measure: