Monday, October 12, 2015

NLDS Mets-Dodgers Game 2 wrapup/Game 3 preview: Chase the Disgrace

Chase Utley's rolling block that broke Ruben Tejada's leg has me thinking of Roger Clemens. Both players did something during a postseason Game 2 that should have gotten them ejected (Clemens threw part of a broken bat at Mike Piazza in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series). Both players' reckless play seriously injured a Met (Clemens beaned Piazza in July 2000). What remains to be seen is if the parallels between the Mets and the two dirty players continue in the aftermath of the respective incidents, or if this time the Mets show the other team they will not stand for dirty play.

The Mets did not respond to Clemens after he threw the broken bat piece at Piazza, and the Yankees went on to win that game and the Series. It took until June 2002 for the Mets to respond, and Shawn Estes throwing behind Clemens' back was a tepid response at best. Yes, Estes homered off Clemens in that game and the Mets went on to beat Clemens. But maybe it's not a coincidence that, after 2000, the Mets would fall out of contention until 2006.

When I heard that Utley had been suspended, I thought the situation had been largely resolved. Utley did something wrong and he and his team were being punished for it. It was still a good deal for the Dodgers - winning Game 2 with the help of a bad call and costing the Mets their starting shortstop at the small price of losing a backup infielder for a couple of games. Then Utley wanted to appeal, which is his right, and MLB said they could not do the appeal today, which is ridiculous. What, are they waiting for Roger Goodell to be available? If the suspension is upheld, but is not in effect until next season, that does not do the Mets any good now, not to mention that Utley could be retired by then. Dragging it out only exacerbates the situation.

As bad as this situation is, the umpires and MLB made it much worse. After reviewing the play, the umpires should have ruled that Utley interfered with Tejada and he and the batter were out. Or, if that's too bold for a postseason play, uphold the original out call. Instead, the umpires used tortured logic to rule Utley safe, giving the Dodgers an extra out and enabling them to rally for four two-out runs.

Joe Torre then made matters worse by fumbling through a postgame news conference, seeming unsure of the rules and constantly turning to an umpire representative for clarification.  As happy as I was to hear Torre's ruling of a suspension the following day, I would be annoyed if I were a Dodger fan, since Torre's initial reaction left him open to charges of overreacting to angry New Yorkers. On Saturday night, Torre should have just released a statement saying that MLB was looking into it.

I don't want to see the Mets deliberately try to injure Utley. Utley and some misguided older players have tried to muddle the issue by saying that baseball must have room for hard-nosed play, and there I agree. I don't want to see runners barred from trying to break up a double play. But it's not too much to ask for a runner to be required to slide toward the base. Or to start your slide before you are on top of the bag.

I'm also not excited about the prospect of throwing at someone like Dodger shortstop Corey Seager, who had nothing to do with the initial play.

But I'm still angry about Utley's play and hope the Mets find some way to retaliate. And this brings us to Matt Harvey, whose recent actions have made him seem more like a 24-and-1 player than someone who puts his team first. The first priority is for Harvey to pitch the Mets to within one game of the NLCS. But I'm also hoping he finds a non-dirty way to retaliate for Utley's dirty play.

If Utley is in the starting lineup, well, I know what I would like to see. But I have to concede it should not be in the second inning or whenever Utley first comes up. I can just hear Scott Boras whispering in Harvey's ear: "Hit him right away and get yourself ejected - you'll win back the Met fans and local media and still manage to keep your innings count down!

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