Chase Utley is a dirty baseball player. Whether he truly is or not no longer matters because that will be his legacy. It is unfair and unfortunate that a single play or action can wipe out an entire career of the opposite being true but ask Bill Bukner if that’s reality.
In Utley’s case, his previous actions and his current behavior makes me believe his legacy is earned and deserved.
In case you missed it, during the second game in the National League Divisional Series between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg on this play. He has a history of being what he euphemistically calls a “hard nose play.” But there is a difference between being a hard-nosed player and playing dirty. Utley plays dirty.
A hard-nosed player is uncompromising in his pursuit to make things happen by hustling on every play and sacrifices his body to make defensive plays. A dirty player disregards the well-being of his fellow colleagues by partaking in actions that can hurt the other guy – like not sliding early and giving the opposing player the opportunity to avoid a collision.
I have no issue if Utley made a clean slide and the ensuing contact resulted in Tejada breaking his leg. That happens in sports and athletes accept that fate. I have an issue with the obvious dirt falling off this play.
Utley made an illegal slide than tried to hide behind the hard-nosed player label. Anyone with eyes and a shred of decency cannot defend his slide and actions afterwards. And the idiots that are defending Utley are just that – idiots. Starting with his manager Don Mattingly and Cal Ripken Jr. who hurt his own reputation by trying to defend Utley while broadcasting the game.
Immediately after the contact, Utley grabbed his helmet and ran off the field like a little girl frightened by a spider. Hard-nosed players have nothing to hide and typically would have checked on the player they just upended. Hell, a decent human being would have immediately checked on the man lying on the ground in obvious pain that he inflicted versus running away.
Afterwards, Utley sent a text to Tejada’s teammate David Wright and asked Wright to extend his apologies to Tejada. Really? The man doesn’t have the guts or common decency to go the extra mile and get Tejada’s info so he could make a personal apology. People who do dirty things typically are not truly remorseful for their actions.
Anyone who regrets their actions would do whatever is needed to face the person they hurt and at least apologize. But Utley isn’t one to face the music. Major League Baseball (MLB) suspended him for two games – conveniently the two games to be played in New York. Of course he is appealing the decision and Mattingly, who I once admired, is supporting Utley. That means Mattingly endorses dirty players and the Dodgers organization approves of such behavior.
I expect a good organization to condemn, not condone, an act so grievous and the Dodgers should have suspended Utley for his actions. That is, if the Dodgers really are against such actions.
The majority of Major League players concur the slide was dirty, illegal, and uncalled for in the game. The consensus is Utley probably did not intend to hurt Tejada but that slide was so atrocious how can anyone not get hurt? And the ones who are defending Utley are either his friends or work with the Dodgers and have short memories.
Like Jerry Hairston, Jr, who is a former player for the Dodgers and current broadcaster. He supported the play and felt it was not a dirty play. Of course, when it happened to him on a legal slide he whined he wanted the player who hit him to get suspended. I guess it’s a matter of perspective.
Utley will have to live with the legacy of being a dirty player. That is label he has earned.