Chase Utley celebrated his new contract tonight by barreling over Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro in a collision at home plate, resulting in an out for the Phillies and a trip to the hospital with at least a leg injury for Navarro.
Here’s the GIF of the collision from our own Bill Baer:
Utley made as if he were going to slide into home plate on the play, only to pull a changeup at the last second and barrel into Navarro, shoulder first. In Utley’s defense, Navarro had set up on the plate before receiving the throw, inviting the collision. Utley, though, did have an opening with which to slide between Navarro’s legs. Instead of taking it, he decided to risk injury to both himself and Navarro.
Of course, Utley can afford to do that, considering he’s made $85 million in his career and he just today signed a $27 million deal that takes him through 2015. Navarro is a free agent at season’s end, and if he misses the rest of the year, he could lose a couple of million dollars on his next contract. With the way he’s played this year — he entered the night with a .289/.363/.500 line and nine homers in 152 at-bats — he could have been setting himself up for a two-year contract worth $5 million-$6 million this winter.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.