The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #17: Chase Utley takes out Ruben Tejada with a questionable slide

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

As I mentioned in the last entry, baseball tends toward incremental change. Sometimes, however, there’s a single incident which serves as a watershed moment for the game, after which people simply think about long-accepted practices differently and which leads to change. We saw this a few years ago after Buster Posey‘s leg was broken in a collision at home plate, leading to new rules outlawing collisions with catchers. We likely saw another such moment when Chase Utley slid into Ruben Tejada during Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS.

With Enrique Hernandez on third base and Chase Utley on first and one out, Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball up the middle. Daniel Murphy, ranging to his right, corralled the ball and flipped to Tejada, who had to whip around to fire to first. Utley slid late and hard and took out Tejada, who couldn’t make a throw. The Dodgers scored the tying run on the play. Tejada left the game with a broken leg, his season over. Utley’s slide was clearly dirty. He didn’t start his slide until he was parallel to the second base bag, and he never touched the base. His intent was clear: take out Tejada, never mind about reaching the bag.

In the wake of that play, momentum has built toward a rule change that will almost certainly be referred to as “The Chase Utley Rule” when it is eventually adopted. It will likely be  aimed at eliminating the sorts of hard slides into second base, the likes of which Chase Utley demonstrated. In reality, however, baseball already has a rule which could serve that purpose if it were ever enforced. It’s Rule 6.05(m), which already  says a baserunner is out when, in the umpire’s judgment, he intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play. As the comments to the rule make clear, it is intended to outlaw “deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base.”

Why the league thinks it needs a new rule rather than simply enforcing an old one is unclear. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to allow umpires to exercise any judgment and, rather, would prefer to make some objective standard for such plays, even if the judging of a runner’s intent is essential. Perhaps they just like the idea of a “Chase Utley Rule” and don’t want to use an old one for that.

Either way: the legal takeout slide is an endangered species in Major League Baseball, thanks to Mr. Utley. And may soon be extinct.

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”