MLB admits Ruben Tejada’s leg was broken because it never enforced its own rules

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Chase Utley‘s two-game suspension for sliding into and breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg — which, the other day, became Chase Utley’s rescinded suspension — is one of those argue-around-in-circles kind of things.

Pro-Tejada people can show in the video of the slide about how it was late and how Utley seemed hellbent on bowling Tejada over. They can then point to the rule that was in place at the time of the slide, 6.05(m), which says that a runner is out when he “in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interferes with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.” Utley was clearly doing that.

On the other hand precedent matters in the application of rules and the pro-Utley people can point to baseball tradition and tons of other slides which were as bad or worse which never raised eyebrows. How on Earth do you pick that play, of the scores of similar plays all season, to suspend someone? It was arbitrary, and done only because a guy got hurt and because it made national news due to it occurring in a playoff game.

There are legitimate arguments on both sides. If you’re being intellectually honest you have to admit that these arguments are not mutually-exclusive. The slide did violate Rule 6.05(m) but Rule 6.05(m) was enforced as frequently as laws still on the books about where you can and can’t tie up your horses in town, rendering punishment of Utley arbitrary and capricious.

Yesterday Major League Baseball essentially admitted that overturning Utley’s suspension wasn’t because anyone’s mind changed about whether Utley was intentionally interfering with Tejada but, rather, because it never bothered to enforce that rule in the first place. From the OC Register, which interviewed Utley about the suspension being overturned:

“I talked to Joe Torre at length on the phone and he expressed to me that what happened in the playoffs, after looking at other slides over the course of the years, it was not much different from those and there were no penalties there,” Utley said. “So with that said, they rescinded the suspension.

“I’ve been playing this game for awhile now. And being a middle infielder, I’ve come across a ton of slides that were similar and I understand that it’s part of the game.”

MLB has not issued an official statement on Torre’s decision but the Chief Baseball Officer acknowledged in interviews that he felt it would have been difficult to uphold the suspension in an appeal hearing where Utley’s representatives could have produced video of a vast number of similar incidents in which no discipline was assigned.

Clean or dirty didn’t matter. It was all about what MLB could make stick due to precedent or the lack thereof. MLB had not disciplined anyone for slides not because no one, Utley included, violated the pre-existing rule, but because they simply didn’t give a crap. Safety of infielders was not a priority for them. Now that one got his leg broken in a nationally televised playoff game, however, it is a priority for Joe Torre.

They shouldn’t call it the “Chase Utley Rule.” They should call it the “Joe Torre Rule.” Or we can just note that most rules innovations of the past several years are a function of “The Joe Torre Philosophy.” Said philosophy: “we ignore what happens on the field until they become a public relations problem, then we overreact.”

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.