Here’s tonight’s Mets’ lineup against the Dodgers in Game 3.
Curtis Granderson – RF
David Wright – 3B
Daniel Murphy – 2B
Yoenis Cespedes – LF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Wilmer Flores – SS
Juan Lagares – CF
Matt Harvey – RHP
When I first started this blog I held a chat room during the games. No other blog did at the time, and none do now. Sure, there are game threads, but there’s no interaction between the writer and the readers, which is what I would like to bring back.
As always, thanks.
You knew it wouldn’t be as easy for the Mets as Chase Utley simply taking his two-game suspension and quietly waiting until Game 5.
As for Matt Harvey, who always has a swirl of non-pitching issues about him, now has one more thing to contemplate: Should he impose his own brand of frontier justice by drilling Utley in the back if he plays?
“We’re definitely moving forward with him in our minds,’’ Harvey said at the Mets workout Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.
Like most everything Harvey says, it is open to interpretation, just like his following comment, which at first means winning is the best revenge, but ends with a clipped warning.
“I think the most important thing is going out and doing my job and doing what’s best for the team,’’ Harvey said at the workout. “For me, in my mind, that’s going out and pitching a long game and being out there as long as I can, and keeping zeros on the board.’’
That’s the perfect response, but he couldn’t let it go, and added: “But you know, as far as sticking up for your teammates, I think being out there and doing what’s right is exactly what I’m going to do.’’
Harvey nailed Utley in an April game, so we know he’s willing to get his hands dirty. But, if he hits him this time, would part of his intent be to clean his reputation with his teammates?
Many Mets players, notably David Wright, have not been enamored with Harvey after his innings-limits fiasco was brought to light by agent Scott Boras, and most recently for showing up late for a workout last week, reportedly after partying the night before.
Utley’s decision to appeal Major League Baseball’s knee-jerk reaction to suspend is not surprising. Baseball executive Joe Torre a former player, manager and leader of the Players Association, knows hardball plays of which this was, and the emotions of it happening in New York.
Torre said numerous times when he managed the Yankees the players take care of these things themselves, and that’s probably what he is afraid of. This happened Saturday night so the emotions and tensions remain raw. It is easy for him to think things could break loose, especially when fueled by the anger of a crowd with lynching on its mind.
Torre rightly wanted to defuse a potentially ugly situation, but in doing do may he be wrongly persecuting Utley?
Sure the slide was late, Torre said so at the time. But, at the time he did not deem it dirty. Neither did the umpires, who had the authority to call the runner out and eject him from the game.
While Torre said the slide violated the rules, he never called it dirty when he issued the suspension. What are we supposed to make of that? Did Torre change his mind by simply watching the replays, or by reading the quotes from the Mets’ clubhouse and hearing the ire of the man of the street?
What about the neighborhood play, you ask?
It does not apply because Daniel Murphy’s throw pulled Tejada off the bag and put him in a position where he could not defend himself. Replays showed Tejada put himself at risk for attempting to spin and then throw. The spin put him directly in the path of Utley’s slide.
There are rules in place, which Torre quoted, designed to protect the fielder. Apparently, the umpires did not feel they were violated. However, Harvey does and we are all wondering how he will respond. He would be foolish if he did because it could mean an ejection for him or an injury if the result is a brawl.
Of course, MLB is likely to uphold the suspension, which raises an interesting question: What if Utley were to get the Players Association involved or pull a Tom Brady and take this to court?
There are many, myself included, who believe Terry Collins should be National League manager of the year for all his team had to overcome this summer. Despite numerous injuries and controversies, and low expectations, the Mets won 90 games to win the NL East.
For that he would have earned my vote.
However, for as good a job as Collins did, his most important work will come now as he attempts to temper his team’s raw emotions in the wake of Chase Utley’s hard take-out slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s right leg.
After the game, Collins said the umpires handled the play properly. Since the umpires have the discretion to eject Utley if they deemed it a dirty play. They saw enough replays before the reversal and their no-call has to be interpreted as it being a legal play.
However, Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, after reviewing more replays decided to suspend Utley for Games 3 and 4 in New York. Torre’s statement did not include an indictment of the umpires’ actions. After the game, Torre said it was a judgment call by the umpires.
“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement released by MLB Sunday evening.
It can’t be discounted that Torre, who has managed both New York teams, understands the fans’ passion and anger, and hearing what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse, made his decision to defuse a potential ugly situation. On Saturday, Torre called it a late slide by Utley. However, on Sunday his statement did not call Utley’s slide illegal. Shouldn’t the label of being illegal been a part of Torre’s statement?
“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,’’ Wright said. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.’’
Whether Utley’s take-out slide was clean or dirty depends on whom you ask. Utley was clearly the villain according to Mets players and the talking heads on SNY.
“Yeah, they’re angry,’’ Collins said. “You lose in a playoff series to that serious of an injury, yeah, they’re not very happy about it.’’
Will there be retribution, and if so, in what form? I’m figuring a warning will be given prior to the game, which should diffuse headhunting. If nothing else, the Mets won’t have Utley to throw at unless there’s a fifth game.
Mets Game 3 starter Matt Harvey said “the most important thing for me is to do me job,’’ and he’s right.
Harvey plunked Utley in April, but these are the playoffs and he can’t afford to be ejected. Another factor to consider is if they take a shot and the Dodgers retaliate, who is to say another key Met is injured that could prevent them from advancing.
What Collins must do is tell his team, “we received a bad break, but the best way to respond is to win.’’
If the Mets play dirty and out for blood, it would be a sign Collins lost control of his team. Especially considering Utley’s suspension.
As for Utley, he defended his actions.
“The tying run’s on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play. I’ve always played that way,’’ Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever.’’
Utley also texted an apology to Tejada through Wright. Utley texted the contents of his apology to FOX Sports: “In no way shape or form was I trying to hurt Ruben… I slid in hard like I have for 12 years. I feel terrible about the outcome. I’ve reached out to Ruben via David Wright.’’
Whether Utley’s apology gesture is accepted remains to be seen, but it is up to Collins temper his player’s emotions.
The season could depend on it.
Cal Ripken Jr., said it was a “hard, clean’’ play, but not dirty, and if anybody should know about take-out slides it is him. That’s not to say others didn’t have their own opinion. Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada to break up the double play in the seventh inning Saturday night, and in doing so knocked the Mets’ shortstop out of the playoffs with a fractured right leg.
Not only did the game-tying run score on the play, but when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appealed Tejada never touched the bag, Utley was ruled safe, and with the out taken off the board, it enabled Adrian Gonzalez to hit a two-run double that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory to change the complexion of the series.
Mets manager Terry Collins said the umpires made the right call, and added his players were an angry bunch.
“You have to take the emotion and keep your focus,’’ Collins said. “You can’t lose control.’’
Instead of returning to New York with a chance to finish the sweep behind Matt Harvey, the NLDS goes back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece.
Until then, there will be continued debate on the nature of the slide – clean or dirty?
“Only Chase knows what the intent was,’’ Mets captain David Wright said. “My opinion is he wasn’t close to the bag.’’
Utley, known for being a hard-nosed player, defended his actions.
“It was one of those awkward plays,” Utley said. “There was no intent to injure Ruben, whatsoever. My intent was to break up the double play.”
Speaking of Harvey, what immediately came to mind with the Utley slide was of him getting plunked by the Mets’ Game 3 starter before he was traded by the Phillies. Utley wasn’t thinking that when he slid into Tejada, but if there wasn’t bad blood between Utley and the Mets before, there probably is now.
One thing for sure, what has been a compelling series by its stellar pitching, now has an edge to it.