Tag: Chase Utley

Chase Utley Gets Last Laugh as Dodgers-Mets Rivalry Intensifies

It was already clear the New York Mets had beef with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then Chase Utley happened.

Sorry, that should read Chase Utley happened again.

About seven months have passed since Utley riled the Mets with his takeout slide of Ruben Tejada in last year’s National League Division Series, but the latest clash between the Mets and Dodgers at Citi Field is making it feel like it was only yesterday. But try as they might to put him in his place, Utley hasn’t let the scorn of those clad in blue and orange get to him.

Despite being mercilessly booed, the veteran second baseman did his best to lift the Dodgers by collecting four RBI in a 6-5 loss in Friday’s series opener. And in a 9-1 Dodgers romp Saturday evening, Utley went from nuisance to full-on heel.

His on switch, it would seem, was flipped when Noah Syndergaard said hello with a 99 mph fastball behind Utley’s back in the top of the third inning:

A fastball that was more than likely designed to give Utley a bruise instead earned Syndergaard an immediate ejection from home plate umpire Adam Hamari. Syndergaard and Mets skipper Terry Collins were baffled at the quick hook, as was the Twitterverse, where the discussion of whether the hook was too quick could rage for eternity.

But beanball or no beanball, quick hook or properly timed hook, Utley saw fit to reply to the message with a couple of his own. 

His first reply was a solo home run that put the Dodgers up 1-0 in the sixth. An inning later, Utley’s second reply came in the form of a grand slam. The highlight of it might as well be punctuated by a sad trombone effect:

With that, Utley ran his RBI count for the game to five, and his RBI count for the series to nine. And he and the Dodgers still have one more game to go.

Think the case of Utley vs. the Mets is now closed? That would be anticlimactic, but it’s not impossible.

When the Mets and Dodgers hooked up for the first time in 2016 at Dodger Stadium in early May, the question of whether the Amazins had anything planned for Utley found its way to Collins. He waved it off, telling Marc Carig of Newsday, “I haven’t said a word about anything.”

Maybe this was Collins’ way of saying, “I can neither confirm nor deny.” Or, maybe, he simply had the same mindset as D.J. Short of NBC Sports:

As such, it’s possible Syndergaard was acting on his own when he threw at Utley. He suggested otherwise after Saturday’s game, telling Anthony DiComo of MLB.com the pitch wasn’t intentional. But knowing he buzzed Alcides Escobar in last year’s World Series, it wouldn’t be the first time he took it upon himself to throw a purpose pitch.

Then again, maybe the notion the Mets will now be leaving Utley alone is an exercise in kidding ourselves.

If Collins wasn’t in “I can neither confirm nor deny” mode in speaking about Utley earlier this month, that may be where he was with his comments after Saturday’s game.

“I’m not going to say Noah was throwing at him,” Collins told reporters, including Joe Trezza of MLB.com. “But there was a time in this game when you had a shot.”

If “a shot” can be taken to mean a shot at retaliation, Syndergaard’s whiff on hitting Utley may mean the Mets’ business with him is still very much unfinished. And if there was a thirst for retaliation after he hurt them last October, it may now be doubly strong after he embarrassed them Saturday.

Even if the Mets don’t seek further retaliation against Utley, Saturday’s kerfuffle could draw a response from the Dodgers anyway.

On the mound for the Dodgers in Sunday evening’s series finale will be Clayton Kershaw. He’s mainly (and rightfully) known as the best pitcher in the universe, but he’s also a guy who’s not afraid of going old school in his own right. If he can go to bat for Hanley Ramirez by throwing at Matt Holliday in 2014, maybe he’ll feel comfortable going to bat for Utley too.

Either way, a rivalry that already feels heated could become downright flame-roasted on Sunday. The Mets will stoke the fires if they target Utley. The Dodgers will fan the flames if they stick up for Utley.

And if nothing happens, the Dodgers-Mets rivalry isn’t terribly likely to end there. Even outside of the Utley factor, it takes a microscope to search for any positive vibes between the Dodgers and Mets. They’ve been playing nothing but tense baseball ever since they hooked up in last year’s NLDS, and the bad vibes may now extend even to the higher levels.

It already feels like ancient history after watching Utley get buzzed and then blow up, but it was only Saturday morning that Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the Mets had blown the whistle on the Dodgers over their kinda-sorta shady defensive positioning tactics. If these two clubs meet again in the postseason this October, that could loom just as large as anything else.

Add it all up, and Dodgers vs. Mets is beginning to feel like the National League’s answer to Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers. That rivalry began in last year’s postseason and has carried over. The Dodgers and Mets have done the same.

For the time being, it’s Utley and the Dodgers who own the rights to the last laugh. But the question now isn’t whether it will change hands, but when.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Chase Utley’s Suspension for Slide into Ruben Tejada Dropped by MLB

Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley will not be forced to serve a two-game suspension for purposefully sliding into New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada after the league lifted its ban Sunday.  

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times first reported the decision, citing “a person familiar with the decision.” Joel Sherman of the New York Post later provided a synopsis of MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre discussing the ruling:

Utley, 37, received a two-game ban after MLB deemed his takeout slide of Tejada in Game 2 of their NLDS matchup illegal. Umpires on the field did not see anything wrong with the slide at the time. Tejada suffered a broken leg on the play and missed the remainder of the postseason.

In October, Torre examined the play and released a statement that Utley should not be let off the hook:

After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline. While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a) (13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.

MLB expedited Utley’s appeal so it could be heard while the Dodgers-Mets series was still ongoing. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, then with CBS Sports, noted MLB and the MLBPA had disagreed on when the appeal should be heard:

While a select few have come out in defense of Utley, saying his slide was merely aggressive, an overwhelming chorus deemed the play dirty and called for the suspension to be upheld. Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com called the slide “clearly dirty and malicious.” Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post wrote it was “100 percent” a dirty play. Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez tweeted he was “bothered” by the play.

Utley, meanwhile, has maintained he was just playing good, hard baseball. 

“I was trying to put a body on him to try to break up a double play,” Utley said, per Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today. “You’re taught from a young age to try to break up double plays. I think that’s winning baseball. Anybody in that situation … my focus is seeing the ball. I didn’t realize his back was turned. Everything obviously happens fast.”

While the Dodgers will be happy to avoid losing Utley for any amount of time, he’s failed to reach the heights he did earlier in his career. He had a .212/.286/.343 slash line with eight home runs and 39 RBI while splitting time with the Philadelphia Phillies and Dodgers during the 2015 regular season, all numbers that were near or at his career worsts for a full season.

Despite his struggles, the Dodgers re-signed him to a one-year, $7 million deal, and Los Angeles will be hoping that he can perform at a higher level as it chases a World Series appearance.

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Chase Utley Re-Signs with Dodgers: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Chase Utley’s most significant on-field moment during the 2015 season came when he took out New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada with a controversial slide in the playoffs, but his past production was enough to merit a new contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers.   

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported Utley and the Dodgers agreed on a one-year contract Sunday, while Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirmed the deal, reporting Utley will receive $7 million in guaranteed money.

Utley only hit .212 with eight home runs and 39 RBI for the Philadelphia Phillies and Dodgers last season and was nowhere near the player who dominated for so many years in the City of Brotherly Love. The downturn in production was concerning from someone who will be 37 years old during the 2016 campaign.

Still, Utley is one of the best second basemen of his generation and has the recognition to prove it. He is a six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner and won a World Series ring in 2008 with the Phillies. He counts extensive postseason experience on his resume and could be something of a clubhouse leader in 2016.

He served as a veteran presence for Los Angeles last year during the stretch run and will likely be asked to do the same this season.

Utley is well past his prime, but he is not far removed from the 2014 campaign when he hit .270 with 11 home runs and 78 RBI. He also posted three defensive runs saved above average at second base in 2014 compared to minus-one in 2015, according to FanGraphs.

Utley is not going to be the slugger who drilled 146 long balls for the Phillies between 2005 and 2009, but he will provide value if he can be more like the 2014 version of himself rather than the 2015 edition. The possibility of that happening and his Hall of Fame type of numbers from earlier in his career made this a worthwhile risk for a Dodgers team looking to win the World Series after failing in the postseason.

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Chase Utley: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation on Free-Agent 2B

After playing his entire MLB career in Philadelphia until mere months ago, free-agent second baseman Chase Utley reportedly wants to stay with his most recent team—or at least in the same state.

Continue for updates.

Report: Dodgers, Angels Interested in Utley

Thursday, Dec. 3

Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that both Los Angeles clubs want the 36-year-old veteran, who was traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers in August. ESPN’s Mark Saxon reported recently the Dodgers covet Utley as a left-handed batter and backup infielder.

Utley appeared in 34 games for L.A. and struggled en route to a .202 batting average in that span. In 107 contests this past season, he accrued an average of .212 with eight home runs and 39 RBI.

Despite Utley’s down year, Stark reported that he has other unnamed suitors on the open market but would rather remain in the Golden State. Philadelphia had the worst record in all of baseball in 2015, which didn’t help his cause and played a role in his decline.

There’s no shortage of talent on the Dodgers and Angels, who won 92 and 85 games, respectively, in 2015. Both could use a veteran presence in the clubhouse like Utley with World Series experience.

With little time left as a player, the six-time All-Star is certainly thinking on the right track if he wants a shot at a second Commissioner’s Trophy.

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Chase Utley: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Star’s MLB Future

Veteran second baseman Chase Utley is in the market for a new team after completing his 13th season in the major leagues. 

Continue for updates.

Utley’s Return ‘100 Percent’

Tuesday, Oct. 27

Utley’s representative, Joel Wolfe, told Joel Sherman of the New York Post on Tuesday that the 36-year-old will be playing baseball next season. 

In fact, Wolfe said, “One hundred percent he is playing next year.”         

Speculation arose that Utley was considering retirement after his appeal hearing for a two-game suspension was moved until the spring. The league originally suspended Utley for his takeout slide of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada during Game 2 of the National League Division Series. 

Sherman explained:

The thought was why have a hearing if Utley might decide to call it a career during the winter. However, once it could not expedite a hearing while the Dodgers were still in the postseason, MLB decided to push back the process so as not to overshadow the postseason or Hot Stove League.

According to Sherman, the Los Angeles Dodgers will decline his $15 million 2016 option, which will make him a free agent. 

Utley is coming off of a 2015 season in which he experienced career lows in batting average and on-base percentage. His eight home runs and 39 RBI were his lowest since his 43-game debut season in 2003. 

The longtime Philadelphia Phillie was traded to the Dodgers toward the end of August, when he was given another shot to play for a winner. He took home a title with the Phillies in 2008. A hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs veteran, Utley could find a new home with a team looking for a seasoned leader. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Poised Mets Let Their Bats Do the Talking in Game 3 Rout, Push Dodgers to Brink

NEW YORK — Terry Collins worried, because managers are paid to worry.

He knew what this night was going to be like at Citi Field. He knew what this city had been like since Saturday night, since Chase Utley rolled into Ruben Tejada and the National League Division Series began feeling like a morality play.

“I’ve got to keep things under control,” the New York Mets manager said.

Maybe he did, or maybe he didn’t need to, because on a night like none Citi Field had ever seen before, Collins’ Mets showed all the control he could hope for. They’re not yet in total control of this series, but three games in, they hold the high ground in every way possible.

They fed off the energy of a crowd that wanted revenge, using the emotion without listening to all the talk that accompanied it.

“There’s no need for any retaliation,” Michael Cuddyer said, after Monday night had turned into Tuesday morning and a series that was all about Chase Utley had been turned into a night that was all about the very impressive Mets. “The greatest retaliation is winning the game.”

We all know what happened Saturday night, when Utley rolled into Ruben Tejada and changed many things about this series. The Mets won’t forget, but in the time it took to get from Game 2 to Game 3, they realized what really mattered to them.

And when they finished up their 13-7 win, the one name that never seemed to be mentioned in the winning clubhouse was the one name that was on their fans’ minds all night.

We want Utley?

After this game, the Mets didn’t even want to talk about Chase Utley.

Why would they, one win away from a National League Championship Series? Why would they, after a game where Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud all had huge hits?

Maybe you thought this game was supposed to be about Utley. The Mets always thought it was supposed to be about them.

They’d waited so long for this, worked so hard for this. They knew how important it was, and they knew how much fun they wanted to have.

“We kind of got a taste of playoff baseball out in Los Angeles,” David Wright said. “And it was amazing to come back home to this.”

They focused on the noise from the crowd and not on what the crowd was yelling. They focused a little on Tejada, who hobbled out to a huge ovation during player introductions, and almost not at all on Utley, who was loudly and understandably booed when he was introduced before the game (but never actually played in it).

The Mets were an angry team Saturday night, but they were a focused team by Monday.

“Even after the game, we knew it wasn’t going to be anything physical,” Cuddyer said. “This is a very professional group that knows what’s at stake.”

Plenty was at stake Monday, and it was always going to be that way, Utley or no Utley. This was the one game in the series that neither Clayton Kershaw nor Zack Greinke was going to start, and it began with the Mets knowing that Kershaw and Greinke are lined up for Game 4 Tuesday night and a Game 5 Thursday in Los Angeles, if necessary.

The Dodgers‘ plan to build a $300 million team with just two real starting pitchers seemed more than a little crazy while Brett Anderson and Alex Wood were giving up all those runs in Game 3, but it doesn’t look as bad with Kershaw and Greinke ready to pitch the two games they now absolutely need to win.

The Mets certainly don’t figure to score the 13 runs they scored Monday, the most any Mets team had scored in any of the franchise’s 77 postseason games (and the most a Dodgers team had allowed in any of that franchise’s 190 postseason games). Then again, they don’t need to.

“It doesn’t matter how many runs you score,” Cuddyer said when one questioner asked if this blowout was even better retaliation. “It’s not college football. Just win the game.”

Really, for the Mets, that’s all this night ever had to be about.

Sure, they loved seeing Tejada and thought it was great that the injured shortstop found a crutch with the Mets logo all over it. Sure, they loved hearing the fans, whom Wright compared to a Shea Stadium crowd (“loud and crazy”).

In the end, though, they understood what Collins wanted them to understand. They understood what was really important on this night.

Just win the game.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Chase Utley Thunderously Booed in 1st Game in New York After Infamous Slide

You knew this was coming.

In his first game back in New York after his infamous slide in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chase Utley was booed by the Big Apple faithful.


Utley was given a two-game suspension for the play, but because his appeal hasn’t been heard yet, he’s eligible to play in Game 3 Monday night. He didn’t start, but the local fans didn’t care.

Utley had his stone face on:


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Soap Opera That Has Been Matt Harvey’s Season to Add Latest Episode in NLDS

Of course Matt Harvey will take the ball for the New York Mets in Game 3 on Monday at Citi Field. Chase Utley just cranked up the emotions of this National League Division Series from easy listening to ear-splitting.

As it just so happens, who else would be on deck to step squarely into the middle of this thing?

To a Mets team that leads the majors in lowercase d’s—Travis d’Arnaud, Jacob deGrom—Harvey, 26, puts the uppercase D in “Drama.”

The Mets will tell you he doesn’t necessarily seek it. He doesn’t necessarily relish in it. The term “Drama Queen” is way too, well, dramatic for Harvey.

But man, does he find it, as effortlessly as the Kardashians sniffing out tabloid covers.

And now here it comes again.

Harvey already has drilled Utley with a fastball once this year, back in April. It was when Utley was still in Philadelphia, and Phillies starter David Buchanan had hit two Mets earlier in the game.

In 18 career at-bats against Harvey, Utley owns a .984 slugging percentage. Until MLB suspended him for two games on Sunday, there was a good chance Utley would be in the Dodgers lineup for Game 3. Now, pending appeal…

At a Citi Field press conference Sunday, Harvey referred to Utley’s “tackle” of Ruben Tejada on the play that broke the shortstop’s leg in Game 2. And Harvey is emotional enough that Mets manager Terry Collins said he already has spoken with him about how to handle the now-volatile situation against the Dodgers.

“I’ve had this conversation with him before, and when he steps on that piece of rubber, everything else is about the guy at home plate,” Collins said. “It’s him against that guy at home plate, and that’s all he’s thinking about.

“So I just wanted to make sure today that he knew that; hey, look, he’s got to go relax and make his pitches and, you know, worry about winning the baseball game.”

This is just Harvey’s latest challenge.

It was just over a month ago when he dropped the bombshell that he wasn’t supposed to pitch more than 180 innings this season, triangulating a message that yanked himself, his agent Scott Boras and Mets general manager Sandy Alderson into an uneasy public conversation that at times turned hostile.

It was just last week that he showed up late to a workout, shoveling more drama in Queens just before the Mets departed for Los Angeles to begin this series.

Inquiring minds want to know: Has Harvey irreparably damaged his relationship with his teammates? With his employers? With his fans?

“I think the perception of every player is that Matt’s got a great work ethic,” Boras said over the weekend in Los Angeles. “I think everybody knows that. Everybody knows what his ethic is.

“And remember this, too: Matt Harvey gave his arm already for the New York Mets. And that was in 2013, he went out and pitched until he didn’t have a ligament.

“He’s the kind of guy that wants his team to do well, wants them to win, and you’ve seen what he’s done.”

That Harvey already has blown out his elbow once, resulting in the Tommy John surgery in 2013 to which Boras was referring, makes his workload watch automatic headline news every time his pitching odometer rolls over another third of an inning.

So many mixed signals have been sent by so many regarding his workload that it appears the Mets are making it up as they go. And Harvey, too.

After being the first one to voice the limit, Harvey then pitched longer than expected in the Mets’ division-clinching win over Cincinnati, telling manager Terry Collins that he wanted to keep going.

He finished the summer at 189.1 innings.

So, will he pitch Game 3 with any kind of leash attached? Will the Mets automatically open a trap door after, say, five innings and make him disappear?

“We’re going to take it one game at a time and see where we’re at,” Alderson told Bleacher Report in Los Angeles.

Boras, so vociferous last month, now is going dark about the Mets’ Harvey plan.

“I’m not going to comment on it,” the agent said. “I just want to focus on the game and let them do what they’re going to do.”

He spoke with Alderson in September, a conversation during which, Boras says, Harvey’s doctors were on the phone.

“But in the playoffs, I think baseball just needs to be played here,” Boras said. “You certainly want the players and the teams to focus on the game.

“That’s what everybody should do.”

That plan was sidetracked last week when Harvey showed up late for the workout, angering his manager and teammates. Still, according to sources close to the Mets, Harvey is well-liked by teammates. He is not a pariah. He just makes them mad sometimes.

So, what do you do? During a conference call last week, I asked our resident TBS pregame and postgame show experts.

“As a manager, you have to handle it the right way,” veteran manager Dusty Baker said. “It has to be known from the get-go. My No. 1 rule was, don’t be late to work. If you are going to be late, you call me and make sure it wasn’t going to be a couple of times [within] a period of time.

“You have to handle it now while he is young, because what is going to happen later on? Also, his other teammates are looking at you on how are you going to handle it because you have to keep respect with the other teammates.”

“They should have handled this a long time ago,” longtime slugger Gary Sheffield said. “Now, these things are starting to pile up. He is doing veteran moves, if anyone can get away with it, but veterans aren’t even doing this. … It is an organizational problem.”

Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez spent four seasons (2005-08) in a Mets uniform toward the end of his career, and he’s seen plenty of phenoms come and go over the years. Some with more staying power than others.

“You still have time to hold the leash on Harvey,” Martinez said. “Everybody messes up, and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Some of those veterans will pull him aside. David Wright, I know, will pull him aside and say, ‘Are you in or are you out?'”

Indeed, Wright, 32, and a teammate of Martinez’s during Pedro’s Mets years, was perturbed and did pull Harvey aside.

“We have a very good chance every time Matt Harvey takes the mound,” Wright told B/R. “With who he is and the stature he has, there’s been some things that obviously have happened over the course of the year where he’s made some mistakes. And he’s acknowledged them.

“But when it comes game time, and he takes the mound and gets the ball in his hand, there are very few guys in this game that give you that good of a chance to win. And he’s right on top of that list.”

Enter Game 3, the Dodgers and an expected sellout Citi Field crowd wanting its pound of flesh after the Utley slide broke Ruben Tejada’s leg.

“I think the most important thing is going out and doing my job and doing what’s best for the team,” Harvey said Sunday. “For me, in my mind, that’s going out and pitching a long game and being out there as long as I can and, you know, keeping zeroes on the board. For me, that’s my job. Continuing to do that is always going to be my job.

“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.”

Like a moth to a flame, Harvey has a knack for this stuff, for flying straight into the searing heat of drama.

“Well, we’re in New York,” Wright said, grinning. “Anytime you’re in New York, you’re going to get more drama than in most other places.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Chase Utley Suspended 2 Games for Slide into Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of NLDS

The New York Mets can’t get their Game 2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series back, but they can at least take solace in the fact that Major League Baseball considers Chase Utley’s slide into second base during Game 2 worthy of a suspension.

MLB Communications announced Sunday that Utley will be suspended for Games 3 and 4 of the series for his slide in the seventh inning of Saturday’s contest. Here is the full statement:

The Dodgers said they “stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension. No further comment at this time,” per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. 

However, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports noted Utley will appeal the suspension, adding the infielder will “cite a number of similar slides that did not result in discipline.”

On Monday morning, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported, “MLB wants Utley hearing today (before Game 3). Union wants time to prepare. CBA mandates appeals be within 14 days.” Karl Ravech of ESPN reported Utley’s appeal won’t be heard today, and he will be eligible to play in Game 3. 

The slide broke Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s right leg and sparked the critical four-run rally that allowed the Dodgers to win 5-2.

New York held a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning, but Los Angeles had runners on the corners with one out. Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball, and Utley slid outside and well past second base to break up a potential double play. He slammed into Tejada in the process and was eventually called safe after a replay review because the Mets shortstop never touched the bag.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com pointed out how strange it was that Utley was ruled safe:

After the ruling, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner drove in runs with doubles, and the Dodgers proceeded to even the series at a game apiece.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post said Los Angeles will play with 24 players if the suspension is eventually upheld. Sherman added, “MLB will do everything to expedite matters and try to have a hearing [Monday] in time for Game 3.”

Utley’s agent Joel Wolfe released the following statement regarding the suspension, via Rosenthal:

A two-game suspension for a legal baseball play is outrageous and completely unacceptable. Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation—break up the double play. We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions. Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada’s injury, and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody. We will be appealing this suspension immediately.

ESPN Stats & Info highlighted why the result of the appeal will be critical in the series:

Mets fans were understandably upset in the immediate aftermath of the play that broke Tejada’s leg and cost their team a chance to go up 2-0 in the series. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports echoed that sentiment:

Utley commented on the play after the game, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent to hurt him whatsoever. Anytime there’s a double play you should do your best to break it up.”

Utley said he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but Mets third baseman David Wright was not pleased with what happened, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):

Only Chase knows going in there what the intent was. I have a problem with the play on a number of different levels, one being the slide itself. In my opinion, he wasn‘t anywhere close to the bag. With that being said, he never touched the bag. And I think the ‘neighborhood play’ is there to protect players. … It definitely seemed like after that play we lost the momentum and they came up with some big hits.

The Associated Press piece noted there is a history between the two players. In 2010, when Utley was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets were upset when he went in with a hard takeout slide on Tejada. 

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Chase Utley Trade Nabs Dodgers a Playoff-Tested Hero, but Bullpen Issues Remain

The Los Angeles Dodgers are acquiring a second aging former Philadelphia Phillies superstar, and, like the first, the move has the potential to be an upgrade.

The Dodgers pulled off the biggest waiver deadline trade this year in getting second baseman Chase Utley from Philadelphia, a move made to absorb incumbent second baseman Howie Kendrick’s current hamstring injury, which has him on the disabled list.

Plenty of clubs had August interest in Utley, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, but a pair of “mid-level” minor league prospects got it done for the Dodgers, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

With the way Utley has hit since returning from an ankle injury, this move could be a massive boost for the Dodgers lineup, which remains inconsistent against even mediocre pitching. It proved just that in being swept by the Oakland A’s this week.

The Utley deal, while potentially impactful, does not address the Dodgers’ more serious and immediate need for a reliable bullpen arm. The team’s lack of a solid wing out of the pen was highlighted in the two-game Oakland series. These were possibly two of the Dodgers’ ugliest losses this year, considering the point in the season, the state of the National League West and the fact that L.A. held leads in both games.

ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon reported Wednesday afternoon that “the Dodgers will receive $4 million from Philadelphia to offset the $6 million remaining on Utley’s $15 million salary.” This would set Utley up to become a free agent after the season.

Acquiring Utley can certainly help L.A. Kendrick is expected to be out until early September, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, and Utley has been hot since returning from the disabled list, batting .484 (15-for-31) with five doubles and a home run in eight games. Before missing 37 games with the ankle issues, Utley had hit .179/.257/.275 in 249 plate appearances. He had started the year 9-for-91.

If Utley brings his latest brand of production to the Dodgers, it will be a big help to a lineup that scored eight runs in its last three games, against starters Anthony DeSclafani, Felix Doubront and Jesse Chavez. In the way Marco Scutaro caught fire after being traded to the San Francisco Giants in 2012, Utley can be that kind of small-sample boost to the Dodgers as he plays second and probably some third and first base.

“His bat speed is very good,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told 94WIP in Philadelphia on Tuesday. “You can see his legs are underneath him, and it seems pretty clear that there was something going on in his ankle that was limiting him in some way, shape or form. He looks like he’s pretty much a man on a mission.”

Amaro also noted that it was “very likely” Chase Utley would remain in Philadelphia through the end of the year, which obviously wasn’t true. The first comment wasn’t false, though: Utley is hitting the ball harder now than he has all season. Daren Willman of MLBFarm.com tweeted as much:

Utley fills a hole in the lineup, but he does not improve the Dodgers bullpen, which has nearly been the worst in the league since the All-Star break. Like Utley, the group is also producing some hitter-friendly exit velocities of late, as the bullpen went into Wednesday with a hard-hit rate of nearly 30 percent and a soft-hit rate of 17.5 percent, the fifth-worst in the league since the break, according to FanGraphs

This has been a problem for the Dodgers all season, as it seems like the only thing the bullpen is great at is strikeouts—its 26.4 percent strikeout rate leads the league—but it also strands only 71 percent of runners, the second-worst mark in the NL

In the two games in Oakland, the bullpen allowed six runs in 4.1 innings. Jim Johnson, the arm acquired from the Atlanta Braves at the non-waiver deadline to be the bridge to closer Kenley Jansen, has allowed 14 earned runs in six innings (eight appearances), making the unit significantly worse and more unreliable than it was before his arrival.

“Obviously we’re going to have to find ways to get the ball from our starters to Kenley,” manager Don Mattingly told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve got guys who can do that, and I trust that we’re going to do that.”

Trust is hardly evident, as Mattingly, just like last season, has had to stick with his starters too long into games. (Think back to the elimination game in last year’s playoffs, with Clayton Kershaw against the St. Louis Cardinals. A similar thing happened Wednesday, when Alex Wood bore too much of the burden in the decisive sixth inning.) The alternative has been to wear out the couple of arms that can get high-leverage outs until they are fatigued enough that they are no longer solutions.

“Clone Kenley Jansen,” Grantland’s Jonah Keri said this Wednesday on Baseball Tonight. “That’s the solution to their problems.”

Utley is a good gamble for the Dodgers. He is low-risk, high-reward at its finest for a team that can throw its money around as a Band-Aid. But unless he can pitch effectively in game-deciding situations (spoiler alert: he cannot), the same problem that made the Dodgers vulnerable down the stretch and into the postseason last year will again bite them in 2015.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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