"That's winning baseball." So was the opinion of mugger Chase Utley last night after breaking the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. The specifics are simple. In the bottom of the seventh inning with the Mets up 2-1, the Dodgers had runners on first and third. Howie Kendrick hit the ball on the ground which was fielded by Second Baseman, Daniel Murphy. Murphy flipped to Tejada to try and turn the double play and end the inning. Chase Utley bore down on Tejada and rolled his knees into him, upending him when his back was turned and broke his leg. The shortstop could obviously not complete his throw to first base and the tying run scored as the umpire called Utley out for the second out. Asked later what he considered a dirty slide, Utley offered if the runner makes contact with the fielder before making contact with the ground to start his slide. That is exactly what Chase Utley did. He did worse though because he clearly did not even start to pretend to slide until he was passing second base. Make no mistake about it. As a baseball fan, this was a filthy, dirty, disgusting play that should not be tolerated in the game. In football it would have been a penalty for hitting a defenseless player. In soccer it certainly would have resulted in a red card. In hockey it would have been at least a roughing penalty. Yet somehow in the mind of Chase Utley, this was "winning baseball." How bad was the slide? LA Times reporter Bill Plaschke had no choice but to write of the play,
"Even if you were watching it through blue-colored glasses, you had to admit that the slide was recklessly dangerous, so much that it broke another man's leg."
Even Dodger manager Don Mattingly, who always played the game right, did not even try to defend the slide. The most he could offer was that there was no way Utley intended to hurt Tejada. As if that matters or is even close to relevance. That is the out though. That is the talking point spin for Dodgers and their fans. Our legal system recognizes that the end result sometimes makes intent irrelevant. The term is called "depraved indifference" and is defined as such:
"To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant's conduct must be 'so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime. Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant's conduct, not the injuries actually resulting."
Essentially if you act as if you do not care what the result of your actions might be then you may as well have intended the results. That is what Chase Utley is guilty of and reporters as well as MLB need to not allow him or any other spin-meisters to dare blow this off by distracting us with tales of "intent." Once Chase Utley launched himself at Ruben Tejada, past the bag he was pretending to slide into, his intent is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the depraved indifference he showed. It is the same depraved indifference he showed in 2010 when he similarly took out Tejada in another slide at second base. It was all over his face last night when being interviewed. He simply did not care. His face showed that he did not care. His words showed that he did not care. This was only fitting since his actions showed that he did not care.
Which takes us to the final part of this debacle. Adding insult to injury, Mattingly challenged whether Tejada had actually touched the base before having his leg broken. This despite the fact that Utley slid so late he was unable to touch the bag himself because he was past it. He ran off the field like a suspect fleeing the crime scene. Somehow, the replay officials ruled Utley safe and allowed him to return to second base after Tejada had been carted off. The next batter was Corey Seager who made the second out but two hits later the Mets were down 5-2 and one shortstop, with little to no chance to recover. If the absurd overturn never occurs Seager makes the third out and the game is tied heading into the eighth inning. Here is the larger problem though. It was fully within the purview of the replay official to call Utley out for the obvious filthy slide, which then would have also required that the batter be called out, ending the inning with the Mets still up 2-1.
But none of that happened. The purpose of replay is to "get it right." If they could not get right something this egregious, which may determine the entire series, then it should be abolished altogether. Ruben Tejada was mugged last night and his assailant showed depraved indifference in his attack. We had the video proof and somehow it was decided that the mugger should be rewarded. Later in the locker room the mugger would show no emotion about what he had done. All he could do was mutter some ridiculous notion that he was taught to mug people from a young age. That he did not intend to break Mr. Tejada's leg when he tackled him in a fake slide that started when he had zero chance to even touch the bag he was pretending to slide into. Then in the ultimate show of disrespect to the game, he referred to the entire incident as "winning baseball." God I hope he is wrong.