Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Chase Utley gets away with yet another dirty play; time to change the rules


A dirty play from a dirty player. Photo via sbnation

A dirty play from a dirty player. Photo via sbnation

[Editor’s note: after writing this but before posting, Utley was suspended by the league for 2 games…. but is appealing, enabling him to keep on playing.  Very effective deterrent.  I guess he’ll get his hearing after the playoffs are over.  Don’t dig in tonight Chase.]

The Chase Utley play in NLDS Game 2 was dirty.  I don’t care if you can claim it was “within the rules.”  He *broke a guy’s leg* who was BEHIND THE BAG.  He basically jumped past the bag and hit Ruben Tejada on the fly, fracturing his leg in the process.  It was a ridiculously awful slide from a guy who has done it many times before (ask Jesus Flores what he thinks of Utley’s sliding techniques).  Think Utley has never done this before?  Here’s a couple of his greatest hits:

This slide on Jedd Gyorko earlier this year didn’t result in injury but was just as egregiously bad.  Video link hereUtleyGyorko awfulslide usa-today-8781648.0

In fact, it isn’t even the first time Utley has gone hard in on Tejada!

Its not the 2nd or 3rd such situation we’ve faced this year where a guy was injured on an awful looking slide.  The Pirates were significantly weakened late in the season when a Chicago player (Chris Coghlan slides into ) did the same thing, snapping 2nd baseman Jung Ho Kang‘s leg.  See that image here:

Another awful slide. Via

Another awful slide. Via

You can’t tell the angle Coughlan is taking, but its very far off the bag.  The “rule” says that as long as you can ostensibly touch the bag, a runner can slide wherever he wants.  I think the rule is wrong and has empowered some players to take advantage of the situation and basically try to go straight after players.  Kind of like how in soccer you can jump slide tackle into someone’s knees, but as long as you hit the ball first your slide is “legal.”

This Matt Holliday slide from a couple years ago was just as ridiculous; somehow Marco Scutaro avoided serious injury (video here):

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 15: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals slides into second knocking over Marco Scutaro #19 of the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of Game Two of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Much like we’ve now eliminated purposeful catcher collisions after a series of high profile (Buster Posey) injuries occurred, I think its high time to do the same on these middle infield plays.  And clearly the sentiment is the same in the industry.  Even C.J. Nitkowski’s notoriously “gorilla-man” anonymous surveying of his current and past connections in the industry on showed that a plurality of players think the slide was dirty and needs to change.

That Utley was eventually suspended admittedly seems hypocritical; change the rule THEN suspend the player; you can’t suspend the player for doing what he’s been doing for the last 20 years.  Put a new rule in place in the offseason that eliminates this situation much like we’ve eliminated needless defenseless catcher injuries.

(side note: the fact that the play was even reviewable, and that Utley was awarded the base after this vicious slide and having never touched the base is even more ridiculous.  Explain this one to me; when a batter swings at a pitch in the dirt for strike 3 but walks off the field … eventually the ump calls him out.  Why?

Written by Todd Boss

October 12th, 2015 at 4:08 pm

21 Responses to 'Chase Utley gets away with yet another dirty play; time to change the rules'

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  1. C’mon, Todd, it’s the old-school Phillie way, breaking legs and choking your teammates. Nats fans just got an early start hating those Neanderthals. Oh, and any talk of Charlie Manual as the Nats’ next manager should die immediately in all quarters.

    Looks like the richer-than-thou Dodgers didn’t spend enough on starting pitching. When Greinke opts out, it will get even worse. Do they try coming back with Kershaw and Greinke on short rest?

    As for the play at 2B, I agree that it has to change. The low-hanging fruit for a change would be to make the rule that the foot must slide directly for the base. The whole thing of just being able to touch the base (which Utley didn’t even do) gives runners several feet of latitude to go after the SS/2B, and very little room for the SS/2B to get out of the way. Give the umps the latitude to automatically call the second out of the double play if they rule that the slide wasn’t to the bag. If you want to get more radical, encourage them to throw guys who do the rolling block out of the game.


    13 Oct 15 at 5:23 am

  2. KW

    13 Oct 15 at 12:55 pm

  3. A new rule is not needed, only the enforcement of the existing rule on interference. A runner is out if he interferes with a fielder making a play, unless unavoidable. The current rule explicitly mentions going out the baseline (three feet outside of a direct line to the base)to break up a double play attempt is interference.

    The college rule is that a runner must run a direct line to the base, with his leg below the fielder. Violating this rule is being called out, and usually ejection and a game suspension. This applies at any base. The purpose is avoid collisions.

    old man

    13 Oct 15 at 3:02 pm

  4. I agree, Todd. Dirty play.
    The big question is how the umpires could have so incompetent as to ruling him safe when he never touched the bag.

    Folks, we now have a villain team.

    Mark L

    13 Oct 15 at 7:23 pm

  5. Good thoughts on moving more toward the college rule, where they’ve already had the chance to work out some of the kinks.

    As for the playoffs in general, I’m rather surprised that all of our picks are still in play. The Cards fired first in their series but then went out with a whimper. The Dodgers Clawed back against the Mets, setting up Greinke vs. deGrom in the finale. And I’m really surprised that the Jays won both games in Arlington to get back to Skydome. Maybe they got their wake-up call.


    14 Oct 15 at 5:34 am

  6. Bowden put out a piece saying there is a split within the Nats ownership between rebuilding and going for it again. Bowden gets mocked a lot, but I think he is pretty good as a reporter (or whatever you call him these days), and I kind of buy the statement.

    While I personally would probably turn over the roster enough that it might look like a rebuild/reload, I just don’t see how they waste Harper’s three remaining years. I think they’ll go for it again.


    14 Oct 15 at 2:10 pm

  7. “Rebuilding?” That would make very little sense. Other than Werth the Nats are not a particularly old team, and they need to take advantage of the Harper years and Scherzer’s most productive years (to say nothing of having Strasburg in the fold for 2016).

    And that’s putting aside the fact that the Braves and Phillies are likely to stink next year, while the Marlins are also at a crossroads. The Mets have an awesome rotation and ten (!) free agents coming up this offseason. While they should be solid, this isn’t a 2014 Braves-Nats situation. The Mets aren’t as solid going forward as the Nats looked last year, and the Nats’ stumble this year wasn’t nearly as bad as the Braves’ collapse in 2014.

    John C.

    14 Oct 15 at 4:09 pm

  8. Putting the label aside and just asking whether this is a championship caliber line up, I don’t think it’s a confident yes. They’re talented enough that the range of performances is wide enough that you could squint and convince yourself that they have it in them, but I don’t believe that it is a likely result. Even putting aside the obvious questions around Ramos, Taylor, Espy and even Escobar (can he repeat his first above average offensive season in 4 years at age 33?), the main issues are Werth and Zim. Talented players with a big contracts at premium offensive positions. When healthy, they have to play. But what can you count on them for, and how can you possibly replace them in season if/when they get hurt? When your 4&5 hitters are such question marks, how can you be highly confident that they won’t sabotage season with their absence?

    But your points on the division are spot on, as well as Harper’s prime and Max’s signing, and KW’s earlier comments on the reaction of season ticket holders to a rebuild, and it basically gives the Nats no choice but to go for it again. If they are going to load up, there is no better start than bringing back Span. He has been hugely important to the lineup the last three years, provides a backup to OF injuries and is lefty and a lead off hitter. But I wouldn’t go into the year with Stras on his walk year. Sign him (my preference) or trade him, otherwise it has the potential to backfire and if they are going to go for it, they can’t afford the distraction.

    And they need to find a Greg Bird-type that they can start in AAA and bring up when Zim or Werth inevitably misses a month or two.


    14 Oct 15 at 9:13 pm

  9. Would that be Smiley Bowden, architect of back-to-back hundred-loss juggernauts? The chump who thinks you rebuild with the likes of Elijah, Lastings, and Wily Mo? I’d trust him on the subject of rebuilding about as much as I’d trust Dusty Baker with the arms of Giolito and Ross. (NOOOOO to Dusty!)

    Wally, you’re right, though, for all of his faults, Bowden still probably does have some good sources within the Nats’ organization. The thought that anyone is mentioning “rebuilding” while they’ve still got three years left with Harper, while the division is in so much flux (as John mentioned), and while the season-ticket holders are up in arms is horrifying.

    Yes, the Nats need to do some retooling. I think everyone agrees with that. And I also think there are different levels of retooling – one for just making the playoffs, and one for trying to go deeper. I fear that they’ll fix the bullpen but do little to upgrade the lineup, thinking that it’s good enough if healthy. (It isn’t.) But all of this is very different from “rebuilding,” which means blowing up the house, like the Braves did. The Nats already have the youth that you shoot for in a rebuild with Harper, Rendon, Turner, Ross, Giolito, etc.

    Is it good that the organization is trying to be honest about where the talent level really is? Yes, by all means. But there’s a million miles between the retooling that the Nats need to do and “rebuilding.” The Nats may not have completely gotten there yet, but they’re about 900,000 miles farther down the road to it than they were in the days of Smiley Bowden.


    15 Oct 15 at 5:37 am

  10. Speaking of retooling, I was just scrolling through the Brewers’ review on MLB Trade Rumors. The author listed the Nats as first among several clubs that might have an interest in Lucroy. The Brewers desperately need starting pitching, so something like Ramos and Jordan might get it done, perhaps also with a B-level prospect. Lucroy is coming off a down year, so don’t overpay. The Brewers also have some appealing bullpen guys, including KRod (as an affordable closer) and Will Smith. There could be a deal to be done there.


    15 Oct 15 at 1:02 pm

  11. I’d love to get Lucroy, a big step up from what we have.

    He’s older than Ramos, so this is not a long term solution but a good bridge until the farm arrives, be it Severino or Kieboom.

    Mark L

    15 Oct 15 at 1:46 pm

  12. If by ‘rebuilding’, you mean an Astros/Braves style tear down, I didn’t think that was what Jimbo meant. It certainly isn’t what I mean. I think in today’s world, with the 2d WC, that will happen less and less. It’s all a matter of degree (as far as how much restructuring to do). I’d err on the side of more restructuring rather than less.

    But I do think a ‘go-for-it’ strategy that loads up on 1 year players is bad. I disliked the strategy of having 4 big time walk year guys coming into 2015, and would avoid it with Stras. Lesser players in their walk year are fine.

    I like Will Smith. Not keen on paying market price for Lucroy, but if they took the package KW suggests, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I doubt they do, however. I suspect it would take something more like Ramos, Lopez, Fedde. Maybe just a Jordan+ for Smith trade?


    15 Oct 15 at 2:06 pm

  13. I’m up for dangling Fedde in whatever trading the Nats do. I’ve yet to feel good vibes with him. Lopez had an adjustment year but still has a huge arm and his original elbow.


    15 Oct 15 at 3:21 pm

  14. Ramos and Jordan for Lucroy? Plus a B-level prospect? WTF? Yeah, I make that deal, too, if I’m the Nationals. But the Brewers would do a spit take with their beer. And then hang up, because it’s not a serious offer.

    Why would the Brewers want Ramos? If they’re dealing Lucroy because they know they won’t contend for the next couple of years, why would they pick up a catcher who is one year from free agency?

    Taylor Jordan has to do some work to rebuild his value. by himself he’s not a B level prospect (think Austin Voth for a B level prospect).

    Fedde + Voth + Difo might get the conversation started. I’m not sure it’s enough to get Lucroy, even for only two years.

    John C.

    15 Oct 15 at 11:00 pm

  15. I didn’t put a better package on the table for Lucroy because he had a down year in ’15 and only has two years left. It’s fair enough to say that the Brewers probably wouldn’t want Ramos as part of a rebuild, though. Someone will, however. Jordan had a 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at Syracuse. He can be a back-end starter for a lot of MLB teams. At least he’s kept some value; Taylor Hill completely fell apart this season.

    The Nats kept bringing up Difo but then didn’t play him very much, certainly not like they did Turner, leaving one to believe they see him as a utility guy at best. He hurt his trade value this year with a big power drop. It doesn’t look like the Nats see him in a regular role, so I could see him as part of a trade package.

    I think a lot of teams will ask about Voth, and that the Nats ultimately will part with him if they get the right deal. He doesn’t throw hard enough for their general MO, although he sure does get people out.

    As those of you who follow Luke’s site know, the Nats have a heck of a lot of young RH pitchers posting great numbers who are not necessarily high on the prospect lists but who might pop up in trades (a la Pivetta): Austen Williams, John Simms, Tyler Mapes, Brian Rauh, Dakota Bacus, etc. Voth may be a cut above these guys, but they all have good value.

    On another offseason note, like probably everyone else, I looked up Daniel Murphy as a potential FA for the Nats. He’d add a LH bat, but he’d come at a price, probably one that went up a bit last night. I think he’s probably jumped into the range of $12M per, maybe more. Curiously, he shows up at only 1.4 bWAR but at 2.5 fWAR for ’15. For the Nats, would he be that much of an offensive upgrade over Escobar (2.1 fWAR; 1.9 bWAR)? Probably not. Plus I imagine the Mets now will make a big push to re-sign Murphy. I’m very curious to see how much money the Mets are actually willing to spend this offseason, though, considering their recent financial woes. They certainly took on some salary in mid-season.


    16 Oct 15 at 7:14 am

  16. I’m liking Matt Weiters as a catcher FA and flipping Ramos elsewhere. Ramos gets moved somewhere to likely be a backup; he’s subpar receiver and now has a subpar bat, hard to make the argument he’s still a starting catcher in the league. But maybe i’m wrong and someone would take a shot at him as their catcher.

    Todd Boss

    16 Oct 15 at 11:33 am

  17. Ramos is not a subpar receiver; he’s a good defensive catcher. He is, for example, much better defensively than Wieters across the board. Wieters has been living off of his pre-TJ reputation, but if you actually look at his defensive numbers he hasn’t been a plus defender since 2012.

    And Wieters is a major injury risk. If we’re going to criticize the Nationals for relying on players who are an injury risk we probably should hesitate to recommend that they turn around and pick up a player who played 75 games in 2015, 26 in 2014. Wieters is also likely to carry a draft pick penalty – suffice it to say that I would be loathe to punt a first round pick (#18 overall, IIRC) for an oft injured player who may not be much of an upgrade when all is said and done.

    John C.

    16 Oct 15 at 12:38 pm

  18. The O’s fans could do their own little Span-like dance about whether Wieters will get a QO, and whether he would take it. That would be interesting. If he takes it, stays healthy, and posts career-average numbers, he probably adds two years to his contract and $3-5M per year to his value, or more. He might be worth close to what Russell Martin got. But who are we kidding, he’s a Boras client, so of course he would turn down the QO.

    I can see both sides on a Wieters signing, but my first reaction is to come out on John’s side: he’s a huge injury risk, and also probably not worth giving up the draft pick. That said, if he’s available for something like 2/$20M plus an option year, or a little more, it’d be awfully tempting.

    Here’s the scenario that pops into my head. The O’s QO him and he turns it down. The Nats are not initially interested because Boras wants something like 5/$75M. The Nats explore trade options for a catcher. If they have no luck by February, they and Boras talk in terms of 2/$24 plus an option. That’s a very roundabout way of saying that I don’t think Wieters will be the first option for the Nats, but I wouldn’t rule him out as a late option on more of their terms.


    16 Oct 15 at 1:42 pm

  19. JohnC: Here’s some stats on Ramos’ defense. . Ramos is negative in Calls (framing), negative in RAA. What numbers are you looking at? And what about the reports we’ve just read that talk about how badly he calls games and how he’s limited behind the plate? My grandmother could beat him home to first he’s so slow.

    No, Wieters isn’t that much better. But he hits lefty and I like his offensive capability more than Ramos right now.

    Wieters is a “major injury risk?” What do you think Ramos is??

    Yes, a QO/draft pick penalty drastically changes the equation.

    Todd Boss

    16 Oct 15 at 1:54 pm

  20. I wonder what our buddy Billy Beane would want for Stephen Vogt, who would be another LH bat option and a lot cheaper.


    16 Oct 15 at 2:08 pm

  21. In the Post’s catcher positional review, Wagner mentions Wieters, Lucroy, and Vogt. Another name I’ve heard bandied about is Norris, the former Nat prospect. Any of those would be a healthy offensive upgrade over what Ramos has become.


    17 Oct 15 at 8:17 am

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