There's nothing wrong with good, hard, clean baseball. It's admirable. And expected. There have been enough recent examples of high paid ballplayers not giving it their all, that at times we yearn for some hardscrabble play. Almost all in today's game play the game the right way.
Yet, when a star doesn't hustle it becomes magnified. Human nature being what it is, people tend to generalize and assume most players are taking it easy.
While a hard, clean, hustle play is appreciated and encouraged, the problem occurs when it crosses the line into dirty play. For starters, there is the moral issue of playing fair and by the rules. This is basic and should be followed by everyone for the sake of doing things the right way. Secondly, there is greater risk of injury to one, or both, of the players involved in a dirty play.
That is precisely what happened Saturday night in Game 2 of the NLDS between the Mets and the Dodgers. Down 1-0 in the series and 2-1 in the 7th inning of Game Two, Chase Utley headed to second base with the intent of breaking up a double play and preventing the Mets from ending the inning. That is precisely what he is supposed to do in that situation. His intent appeared to be a clean, rough play. As is well known, it's not easy to read a person's heart from a distance.
Yet, at the end of the play, Utley did not make anything resembling an attempt at sliding through 2nd base. Instead, as he clearly ran out of the base path to knock down Ruben Tejada, it became clearer as to what was his true intent was. Even from a distance.
He was going to knock Ruben down no matter what it took. Was he trying to injure Tejada? It is seriously doubtful. But he went so far out of his way to break up the double play, past where it is considered a hard but clean play, that the safety of the other player, let alone the rules of the game, were clearly not foremost in his mind.
It can be a delicate balancing act to play hard while not purposely trying to hurt another player. With total disregard for Ruben Tejada, Chase Utley took him out of the play with a slide that was outside of the rules and beyond good sportsmanship, ultimately breaking Tejada's leg. He slid with reckless abandonment.
The punishment of being suspended for Games 3 and 4 of the series supports the thought that Utley broke the rules, but is of little aid or comfort to Ruben Tejada and the fans of the Metropolitans. Especially since Utley appealed immediately and the appeal was not heard before Game 3, which allowed Utley to suit up and be eligible for Game 3.
That is an absurdity.
The hearing should have been held prior to Game 3.
Thankfully there wasn't any frontier justice in Game 3, and hopefully there won't be any in Game 4 tonight. It is best for both teams to play a clean game. To paraphrase, or butcher, Pope Francis' highlighting of The Golden Rule during his recent trip to the U.S., two wrongs don't make a right. At least not until next April.