Replay the game: The ‘Pine-Tar Incident’ precedent for the Chase Utley miscall


Kit Leong /

It’s a simple matter of justice. The Mets and Dodgers should replay Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

The umpires’ call on the attempt by the Dodgers’ Chase Utley to break up the double play against the Mets on Saturday night was a violation of Major League Baseball’s Official Baseball Rules.

It’s clear that Utley was not trying to slide into second base at all. He made no attempt to do so. He headed directly for Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada and came in high purely to break up the double play. The rules of baseball are clear on the proper call here: Utley is out for interference and, in addition, the batter is also out.

This is dealt with in Rule 7:09(e), the key part of which reads as follows: “If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate.”

The argument against invoking that rule here and calling the automatic double play is simply that ball players are taught to go out of their way to break up double plays.

But that only holds if they’re making a legitimate attempt to slide into the base. It’s beyond dispute that Utley made no attempt to aim for the base. He never even attempted to touch the base with his hands.

He aimed directly for Ruben Tejada’s body and broke his leg.

Baseball rules are meant to be followed. The only proper decision would be to call out both runners and replay the game from that point. Anything else makes a farce of the rules and corrodes the integrity of the game.

And it’s not like they’ll have to go back in time. The teams can proceed with the next two games, which are in New York, and then replay the controversial game at the appropriate point when and if they return to Los Angeles.

There is precedent for such a decision, thanks to what’s known as “the pine tar” game in 1983 between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City third baseman George Brett’s home run was negated because Yankee Manager Billy Martin convinced the umpire there was too much pine tar — a substance that makes it easier to grip the bat — on Brett’s bat.

American League President Lee MacPhail overruled the call and the umpires awarded the home run to Brett. The teams then picked up the game at that point the next time the Royals were in New York. And as they say in sports, the ball never lies: The Royals won that game.

As a Yankees fan, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But the integrity of the game matters a great deal to me.

The violation of the rules that helped the Dodgers beat the Mets on Saturday is even more egregious and in a much more consequential situation. If we want to use sports as an example — particularly for young people — to have appreciation for playing by the rules, we should enforce those rules.

Then, and only then, will we know who truly won that game.

Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001.

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