For the New York Mets, losing their playoff game 5-2 against the Dodgers early this morning was hardly the worst of it. Their shortstop Ruben Tejada left with a broken leg, the second time the same leg was broken in 3 seasons, thanks to a savage takeout slide by known bad man of baseball Chase Utley.Up to then it was 2-1 Mets with a runner on third in the last of the 7th. With one out, On an attempted double play ball hit by Howie Kendrick, second baseman Daniel Murphy threw to Tejada at shortstop. Meantime, coming from behind, Utley needlessly decked Tejada in a slide reminiscent of what Pete Rose laid on Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game. That caused a broken collarbone and pain that Fosse has dealt with on a daily basis since then. To Mets fans, this slide brings back Pete Rose’s attempted demolition of Bud Harrelson, a player half Rose’s size. A fight ensued, and from then to the end of the series Rose felt the wrath of Mets fans every time he took a step on the field. Following this morning’s game-tying slide and a long review that led to nothing, the Dodgers put up 3 more runs before the 7th inning was over and the game was lost.
A broken leg is one thing to you and me, but quite another for a ball player. My aunt broke hers when I was too young to write my name. Everybody who could write theirs wrote it on her cast. She was in plaster for a while, then was her old self again. IT doesn’t always work like that in baseball. Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the first game of the 2012 ALCS, and was lost for the entire 2013 season. Dodgers’ Bobby Valentine in the early ’70s and Tommy Davis in 1965 suffered broken legs that adversely effected the rest of their careers. Tejada will be 26 on Oct. 27. He’s been a Met off and on since 2010. Utley will turn 37 in mid-December. The Mets have had issues with him before, mostly in his days witth the Phillies for whom he began playing in 2003. His most notorious public bit of mischief was in the Phillies’ victory celebration after they won the 2008 World Series. He grabbed an open microphone and hollered to untold millions “World —-ing Champions.” It wasn’t bad enough the profanity was heard by the people in the park. Five Philadelphia TV stations and one radio station had it live on the air without a 7-second delay which most radio and TV outlets use to cut out that sort of thing. The FCC received some 26 complaints about what listeners and viewers heard. Neither Utley nor the stations were fined.
Unfortunately, in the time available during the unseemly delay for the futile review, neither of the Mets’ radio broadcasters Howie Rose nor Josh Lewin would specifically say what issues Utley had caused where the Mets were concerned in years past. I’ve made no secret of my high opinion of Howie Rose. Lewin, while working for the Tigers won the first Ty Tyson Award for Broadcast Excellence, named for the Tigers’ first broadcaster Ty Tyson, a grandfatherly man who called his audience “boys and girls.” Unfortunately, on this occasion these two fine broadcasters stuck to innuendo rather than stating cases which I was unable to find while writing for you. They had time enough to lay out chapter and verse of Utley’s sins. The delay was 8 minutes 7 seconds in length. I’ve never had the chance to write about my unhappiness with the length of time reviews take, and this one was the first I was able to put a stopwatch on from the throwing of the pitch to the decision of the review. Hockey uses the same system baseball does, but for reasons unknown their reviews are on average much snappier than those of baseball, where the record is 34 minutes during this season.
All that happened before Tejada’s injury seems irrelevant now, but it is still in the record books. The Mets had a 2-0 lead early on. In the second, Yoenis Cespedes, known as “La Potencia,” (The Power,) when he played in Cuba demonstrated what “la potencia,” means by crushing a home run off Zack Greinke. After the next two men were retired, Michael Conforto launched one of his own, on his first postseason atbat. While I’ve been unable to find out how many men have done this, I know the following: Tommy Pham did it last night for the Cardinals. For the Mets, Edgardo Alfonso did it in 1999 against the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson. Marlon Byrd homered on his first postseason atbat in 2013 with the Pirates. 3 men have done the amazing deed as pinch-hitters. The first and most dramatic was Dusty Rhodes. In 1954, coming off the bench with two men on in the 10th facing Bob Lemon, he hit what would today be called a walkoff home run for a 5-2 Giants win. 25 years later, John Lowenstein did it with the Orioles against the Angels from the bench. Lastly in 1998, Padres’ catcher Greg Myers came in as a pinch hitter and launched a two-run home run the first time he was at the plate in a postseason game. But as great as those home runs were, and as well as Noah Syndergaard pitched, he will go down as the loser because he left with two men on base and they scored. The game itself will be as irrelevant to Mets fans as the Cubs’ 6-3 triumph to tie their series with the Cardinals earlier in the day. The talking point until further notice will be the injury to Tejada and the reaction Utley will have to bear from the Citi Field faithful Monday night and as long as the series goes. Complicating the matter is, Wilmer Flores has a troubled back. He replaced Tejada following the injury, but the Mets in all likelihood look to add an infielder to the roster which can be done in the case of a major injury such as this. Juan Uribe seems unlikely, as he suffered a bruise to his chest near the end of the regular season and wasn’t considered fit to play when the series began. The two most likely men are Eric Campbell and Dilson Herrera, both of whose names are likely to be greeted with groans from Mets fans. Campbell spent much of the year struggling in the show while David Wright nursed his injured back. Herrera, while supposedly a hot prospect did not perform at all well with the Mets when he was called up. Whoever hears the call of duty won’t be a likely starter. Kellly Johnson can play most of the infield positions. But a warm body is needed thanks to the brutality of an old foe.0