THE EXCITING GAME WITHOUT ANY RULES—FOR COLLISIONS AT SECOND BASE. Utley’s slide, as Brian Kenny points out in his post, was plainly in violation of the text of the applicable baseball rule, as Joe Torre found in suspending Utley for two games. Utley left the baseline for the obvious purpose of crushing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Indeed, he never did touch second base on his way to the collision.
Yet a number of baseball people asserted that Utley’s slide was legal. Their argument would be that the rule is rarely invoked. In fact, Kenny’s post shows a video of Chris Coghlan of the Cubs breaking the leg of Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates earlier this year in a play that is very similar to Utley’s slide. In that case, there was no penalty imposed on Coghlan.
I think that what has happened is that there is a great deal of disagreement among baseball people on what the rule should be. A lot of “old school” people like the risk at second base. It shows toughness. The compromise in practice has been a written rule forbidding certain slides and an unwritten rule permitting them. Of course, if you have two conflicting rules, you really have no rule at all.
I posted here about an earlier baseball playoff scenario which reminded me of “TEGWAR” (The Exciting Game Without Any Rules as shown in the baseball movie Bang the Drum Slowly, which features a young Robert De Niro and a young Michael Moriarty). I am reminded again of TEGWAR.