As I’ve said previously, the situation involving Los Angeles Dodgers’ second baseman Chase Utley has nothing to do with the Baltimore Orioles. Or does it? No, not really – not directly, that is. At least not for now.
Incidentally, I’m talking about the act of suspending Utley for two games. Allegedly the league offered Utley a one-game suspension in the aftermath of Saturday night’s game, an offer he turned down. Keep that little factoid in the back of your pocket for a moment – we’ll pick it up later on.
That Balls Outta Here
Make no mistake about the fact that Utley was only suspended due to public pressure. And yes, I’m looking at you social media. Outlets such as twitter among others are both a blessing and a curse. Anyone who wants to have an opinion about anything, can now have one. And some might argue that’s not a bad thing – for the most part, I would agree. I live-tweet every Orioles game, and I opine about a lot of things regarding sports and even real-life things such as politics. So yes, I’m an avid tweeter.
So you might say don’t bite the hand that feeds you. That might be a fair point to make in my case. However there can be little doubt that MLB saw the public reaction on social media to Saturday’s incident, and decided to take action in suspending Utley. Is that good for the game, or bad?
Well first off, let’s go back to that offer of a one-game suspension for a moment. I think the league wanted this to blow over quickly, and they thought a clean one-game suspension might be the way to go. But is that fair to Utley? Some people are arguing that Utley should have been called out on the play, and that very well may be. But there’s a difference between being out and having committed a dirty play.
So if I’m Utley, no I’m not willing to accept a one-game suspension simply because people around the league started seeing tweets flying around from the unwashed masses to the effect that what Utley did was dirty. But there are some who would argue that MLB has a duty to listen to their fans/customers. All business owners do, right?
Yes, but we’re talking about two different things. If you’re under contract for a record producer who tells you that he has to have more cowbell in your song, then yes you have to listen to that. But no sport should be in the business of allowing fans to dictate things such as suspensions, fines, etc. That play was ruled clean on the field by virtue of the fact that Utley wasn’t ejected. And my personal opinion is that it wasn’t dirty. It was a hard slide, but it wasn’t dirty. So MLB is basically saying that because so many people (who may or may not be informed about what is or isn’t dirty) complained, they’re going to suspend Utley.
That shouldn’t make anyone on the Orioles or any other team feel very comfortable. In fact, that’s probably something that the player’s union itself needs to take up with the league. Public opinion is important for sure. However it should never dictate policy. (That may or may not be something applicable in US politics as well.)
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Courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s a scenario for you; Chris Davis was dinged for PED’s last season. That obviously has little to do with public opinion. Or does it? In 2013 I saw a lot of tweets from opposing fan bases to the effect that Davis had to be on something to do what he did that year. Who’s to say that even at that time, the league wasn’t monitoring what was being said around social media, and maybe didn’t look at Davis closer than they otherwise would have?
I’m not insinuating that this happened. All we know is that every player is randomly tested at various points. But you get where I’m going with this. And it illustrates why public opinion (on social media or otherwise) should have nothing to do with things such as player discipline among other things. I’m sure you can understand how this could set a dangerous precedent.
What I’m ultimately saying is that Chase Utley’s suspension is a miscarriage of justice. MLB sticking their fingers in the air to check the prevailing winds of public opinion isn’t good for players, coaches, or the overall health of the game. This is not to say that incidents shouldn’t be reviewed in some manner, however public opinion should never play a factor to this extent – ever.