The Cubs’ Chris Coghlan could unintentionally play a role in whether Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley’s suspension will be served during a possible playoff series against the Cubs – and whether a rules change results from the play in question.
Utley was suspended for two division series games after a slide that broke Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s leg was deemed illegal by MLB’s chief baseball officer Joe Torre.
Utley’s appeal is to be heard Monday, and if the Dodgers advance to the National League Championship Series, and the suspension is upheld, it would be served during that series against the Cubs, Torre said.
Utley, whom the Cubs tried to acquire in August before the Dodgers got him, is a .337 hitter in 24 career games at Wrigley Field – where the games in question would be played – with a .433 on-base percentage and .999 OPS.
If the Cubs get a pair of games against an Utley-less Dodger lineup, credit Coghlan with an assist in making the case.
His legal slide in Pittsburgh that broke Pirates’ shortstop Jung Ho Kang’s leg Sept. 17 was used by Torre to compare alongside Utley’s and help make the determination, Torre said.
“I hadn’t really seen that play until the Utley thing,” Torre said. “I dragged it back to look at it. It [was the one] that happened most recently. I didn’t see any similarities in the two.
“[Coghlan] was going toward the base and he slid early. My issue with Utley was how late the slide was. Because this kid Coghlan, he slid a good distance from the bag and Kang was in front of the bag with the ball, and it just so happened he hit him with his leg.
“That’s very different for me.”
Added Torre: “If Chase had gone through the base and got somebody I couldn’t even have done anything. But he veered off.”
Because of the severe injuries that resulted on both plays, MLB could raise the volume on talks about a rules change.
The current rule gives the runner a legal lane to slide as wide as his arm can reach and still touch the bag. A new rule being considered, Torre said, and being tested in Arizona Fall League play, would allow a much narrower lane, directly to the bag.
The restriction on late slides wouldn’t change.
Torre said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called him after Kang’s injury.
“He said we’ve got to do something [to protect infielders],” Torre said. “But he wasn’t accusing anybody of anything. He just feels we’ve got to find a way. He said [Coghlan’s slide] wasn’t dirty in any way.”