In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Connor Smith, asks our panel of experts three questions: Was Chase Utley’s slide legal, should the NFL have punished DeAngelo Williams and what has been the biggest suprise of the college football (CFB) season so far?
1. Was Chase Utley’s slide in NLDS Game Two legal and did MLB handle it properly?
Matt: According to Major League Baseball’s rulebook, the slide was legal. Players are allowed to slide into second base with the intention to disrupt the throw to first. Plays like this happen all the time, and Utley has made that exact play for his entire career. In the playoffs, you have to do whatever it takes to win, and that’s what Utley did, and his team eventually won the game because of his slide. I do not agree with the suspension, however. The slide was technically legal, however blatant it was. It was unfortunate Rubén Tejada got injured, but that’s baseball. MLB had no right to suspend Utley for something that they themselves allow in their rules. MLB issued a suspension simply to make an example of Utley, and even admitted fan reaction played into the decision. That is an absolute joke. MLB will surely look into changing the rule in the offseason, but for right now, issuing a suspension was not the right move.
Otto: The slide was not legal because Utley clearly did not slide into the base, but into Tejada, resulting in his broken fibula. The slide was very late and Tejada was not looking at Utley because he was trying to turn the double play. The entire altercation was, I believe, overhyped because of the resulting injury, when in fact that play happens very often just without any injuries. I don’t think the play was very dirty because I seriously doubt that Utley wanted to harm Tejada. I also believe that MLB should not have suspended Utley, as there has never been a precedent set for an incident like this. However, it is a good time to set a standard for future plays like this and how they should be treated.
Sean: No. Utley’s slide in the NLDS Game Two was not legal, nor did the MLB handle it properly on or off the field. Multiple mistakes were made. The primary mistake made was how the umpires called the slide. If the slide were to be deemed illegal then not only would Utley have been ruled out, but the runner at first would have also been out, a double play to end the inning prior to the multi-run rally that followed. If the slide were to be deemed illegal then there is nothing discuss here. However it was not, which leads to the next mistake when after review, Utley was deemed safe. Yes, Tejada did not step on the base, but the umpire ruled Utley out, which should have blown the play dead similar to the NFL whistle. Why should the Mets have had to tag Utley when the runner was already ruled out and the play was already over? I do not know, nor did it appear MLB itself knows because their response was poorly explained, their last mistake. Although Utley was finally suspended, the message was never clear and the MLB never took responsibility for their mistake.
Sean gets 3 points for discussing the impact the ruling had. Matt gets 2 points for defending hard-nosed play and Otto gets 1 point for acknowledging the precedent MLB is setting.
2. Is the NFL wrong to prohibit DeAngelo Williams from wearing pink attire outside of Breast Cancer Awareness month?
Matt: The answer here is clearly, yes, the NFL is wrong. But what else is new? Does anyone expect the NFL to ever make the right call anymore? Williams has every right to honor his mother, who died of breast cancer, for the whole season. When Williams’ mother died, the NFL exploited her death for their own gain. They used Williams as a poster boy for their Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They used Williams’ story to sell pink merchandise and jerseys. But now that his story is no longer relevant or of use to the NFL, Goodell and company are back to their evil ways — limiting any freedom the players have. Just this past week, the NFL again laid down their hammer of self-entitlement by fining the Steelers’ Cameron Heyward for writing “Iron Head” on his eye black, in honor of his father, who also died from cancer. When will the NFL learn?
Otto: I don’t think the league is wrong to do this because they’re just enforcing their own rules. They have made their standard uniform rules that the players must follow. Players like Chad Johnson have been fined in the past for infractions to the uniform code. The case with Williams is unfortunate because it’s a cause that the league endorses and it’s dear to Williams’ heart, but they need to treat it like any other infraction. However, that being said, I do believe that their uniform policies are very strict and that they need to be fixed. While they are following the rules, I think they need to change them a little bit, too.
Sean: Yes. There is no moral reason why Williams should not be allowed to wear pink outside of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, the NFL does not think in terms of morals and what the NFL cares about is money. It has been reported season after season how little money from the plethora of pink merchandise actually goes towards breast cancer research and the majority of sales at the end of October is NFL profit. Similar to Brandon Marshall’s incident in 2013, where Marshall was fined for wearing green cleats to support Mental Health Awareness Month — also an October awareness month — Williams was not allowed to wear pink outside of October because it could hurt their sales, hence hurting their profits, as well. The NFL was wrong to prohibit Williams from wearing pink outside of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but at the end of the day the NFL does not care if they are wrong.
Matt gets 3 points for exposing the NFL’s hypocrisy. Otto also gets 3 points for questioning the NFL’s strict uniform policies and Sean gets 2 points for the Brandon Marshall reference.
3. It’s the halfway point in the CFB season — what’s the biggest surprise thus far?
Matt: I was in the process of writing how great Michigan has been so far this season, but then they forgot how to punt the ball, and any team that can’t simply punt is not worthy of this answer. So, I guess I’ll go with Utah. Coming off an average season in 2014, Utah was not expected to be in contention for the playoffs. But with one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football, the Utes are capable of beating any team. They have already knocked off multiple ranked teams, like Michigan, California and last year’s second-ranked Oregon Ducks. The Utes are clearly the favorite in the Pac-12 in a year when the conference is lacking its usual plethora of ranked teams. As long as they can stay healthy, the Utes have the talent and the ease of schedule to go undefeated and earn a spot in the playoffs.
Otto: College football has a clear cut favorite for the Heisman trophy in running back Leonard Fournette, but there is not much competition after him. What is most surprising is not only that, but how little talent there has been at the quarterback position across the country. Professional football is dominated by quarterbacks and there does not seem to be a lot of promising talent in the college ranks. Every year there are usually some players that seem to be figuring it out and show their potential, but this year the quarterback play has not been very strong. This is very worrying for teams that need a franchise quarterback at the next level to turn their team around. They will then have to look for talent at other positions that aren’t as dynamic as the quarterback position.
Sean: At the halfway point of the CFB season, the biggest surprise (in my opinion) is Temple University ranked at 22 and undefeated. Although Temple’s schedule may not have been as strong as most, Temple has played teams such as Penn State and Cincinnati, with each win being a statement win. In the next two weeks, Temple will be playing East Carolina University and Notre Dame, both teams of which I believe they might beat and if they do, an 8-0 Temple will likely see a much higher ranking, not only surprising me, but also surprising the rest of the nation. Temple is the least discussed, but biggest surprise of the CFB season thus far.
Matt gets 3 points for pointing out Utah’s potential going forward. Sean gets 2 points for having faith in Temple and Otto 1 point for bringing up the QB talent drought.
Matt wins Around the Dorm 8-7-5