The Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers are poised to meet Monday for the first time since last October’s National League Division Series, during which Tejada suffered a fractured right leg on an aggressive slide from Chase Utley.
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and is now with the St. Louis Cardinals, who happen to visit Dodger Stadium in the following series.
Utley’s slide motivated MLB to change the rule on slides into second base. He originally was handed a two-game suspension, but it was vacated during spring training and he was not required to serve any punishment.
“I don’t really care. It’s long ago,” Tejada said Sunday in St. Louis. “I know that there is a long history with the Mets and Dodgers, but I think it’s ... another game, it’s another series for them. I have a lot of teammates there and they care, but I don’t think they really think about that -- the past. I think they’ll try to go there and play well and do everything you need to do to win the series.”
Said Mets captain David Wright: “You feel terrible for Ruben. You never want to see anybody hurt, especially to that degree. But, in a way, I think it brought all of us as a team closer to say, ‘Hey, you know what, let’s get our retribution by going out and beating these guys and sending them home.’ I think ultimately that’s what we were able to do. I’d be lying if I say you don’t think about it, because obviously you think about it. But, for us, winning the series, I think, was the payback that we all wanted. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”
The Mets privately bristled when Utley’s suspension was dropped during spring training, especially because that news came shortly after Mets reliever Hansel Robles’ suspension for throwing in the direction of Philadelphia’s Cameron Rupp last Sept. 30 was merely reduced from three games to two.
“I don’t think by any means of the definition was it a clean slide, but that’s Major League Baseball’s call,” Wright said. “And, obviously, they changed the rule because of that encounter. I think everybody saw what we saw. But, again, according to Chase, there was no intent -- no malicious intent. But it is what it is, and we had a guy that ended up with a broken leg and a rule change because of it. Again, we all kind of huddled around afterward and we said, ‘The best way to get back at these guys, and the best retribution, is winning this series and sending them home.’ And that’s what we were able to accomplish.”
Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have succeeded the starters from Game 2 of the NLDS, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy, as the Mets’ middle infielders. Could Walker foresee the Mets seeking retribution for a departed player he has now replaced?
“I think it will be handled appropriately,” Walker said. “I know guys aren’t happy in this dugout. If I were on this team last year, I certainly wouldn’t have been happy if it happened to me or if it happened to a teammate of mine. At the same time, we’ve pushed into a new year. I’ve played against Chase for a long time. And you know he’s a guy who plays hard. And you know he’s going to come into second hard. You know he’s going to give you his best effort. It wasn’t a good situation, to say the least. I’ve played second base before with him playing. But there’s been no talk in here about how it’s going to be handled or anything like that.”
As a result of the rule change, runners must begin their slides before reaching the base and need to be able to reach second. The “neighborhood play” was simultaneously abolished.
“I think it’s kept us safer around the bag,” Walker said. “You kind of know where guys are going to be sliding into. I still think a lot of guys probably prefer to not have these rules, because you weren’t having to hang around the bag as long as you are now. You have to make sure you’re on the base when you turn a double play or it’s the third out at second base. But I think, overall, it’s doing its job whether we really like it or not.”
As for what Tejada’s emotions will be like when he returns to Dodger Stadium with the Cardinals next weekend as opposed to with the Mets, he said, “Same. It’s history now. I don’t think of it. I’m here, happy. I’m getting an opportunity here. And all that is all history.”