Chase Utley commits an act that anywhere else would constitute aggravated assault, and receives—a two-game suspension. His manager, Don Mattingly (who his publicists have nicknamed Donnie Baseball, somewhat counterintuitively inasmuch as he has never won anything), explained that “if David Wright had done it, he would have been called a gamer.” Yes, and if Jesus Christ sprouted horns and grew a tail, he would be the devil.
The problem is that in a 12-year career Wright has never done that and did not do it last Saturday. More troubling than Donnie’s skewed rationalization is the reaction among many of the baseball pundits. On TBS, Ron Darling acknowledged that it was a dirty play; you do not take out a fielder when you are not even heading for the base. His colleagues however were bloviating about “this is how playoff baseball is played.” It reminded me of the 1970 All-Star game, a meaningless exhibition, when Pete Rose barreled into catcher Ray Fosse, resulting in injury that effectively ended Fosse’s career. The commentators at the time could not have waxed more poetic about “Charley Hustle” and the exuberant way Rose played the game.
I was only a youngster at the time, but even then I realized that it spoke to Rose’s character. History is a valuable teacher. The so-called “baseball purists” should appreciate the lesson: that those who play dirty will be dirty in other aspects of their life, something “Charley Hustle” certainly validated in spades as he gambolled his way out of the National Pasttime.