I'm not sure why I forgot that Chase Utley's knee ended Gregor Blanco's season, but I did. Possibly because he wasn't diagnosed until a week later, and possibly because I'm still not used to Chase Utley on the Dodgers. It took a keen-eyed emailer to point this out (thank you!), so allow me to jog your memory.
It was August 31, and the Giants were just 3½ back, the teasing jerks. If they could just sweep the Dodgers, why, they could be just a half-game out of first! Then they played the dumbest, most painful game of the season until the next game, and by the time the series was over, the Dodgers had essentially won the NL West.
In the ninth inning of that first game, it was 4-4, and Gregor Blanco reached on an infield single. That brought up Ehire Adrianza, who bunted the first pitch 15 feet in the air for an easy out. Bruce Bochy looked like this.
Adrianza didn't stop. He just straight down the stairs and into the clubhouse, then kept walking. He's in Ottawa now, and it's getting cold, but he knows what he did, and the helmet keeps his head warm at least.
That meant Blanco had to steal. He was successful, except he got a head full of knee. Here's the official Getty pic:
Here's the GIF:
I've watched it about 50 times now, and I keep waiting to see something different, some nuance that would explain why Utley would move his right leg but not his left, but I'm pretty sure he was trying to prevent Blanco from reaching the bag by any means necessary. The ball hit Blanco in the butt, but Utley didn't know it was going to do that. He thought he was going to catch the ball, and if Blanco mysteriously ended up a half-inch short of the bag, well, bully for the Dodgers. If Blanco's head mysteriously hit Utley's knee, that's baseball for you! Can't predict baseball.
Here's what Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper said on the broadcast:
Krukow: Thing about Utley, I mean, he's not afraid to block that bag with his body.
Kuiper: You have to be careful with him.
Later, when Blanco went on the DL, here's what Bochy told the AP:
"He complained after the game in Arizona," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He thinks it's from a slide in L.A. when his head hit the knee of the infielder. It seemed to get worse."
Did Utley do it on purpose? After watching the GIF 50 more times, I have no idea. He wasn't trying to get in front of the ball, so maybe he was just positioning himself better to make the catch? Or maybe he has a head-seeking knee.
No, no. That's too convenient now that Utley is in the news. It's classic confirmation bias. We're reading too much into it. Unless there's a current player who could anonymously confirm what we're looking at ...
"Late slide with the intent. He has always had a pass on how he plays and he is very aggressive almost to a fault. He drops his knee on base stealers that head first slide and in the sliding instance in my opinion, it was late and too high."
He does this all the time, apparently. Has a reputation, he does. He doesn't do it all the time. Sometimes he just pushes the runner off the base with his glove.
I'm not going to suggest that I wouldn't rather switch places with the Dodgers right now, needing two wins to advance to the NLCS, but if there's a silver lining to this season, it's that I'm glad Chase Utley never played for the Giants. I'm glad I never had to rationalize his style of playing, because I'm sure I would, at least in some capacity. I'm glad I never had to use the when-he's-on-your-team argument, and I'm glad in 20 years, there aren't going to be random pictures of him in a Giants uniform in an unrelated search, like there are for Steve Finley and Orel Hershiser now.
I'm glad I get to despise Chase Utley unambiguously, and that the rest of the country gets to do the same for the Dodgers, too. I don't know if he hit Blanco's head on purpose, but we can all believe that he did, right? It wouldn't be out of character. His slide against Ruben Tejada was ghoulish, and only another ghoul could appreciate it.
Always called him one of my toughest teammates...Utley showing why I always called him a winner!!! #MLBPlayoffs— Shane Victorino (@ShaneVictorino) October 11, 2015
Sad the Giants didn't make the postseason, but happy they didn't fart around with Utley while they were busy missing it. Thank you, Kelby Tomlinson. You helped more than you could have known.