MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Mets-Dodgers tensions must end here and now

Mets-Dodgers tensions must end here and now

Here's hoping the Mets and Dodgers have the good sense to end this ridiculous thing here and now. To escalate it further benefits no one.

Let's be clear: This is a dangerous part of baseball. Yes, I know it has been part of the game since the beginning. I also know that players seldom get hurt.

Which proves nothing. Not every tradition is a product of rational thought. In the end, no one wins.

Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson spoke for more than a few players recently when he said this retaliation game needed to stop, that it was both dangerous and senseless.

If the Mets thought that potentially sacrificing a victory was worth it to exact revenge on Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley, OK, message received.

However, if the Mets lose the National League East by one game, they may want to reassess the risk/reward of what happened on Saturday night at Citi Field.

Their best pitcher, right-hander Noah Syndergaard, got himself ejected for throwing a 99-mph fastball behind Utley in the top of the third inning.

Syndergaard ejected for throwing behind Utley

Plate umpire Adam Hamari reacted immediately, tossing Syndergaard from the game. Mets manager Terry Collins came out to argue and was also tossed.

After Syndergaard left a scoreless contest, the Dodgers jumped on five relievers for nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings on their way to a 9-1 victory.

Utley? He homered twice and drove in five runs one night after driving in four. He was booed loudly by most of the 42,227 in attendance but clearly was unfazed by the whole thing.

Unless there's more trouble in Sunday's series finale, everyone will have gotten out in good shape. Only thing is, the Mets are in a virtual tie with the Nationals atop the NL East.

This may be one of those division races that stays close the entire season. To salvage a series win on Sunday, the Mets will have to beat arguably the best pitcher on the planet -- Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA).

This Mets-Dodgers incident was 232 days in the making. In Game 2 of the NL Division Series on Oct. 10, 2015, Utley barrel-rolled into then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada at second base.

Must C: Tejada injured on slide

Tejada's left leg was broken and the Mets were furious, saying the play was dirty, that Utley never even slid toward second base.

(Baseball has since amended the rule for plays at second base, essentially requiring players to slide toward the base on a similar plays.)

On Saturday night, the Mets and Dodgers were playing for the sixth -- and next-to-last -- time this season when Utley was targeted. He'd played in every game, and maybe the Mets figured he'd have Sunday afternoon off.

At least there wasn't a repeat of what happened in Texas two weekends ago, when the Rangers and Blue Jays ended up swapping punches in the middle of the diamond.

Things ended differently that day after Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista was hit by Rangers reliever Matt Bush in retaliation for Bautista's series-deciding home run against the Rangers in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, a homer that was followed with a monumental bat flip. To some that moment represented the end to two decades of Blue Jays frustration. To the Rangers, though, it was galling that he'd flung his bat in front of their dugout.

Only it didn't end with Bush drilling him.

Bautista ended up at first base, and on an infield grounder, he attempted to take out Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor on a slide. Odor hopped up and delivered a haymaker to Bautista's jaw. Bautista was suspended for one game, Odor for eight (reduced to seven on appeal).

Must C: Tempers flare in Texas

Odor was serving the second game of his suspension at about the same time Syndergaard was throwing his 99-mph heater behind Utley.

In this way the Mets and Dodgers were lucky that Utley struck out after the pitch sailed behind him. And luckily, this may be where it ends. The Mets sent Utley a message. The Mets also lost a game.

Bautista took note of the incident in a pair of Tweets:

-Must be nice bro!!! #ChaseUtley #Oops

-Glad nobody got hurt. #ChaseUtley #Mets

That first tweet probably was in reference to the fact that Syndergaard's pitch didn't actually hit Utley. The second was his way of noting that punches weren't thrown.

It's important to understand that not every team believes in this retaliation game. For instance, Earl Weaver's Orioles of the 1970s and 1980s famously never retaliated. They believed that the best revenge was winning the game.

The Mets were willing to pay whatever price they had to pay. Maybe that price will be nothing of consequence.

But let's hope this is the final chapter. There's nothing of substance to be gained by going another round.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.