GLENDALE, Ariz. — This wasn’t exactly joining the enemy. Baseball people change teams and uniforms all the time. And yet . . . “Yes,” acknowledged Bob Geren, “one of the players said to me, ‘Now that you’re on the other side . . . ’ ’’
Neither the player nor Geren had to finish. He knew. Everybody knows.
Now that Geren, who the last four seasons was a coach with the Mets, has become a coach with the Dodgers, what did he think of the slide — the rolling block, really — by the Dodgers’ Chase Utley in the NLDS last fall that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada?
“You play to the limit of the rules,” Geren answered diplomatically, “and if something is wrong with that rule, then change it.”
Which — a few hours before Geren spoke at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch spring training complex — is exactly what Major League Baseball decided to do.
Under the new policy Rule 6.01(j), a slide intended to break up a double play, which is what Utley performed in Game 2 of the NLDS, “will have to include a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on base.”
Utley has refused to discuss the slide until a hearing is held on an appeal of his two-game suspension for the collision.
But he told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, “I think that will definitely help keep guys healthy. From my understanding, I think we’ve been trying to work on this for a few years now, trying to get on the same page. Now, obviously we are. I don’t think one instance really determined anything.”
What Geren, 54, determined was that it was time to go home again, or at least 100 miles or so from home, the distance from his new residence in Pasadena, a Los Angeles suburb, to San Diego, where he was born and raised. The call of family was too strong.
“It was a tough decision,” said Geren, a baseball lifer, “because the Mets were a real classy organization, all the way from Fred Wilpon to Sandy Alderson to Terry Collins. They gave me a great opportunity.
“But my dad passed away a few years back. I felt like I never did see him that much. When I grew up, he was a fisherman out of San Diego and would be gone two, three months at a time. And then [after signing with the Yankees], I left home at 17. My mom’s 88. All my sisters live in San Diego.”
Geren played amateur ball and was friends with current Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who hired Geren as Oakland’s manager before the 2007 season and fired him early in the 2011 season. Geren joined the Mets in 2012.
“I loved every minute of it,” Geren said of his time in New York. “Leaving was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. But I’m not looking back. I learned so much from Terry. The Dodgers have a young manager [Dave Roberts, 43] who could use a veteran side man.”
During the offseason, Geren lives in Scottsdale, maybe 20 miles from the Dodgers’ complex. That was no small factor in the decision. He literally stays home during spring training, and San Diego is about 5 1⁄2 hours along Interstate 8.
“If I don’t get another shot as a manager, I’ll be fine,” Geren said. “The experience with Terry and now with Dave will make me a better baseball person. New York was fun. I wish the Mets all the success in the world.”
If they’re not playing the Dodgers.