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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Chase Utley’s suspension overturned, but slide is old news by now

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada is tended

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada is tended to by trainers after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images / Sean M. Haffey

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

Let’s look at all that has happened since Chase Utley was suspended two games last October for breaking Ruben Tejada’s leg with an especially violent takeout slide during the Division Series.

1. The Mets beat the Dodgers, then the Cubs, to advance to their first World Series in 15 years.

2. Tejada’s leg healed.

3. Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the Players Association, established a new law, Rule 6.01 (j), to help prevent more bone-breaking slides like the one that crippled Tejada.

Not a bad list, right? So after Sunday’s revelation that Utley’s two-game suspension had been rescinded on appeal, yet to be officially announced but confirmed to the Los Angeles Times by MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre, why would the Mets bother seeking any further retribution?

We get the whole eye-for-eye argument. Baseball loves its revenge fantasies. But whether or not Utley misses part of an April series against the Padres has pretty much zero bearing on the Mets’ National League title defense. As for targeting Utley this season, the Mets don’t play L.A. until May 9 at Dodger Stadium. Tejada might not even be on the roster by then.

There’s no point in pursuing this, and the Mets should just drop it. But when the question was posed Sunday to Terry Collins, it didn’t appear that he was ready to move on just yet.

“I guess the easiest way to put it is we have a new slide rule and there’s a reason why that rule’s been put in,” Collins said. “One of the major reasons is because of what happened to Ruben. I wasn’t in the meeting. I wasn’t there for their decision, so we’ll go play baseball.”

To me, that sounds a lot like, we’ll go play baseball, and in the process of playing baseball, we may have some unfinished business to take care of.

While we applaud Collins sticking up for his players, there’s no need to in this case. Too much time has passed, and on top of that, having Noah Syndergaard or Matt Harvey rifle fastballs at Utley may end up getting someone else hurt, including on Collins’ own roster.

Torre acted quickly in October to suspend Utley because he didn’t want to turn Game 3 of the Division Series into a steel-cage match at Citi Field. The Mets were at the boiling point after Utley wiped out Tejada in Game 2, and Torre hoped to keep the focus on baseball rather than the two teams trading fists in front of a national TV audience.

In retrospect, Torre had no precedent to suspend Utley for what he did — as brutal as it looked — and that’s why his ban was rescinded. Quietly, we might add. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, during union chief Tony Clark’s visit to Tradition Field, that the thread was pulled after Clark said the matter had been “resolved.”

Later, in talking to people briefed on the decision, it was explained that because there was “inconsistency” in how the play was called in the past, and others hadn’t been suspended in similar situations, Utley’s two-game penalty was erased. Torre also told the Times that the suspension “sort of lost its impact” once the Mets- Dodgers series was over.

We agree with him. Plus, MLB is now happy to point to its new rule as a chance to move forward from the Utley-Tejada incident, which served as a catalyst for a positive change in how the game is played.

That seemed to be enough for Tejada, who is fine with putting this behind him even if Utley gets away with it. “I don’t care, really,” he said. “I’m healthy here, I’m happy here, so I don’t care what’s going to happen there.”

David Wright, unlike his manager, was satisfied with the rule modification. As someone who makes a living with a bat in his hand, he probably has no interest in rekindling any beanball wars down the line.

“The punishment means nothing to us,” Wright said. “I’m glad there’s clarification. I’m not going to try to be the judge and jury for MLB at this point. What we were upset about last year they changed with the clarification of the slide.”

Now Wright just needs to convince his manager. The Mets have plenty to play for this season as the defending NL champs. With all the problems it could cause, revenge doesn’t need to be on that list.

New York Sports