It’s hard to imagine life without Chase Utley. With the knee problem surrounding our star second baseman the chatter has arose to ridiculous proportions. “Trade Chase, he’s overrated, he’s old and beat up.” With Chase “You are the Man!” Utley sidelined due to a thumb injury most of July and August of 2010 and now being sidelined with patellar tendinitis to begin the year the haters and naysayers have arrived. I am here to set the record straight, Chase Utley is STILL the best second baseman in all of baseball. Shocking?!? Well the truth remains; the heartbeat of Philly still has phaith in #26. We here at BLN still believe that Chase Utley is the best second baseman in the game and that he will prove that notion at some point in 2011. That’s why he still deserves #2 on our Best Athlete in Philly countdown.
The signs have been promising regarding Utley and a possible May return. According to Ruben Amaro Jr. the 60 day DL is not in the cards for Chase and that has got to be a positive sign at this point. Utley has said that he is confident he will not need surgery. One thing we do know is that Utley will be back on the field before humanly possible.
It’s easy to look at Utley’s stats in 2010 and notice a drop-off in production. The fact still remains that he was having a decent season before the thumb injury sidelined him in July and went on a tear once he returned. Chase hit .323 in September with 5 homeruns and 22 RBIs, although his post-season was one to be forgotten. Utley finished the regular season with a .275 AVG, 16 homeruns, and 65 RBIs.
At the “young” age of 32, a career average of .293, a career slugging percentage of .514, 650 career RBI’s, and 177 home runs there is no reason to doubt that Utley still has some dominant years ahead. His resume speaks for itself. A five-time All-star who takes pride in his craft. He has always given everything he has to being the best in the game. Utley’s game still amazingly enough goes somewhat unnoticed.
Chase goes about being the best second baseman in all of baseball quite methodically. Not a care about the media, the critics, or even the pain. Injuries that would sideline any “normal” ball player Chase Utley brushes off like a feather on a rhino. I can only imagine with the type of pain that Utley is able to endure that the degree of pain with his latest injury is severely high. The fact that we even know about this injury is shocking. For a guy who plays with reckless abandonment on the field the toll on the body is just a part of the game. It is the only way he knows how to play. I still believe that Chase will be healthy and ready to play by mid May with his eyes set on leading this Phillies team to its third World Championship.
When asked earlier in spring training if he should take a more cautious approach to his play Utley was passionate and clear with his response.
"I don't know any other way to play."
His is a man about his business. The intensity with which he handles every aspect of the game is something to be admired. He runs every out every ground ball as if it is the last out in Game 7, he breaks up double plays with brute force, and gets hit more than Kim Myers. He is the driving force behind the championship persona that has been so deeply established in South Philly. Four straight division titles, back to back league pennants, and of course the 2008 World Series title! If Charlie would give out a “C” to stitch on a player’s jersey there would be no denying the worthiness of Chase Utley to receive that honor.
It is hard to dislike his demeanor. He is a professional in every sense of the word. He is a character guy in the clubhouse who raises the level of play and makes the work ethic of his teammates that much stronger. Some people were born to do one distinct thing, and Chase Utley was born to play baseball.
“Chase Utley is the most prepared player I’ve ever been around, he loves to play,” skipper Charlie Manuel said about his second baseman. “He has the desire, the passion of a kid. He’s not only great on the field, but he’s great off the field, in our clubhouse and everywhere he goes. He’s a top-notch professional and a big credit to the game.”
That sweet, simple swing is something to just gaze at. You can get caught up in the beauty of it. How does he make it look so easy? He has exceptional balance and stays compact at the point of contact, not following through on his swing like most power hitters. His power comes through his ability to whip the bat through the strike zone, spraying the ball to all parts of the field. You will rarely see Utley chase a bad pitch. His ability to turn it on when needed was clearly apparent during the 2009 World Series when he hit a record-tying five homeruns in the series. There is an “it” factor that every great athlete has that cannot always be explained, and Chase has it!
He has never been the type of fielder that has been notarized for his play. He just always seems to be in the right place at the right time making ridiculous plays with his glove. It may be the fact that he has an unrestrained willingness to throw his body anywhere to make a play. He has good hands and has improved on his defense every year. He is always ready and willing to improve on any area of his game and his dedication to the game is unmistakable.
The theme of the story continues throughout. Chase is not flashy; he’s not going to wow you with his power or speed. He just does it all and he does it all quite well. He is going to get underappreciated, critiqued for his relentless, some say careless, hustle. But he’s gritty, he’s a leader, a champion, he never quits or backs down, he’s going to stand right over the strike zone and dare you to throw it down the zone. If you don’t he’s going to get plunked and not flinch and you better believe he’s going to be standing right up in that spot the very next at bat. He’s going to soak every ounce of himself into baseball and if there’s nothing left when he’s done, well so be it. That’s all he knows, and that’s why Philly loves Chase Utley.
All in all we don’t know when Chase Utley is going to be back in 2011. There are probably going to be some haters for Chase being # 2 on our countdown due to the fact that he is not even healthy. Chase Utley has never allowed an injury to be an excuse for anything and we won’t allow it to be one here. We are all well aware of what kind of player #26 is and what he is capable of. 2011 holds anticipation like nothing we’ve ever witnessed and Chase Utley will be back, back to re-stake his claim as the best second baseman in the game and will be a key part to the Phillies championship run.