By Theodore N. Beitchman
I am about to commit a cardinal sin in Philly sports journalism:
Chase Utley is a selfish, me-first player who cares not a whit about the Phillies as a team, only himself.
There, I have said it.
At 36, Utley is in the sunset of his terrific career as Phillies second baseman. He was a vital cog on the team that dominated the NL East for five years and made two World Series, winning one.
Utley was a consistent 150-game performer from 2005-to-2009, fell to 115 games in 2010 of his health, 103 in 2011 and only 83 in 2012, though he rebounded in 2013 and 2014.
In 2011 and 2012 he missed the first two months of the season because his balky knees were acting up. That’s what happens when age settles in on a player.
But in both of those years he neglected to inform the witless Phillies management of his condition until spring training. Now you can make the argument that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. or someone should have been monitoring Utley’s winter workouts in L. A., where he lives. And you would not be wrong. Utley is a valuable asset, and the team has an obligation to keep track of his health.
But Utley had a responsibility to inform Amaro or even the switchboard operator at the Phillies office (the troglodyte-like franchise probably still uses rotary phones!) that he was in some distress.
But no, Utley is the Phillies’ Quiet Man, so when he goes all Gary Cooper on us we give him a pass. Unlike Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard, who were held to a different standard.
And after two relatively injury-free seasons in ’13 and ’14, in which he magically returned to health and high performance, Utley went and did it again.
Spring training 2015 arrived five months ago, and, wonder of wonders, Utley had again suffered an off-season injury, this time to his ankle. And of course it was a surprise to the Phillies.
So he missed most of the Grapefruit League, started the regular season slowly because of the ankle injury, and as this is written is hitting just .179 (his lifetime BA is .281) in 65 games.
Oh, and he has been on the disabled list since June 24 because of pain in his right ankle.
Not that any team would want to trade for the aging, infirm Utley, who, thanks to Amaro’s incompetence, has $15 million vesting options for 2016, 2017 and 2018 that kick in if he makes 500 plate appearances in each preceding season. Including this season.
“Since Utley has a full no-trade clause as a player with 10-5 rights, that is a discussion that begins and ends with the Phils’ second baseman,” writes Casey Feeney of CSN Philly. “And if the past decade is any indication, that will not be a long conversation.”
As usual, Amaro has exacerbated the situation by publicly stating that even when Utley returns Cesar Hernandez is the Phils’ second baseman.
And just today, Utley’s agent or fairy godfather has lobbied on his behalf with Fox Sports ace Ken Rosenthal, who tweeted:
Good news on Utley: Per source, he not only is feeling better, but also has figured out a flaw in his swing that was caused by ankle injury.
Which is a naked play to get back in the line-up so he can get his 500 at-bats and get another $15 million next season.
As of this writing, Utley has only 218 AB’s, so if he doesn’t return to the starting lineup he has no chance at the 500.
Sorry, Chase, you have gotten one pass too many from the local lame-ass media.
It’s time for you to take one for the team and get your selfish ass out of town.