"Chase Utley, You Are The Man!"
"Chase Utley, you are the man!"
That famous quote is from former Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas (RIP) and it sums up what the greatest second baseman in Phillies history meant to the team and its fans.
Now, Chase Utley is leaving the only professional team he has ever played for, as the Phillies have traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Chase Utley, You Are THE MAN!"
What the Phillies get in return isn't important. What is important is that Utley will get a chance to play in another pennant race before his illustrious career comes to an end. He deserves that for all the great things he did as a member of the Phillies. It's also fitting that Utley will be reunited with his longtime double play partner, Jimmy Rollins.
I've always hated all the teams from LA and their pathetic fans, but dammit, with Jimmy and Chase out there in Dodger blue, I just might have to root for them to win it this year.
I know some people will say Utley is done. That he's a shell of the player that he once was. That the Phillies are better off without him. Well, sure. No player can maintain their peak level of play throughout their entire career. And yes, it is time for the Phillies to play the younger guys, like Cesar Hernandez. But that doesn't diminish just how great Chase Utley was.
Utley was, without question, the best second baseman in all of baseball from 2005 through 2009. Not surprisingly, that five-year period coincided with the greatest stretch of baseball in the history of the Phillies franchise. And Utley was right in the middle of all of it. Sure Rollins and Ryan Howard won MVP awards, while Utley did not, but he was the heart of that Championship team in 2008. I mean, who can forget that great fake he made in the field in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. With the game tied at 3 in the 7th inning, Utley fielded a grounder up the middle, faked a throw to first base and gunned down Tampa's Jason Bartlett at the plate. That was the final out of the inning and the Phillies were World Champions two innings later. The first championship for any professional sports team in the city of Philadelphia in 25 years.
Hell, if it wasn't for the pitching failures in the 2009 World Series, Utley would have been the World Series MVP that year. He hit 5 home runs in 21 at bats during the 6-game World Series loss to the Yankees in 2009. That tied him with Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in the World Series in history. He was a man among boys that season. It's just that Father Time has a mean sense of humor and nobody escapes his wrath.
Utley finishes his Phillies career as a .282 hitter with 233 HRs, 916 RBIs, 949 Runs scored, 142 SBs and an OPS of .847. Those aren't Hall of Fame numbers, but that's only because his body began to break down and his character wouldn't allow him to cheat by using PEDs like some others in the game today. (Yeah, looking right at you David Ortiz)
Utley was a six-time All Star and a four-time NL Silver Slugger award winner. From 2005 through 2009 he only hit fewer than 28 home runs once and during that 2007 season, he finished 3rd in batting average in the National League at .332. He only finished with fewer than 100 RBIs once during that stretch and he still had 93 in that 2009 season to go along with 23 stolen bases.
Utley is easily the greatest second baseman in Phillies history. But while he would never be considered the best Phillie of all time, he certainly might be the most popular of all time.
The reason for that is simple. Utley's style of play and work-ethic resonated with the blue-collar attitude of the Philly fans. The fans of Philadelphia get an unfair rep from the lazy national media, but all they ask for is effort. And effort is the one thing that nobody ever questions when it comes to the play of Chase Utley.
Utley may not have been a vocal leader, but he led by example. He wasn't a quote machine for the media, like the loquacious Rollins, but he spoke up when it counted the most. Yeah, sometimes he may have used a bad word or two. But that only endeared him to the Philly Phathful even more.
The Chase Utley era in Philadelphia has come to an end, but that doesn't mean he will ever be forgotten.
Utley was part of a core of players who delivered only the second World Series Championship in the long and tortured history of Phillies baseball. That alone puts him in a select group of players in Philadelphia sports history. Still, Utley meant more than that to real Philly fans.
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Utley plays the game the way it should be played. He gets paid a lot of money, but in an age of millionaire athletes who are more concerned about their bank accounts than the standings, Utley just plugged along and gave it his all every game.
He works hard at his craft and it shows. That's the reason he will always be a fan favorite in the toughest sports town in America.
Chase Utley will always be remembered as a Phillie. He will always be remembered as a "World F#*king Champion". And he will always be remembered as "The Man."