Chase Utley might be the most conflicting sports figure for me in my lifetime. When I’m honest about him, he’s my fourth or fifth favorite Phillies great from the 2007-2011 era of five straight NL East titles, and the 2008 World Series title (behind Howard, Rollins, Hamels, and Victorino). I love him for being the best second baseman in club history, a leader of the first Philadelphia championship team I ever really saw, and a player who loved the biggest moments and biggest stages. Yet, he never really grabbed my imagination like the other guys I mentioned. I resented in some ways the Philadelphia fanbase rallied to him over other stars of that team, as though he was the only guy that “played hard.” I found the analytics crowd’s argument that he was the best Phillies player of the era, over the team’s NL MVP’s, Cy Youngs, and All-Stars completely unconvincing. In short, I liked Chase Utley, but saw him as a better version of Aaron Rowand, loved by Philly for his “blue collar” work ethic, but not really better than Bobby Abreu in actual performance.
All of this is emotional, non-rational rambling about a player that literally every Phillies fan should love. Chase Utley’s offensive game is top five to ten in the history of the game at second base. He took himself from utterly mediocre to top five in the game defensively at second. He hit homers in the World Series like a man possessed. He played hard every, single, damn day. He teamed with Jimmy Rollins to form the greatest double-play combo not only in club history, but in their era of the game. Ok, he angered New York- which is a positive.
Hearing that Utley will retire at the end of the year is sad, but it’s time. In just over a week he’ll make his last appearance in Citizens Bank Park, and I’m fortunate enough to have tickets to the final day game in Philadelphia. He’s played a few years past his prime, and it’s a good time for him to ride off into the sunset. Does he belong in the Hall-of-Fame? Ask me in two years or so. For now I just want to appreciate the guy who tortured Flushing, Queens, and won us a championship in a great career.