Chase Utley, and perhaps his "soul patch," will be back in town tonight as the Phillies host the all-time fan favorite and his new team, the L.A. Dodgers.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was never about the other stuff.
Never about the kinda awkward brooding persona he perpetuated to keep others simultaneously on edge and in awe, never about the ever-subjective intangibles that colored his actions in such a glorified light, never about the cooler-than-you soul patch he wore, never even about the “world effin champions” declaration he yelled much to our city’s glee.
Nope, for me, it was always about one thing, and one thing only, when it came to Chase Utley and why he became my favorite Phillies baseball player of all time:
How he performed.
Like no other in a red-pinstriped uniform ever has … and very few in any other, either.
For a career, no. Injuries curtailed that from becoming a reality.
But for a five-year stretch, from 2005 through 2009, he was the best anyone representing Philly’s diamond interests the eyes behind this type-written prize ever witnessed.
Not Schmidt. Not Rose. Not Carlton. Not Rollins. Not Howard. Not anyone … was his equal for a run of such consistent excellence. It was like he was a modern-day Rogers Hornsby, cranking out Koufax-like seasons in rat-a-tat-tat fashion, only at second base instead of the mound.
Smart and steady in just about every aspect of the game, he was great at the plate. During those years, a .300 batting average, 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored were the norm, not the exception. For the categorically “official” out there, the exact numbers were .301, 29.2, 101.4 and 110.6.
Frankly, had he maintained such a pace, or even one close to that, for another, say, five years, we’d be talking about the Hall of Fame whenever Utley’s name would come up.
The fact that we’re not, and really shouldn’t be, though, doesn’t for a second take away from the legitimate thrills and chills he provided Phillies fans for one incredible period in time. Certainly doesn’t lessen how he is viewed here.
Age, ailing knees and some bad luck took their toll on him through the years. Heck, even in his prime. An MVP-worthy campaign in 2007 was short-circuited by the injury bug, costing him 30 games and paving the way for his double-play partner to walk away with the National League’s top honor that year.
Consider this, despite just 530 at-bats that season, Utley hit .332 with 22 homers, 48 doubles, 103 RBIs and 104 runs scored.
So, please forgive me if celebrating all the other superficial BS has no place here when he returns to Citizens Bank Park tonight for the first time as a member of an opposing ballclub.
His play from 2005 through 2009 was enough to suffice me for a lifetime.
Here are some of top single-season numbers for Chase Utley, all set while playing for the Phillies: