Why Chase Utley is Given a Pass (when others aren’t)

Chase_utley

Everybody knows about the Phillies' recent woes.  The lineup is struggling from top to bottom, and blame can be spread, at least in part, to every player who swings their way to a seven figure contract.

Therefore, even the most beloved of players are susceptible to criticism from time to time.  All of them except Chase Utley.  As David Murphy and Big League Stew from Yahoo point out, Utley seems to be the one player that is given a pass by the Phillie fans for his struggles:

"When Ryan
Howard
(notes)

doesn't hit, it is because he swings at bad pitches out of the zone.

"When
Jimmy
Rollins
(notes)

doesn't hit, it is because he is impatient at the plate.

"When Jayson
Werth
(notes)

doesn't hit, it is because he is swinging for a new contract.

"But
when Utley doesn't hit, he must be hurt."

My man crush aside, there is a simple reason why Utley is given the benefit of the doubt- there has never been a prolonged chink in his armor.

He has hit for average: a .293 career batting average

Has hit for power: at least 28 home runs in each of the last five seasons (except for 2007, 22, when he was injured)

Has speed: double digit steals each of the last five years (except for 2008, 9, when he was injured)

Has been called the best fielder at his position (he pumped faked his way to the most important put out in the 2008 World Series) as well as the best all-around player in the game, and holds the record for most home runs in a single World Series (5) with Reggie Jackson.

Perhaps most importantly, he plays every game the way Philly fans want, by hustling and not making excuses.  He doesn't complain, and prefers to win rather than get notoriety.  His only conceivable blemish, if you can even call it that, was his over exuberant pronouncement of the Phillies World Championship status.  And you will be hard pressed to find a fan who considers that one a negative.

Philadelphia is a town that values hard work and desire more than ability.  And Chase Utley might just be the only person in the city who wants to win more than the fans do.

The other players don't have the same squeaky clean on-field record, and don't always display an equal passion for winning like Utley does.

Ryan Howard has, and always will strike out a lot (199, twice). 

Jimmy Rollins has on more than one occasion said some not-so-Philly-friendly words to the press: "yeah, I guess you can call them front runners."  And he has been benched by Manuel for not running out ground balls (although he did handle it very well).

Werth has only really been at all-star level for 18 months, so he doesn't have quite the same track record of guys like Utley, Howard, and Rollins.

And Hamels… well we don't need to go into the reasons why Hamels' attitude doesn't always jive with Philly folk.

So does Chase Utley get the benefit of the doubt?  Sure he does, but it's well deserved.  After all, he has a track record of quietly playing hurt… and that season ended with a World Fucking Championship.

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10 Comments

  • Charlie June 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Chase stood up and said “WORLD FU*%IN CHAMPIONS.”
    With one phrase, he became the unofficial spokesman* for a city that was raised to think Bud Light commercials are true artistic achievements. This city revels in its blue-collar mentality, and is especially cruel to those audacious enough to be both talented AND anything slightly more intelligent than your average mollusk.
    * – any “official” spokesman would be run out of town with a hailstorm of beer bottles.

  • Kyle Scott June 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I can’t tell if that was positive or negative.

  • Chris June 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    i don’t think it’s necessarily either positive or negative. i don’t think it’s too far off though. i’m not exactly sure it’s a good thing, but i think his statement is pretty much on point.
    i’m not sure it’s exactly the whole WFC thing though. the city loved brian dawkins and i don’t think i ever heard him curse in his entire career here. on the other hand, the city loved ron hextall and he really has nothing in common with either of them. i honestly think it simply comes down to the fact that philly loves people who are competitors, who play their sports the right way, and who HATE to lose as much as we do. you don’t have to be the best at what you do, you just have to be the best you can be and do your job and people appreciate it (see matt stairs and ian laperriere).

  • Spencer June 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Funny how people do handstands to protect Chase’s honor. I love Chase, but I’m not blinded.
    No chink? How about this? Past two Sept/Oct he has disappeared while the likes of Rollins, Howard, and Hamels carried the team. In 2008 and 2009 combined Utley batted .240 with 4 HRs, .721 OPS, and 26 RBIs. Howard: .317/17/1.074/59. Rollins: .292/6/.828/27. How bad was Utley? He was hardly better than Pedeo Feliz: .233/4/.637/23.
    People like the way Chase plays, so they willfully ignore his faults.

  • Iron Balls McGinty June 15, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Listen. Nobody should get a pass. Blame should be passed around to everybody in certain proportions. Even Chooch should be a little responsible for the slump. But the guy who should bear the brunt of the blame is Charlie Magoo himself. Can we replace him with Laviolette? No matter what the sport, I bet he can motivate these guys a lot better than Charlie can.

  • Kyle Scott June 15, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Spencer, you can’t be counting playoffs right? He hit 5 home runs in just the World Series last year, 8 total by my count. That doesn’t include the other series.

  • Spencer June 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Yep – those are just Sept/Oct regular season numbers. I know he stepped up in the post season, especially last year, but as far as getting us there – he hasn’t been himself. And especially in 2008, getting to the playoffs wasn’t a forgone conclusion.
    Again – I’m not slamming him, I just wanted to point out that he does have chinks that have gone unnoticed.

  • AB June 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I think one of the main reasons Utley doesn’t draw the fans’ ire is that the fans don’t see a point in it. We know he’s playing hard. We’ve seen him bust out of slumps. He has a track record of being one of the best couple MI’s in baseball. He’s proven he’s a winner. He’s proven everything any fan could ask. We have no reason to boo Utley other than the fact he isn’t hitting at the moment, and it’s only a matter of time until he does.
    In the words of the man himself, “Boo? Fuck you!”

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