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 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.