Image courtesy of AP
Sometimes you just have to let go…
While the Philadelphia Phillies front office has been heavily criticized for the bulk of the past six years for countless moves seen as questionable at best by both media and fans alike, the decision they made to resign second baseman Chase Utley was one that would not be argued.
Many of these same fans were furious at the idea of seemingly keeping together the 2008 World Series team far longer than they proved to be useful as a unit, but when it came to Utley, most of these fans denied logic. His Brian Dawkins-like reverence in Philadelphia superseded anything else. He may be injury-prone, he may go on slumps, his best years may be behind him, but he’s one of “us” in the minds of Phillies fans. For that reason, it’s been so hard to admit the inevitable until now: Chase is done.
It was easy to fall under the spell at the beginning of last season during a torrid hot streak by Utley, but after it passed, he wasn’t the same. Injuries have also plagued Utley for too long and it’s been the same story nearly every season. He’s only played one full season since 2010. There are a lot of players who fans will tolerate more than others. Because of his attitude and his passion for both the game and for Philadelphia, Phillies fans could not do wrong by him and turn on him. It just wouldn’t be right. He wanted to be in Philadelphia and still wants to be there.
Some may believe that the Phillies owe it to Utley to have him finish out his career on his own terms, but the team is at a major crossroads. They know playoffs are out of the question. Even thought they can’t say it, they know Chase won’t be around for another World Series run.
Through just a little over one month in the 2015 season, Utley’s numbers are an enigma. He is batting .103. with 3 homeruns and 14 RBIs. In 87 at-bats, he has just nine hits.
He may turn it around… who knows, but there is no need at this point to keep him on the field. This is a perfect time to give the younger players a shot with no repercussions. It's a no-lose situation and this is the time for the Phillies to see what they exactly what they have with these up and coming players that may have been held back by players past their prime. Even though it doesn’t hurt the Phillies in the short term to keep Utley at second, it can hurt them in the long run if they don’t find out what they have behind him.
Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez has played better than Utley in his time on the field. That may not be a big achievement at this point, but it’s worth noting since he’s Utley’s replacement once he goes. The bottom line, however, is that, whether good or bad, the most important aspect when it comes to prospects is knowing what you have.
The Phillies failed to acknowledge their mishaps until it was too late and a complete rebuild became necessary. They failed their fans and their players when they so meticulously butchered a potential dynasty within just a three-year period. They have to start over and the longer they hold on to the aging players from a once great team, they will hinder themselves. Ryan Howard is one thing… they can’t, nor couldn’t, get rid of him. Utley? That could’ve been done many times. Would there have been backlash? Sure. There was also backlash when Howard signed a $125 million contract… also when the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners.
The line they wouldn’t cross is the line they needed to cross. Now they need to cross it. It’ll be four years too late. It’ll be just as badly thought out as most every other front office move during Amaro’s tenure as General Manager. But it’ll be done. Trading may not be an option because Utley has a full no-trade clause, not that it would be easy to find a suitor after his performance thus far this season. Most importantly, starting full-time is out of the question for Utley. It’s bad for the organization and is doing nothing at this point but tarnishing his legacy.
Utley is hard-nosed, hard working, never gives less than full effort and he is as humble as they come. On the other hand, he’s overpaid and unintentionally handicapping his team by holding second base hostage. No one doubts that Utley is everything that is right with Philadelphia. The only problem is that his situation is everything that is wrong with the Phillies.