My wife hates Chase Utley.
Granted, there is no shortage of people who hate Chase Utley. Not a single New York Met fan has any trouble hating Chase Utley. But my wife hating him is kind of strange.
My wife doesn’t follow baseball… which makes her marriage to me seem a little bizarre I will admit. But often a baseball game is on in our house. And whenever Chase Utley is up to bat, my wife will mutter “Utley!” the way that Seinfeld would say “Newman!”
This has been going on for a while now. There isn’t a really rational explanation for it. It is just something that is there.
She says his name just sounds like a jerk she wouldn’t like.
Met fans agree.
Now to be sure, he very well might be a Hall of Famer or at least a borderline candidate.
Utley was born in Pasadena (right down the street from the house where my wife mutters UTLEY! when he comes to the plate.
Everything about Utley (UTLEY!) is Southern California. He grew up in Long Beach and went to UCLA where he was a star. The Dodgers drafted him out of high school, to complete the LA picture but he stayed in college.
In 2000, the Phillies used the 15th pick overall to bring in Utley. 7 players picked ahead of him never made it to the majors. In fact of the 14 players picked ahead of him, only Adrian Gonzalez (1st overall) and Rocco Baldelli (6th overall) posted a career WAR above 1.
The pick paid off for Philadelphia. By 2003 he was on the Major League roster. By 2005, he was the starting second baseman. By 2006, he was an All Star. He hit for a high average, put up big home run totals and led the league in runs scored in 2006.
Along with Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, he was part of one of the best home grown infields baseball has seen since the Dodgers of the 1970’s. Rollins and Utley (UTLEY!) had the knack for hitting streaks. Rollins had a 38 game hitting streak in 2005 and Utley nearly matched it with a 35 game streak.
By 2007, he helped the Phillies stick a knife in the hearts of Mets fans by leading Philadelphia to the NL East crown aided by the Mets epic collapse. He didn’t contribute much in the post season, which saw Philadelphia getting swept by Colorado, but the championship seeds were planted.
2008 saw another big Utley season and another Met late season collapse. After a poor Division Series, Utley made up for it with a 1.169 OPS in the 5 game NLCS victory over Los Angeles, hitting a home run for good measure. In the World Series, he homered twice and made a great fake throw that decoyed a runner to come home only to be nailed. The Phillies won the World Series, only their second in team history.
Over the years, he continued to slug big and help the Phillies into October. He matched Reggie Jackson’s 1977 World Series total with 5 homers in the 2009 loss to the Yankees. The Phillies won the Division in 2010 and 2011, with Utley batting .438 and an OPS of 1.259 in the 2011 Division Series loss to the Cardinals.
As the Phillies hoped for one more title with the core group, the team got old and their fortunes faded. Utley was still productive but his MVP candidacy was no longer a factor.
The Phillies finally decided to rebuild in 2015 and Utley was dumped to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. Finally back in Southern California, he helped the Dodgers win the NL West.
Then came the infamous slide into Ruben Tejada. Yeah it was dirty. Yeah it sucked. It might have been legal but it still sucked.
And yeah, there is a strange poetry that the picture on this Topps card is of a player sliding cleanly towards him.
Either way, he seems to be winding down his career in LA. He had a terrible April of 2017 but rebounded with solid numbers in May and June that will probably mean he gets a spot on the Dodgers playoff roster.
Is he a Hall of Famer? Certainly he is a borderline case, having similar numbers to Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr and Joe Gordon. Also being a power hitting World Champion second baseman who will log at least 15 years in the bigs can’t hurt.
But do you know what can hurt? The legions of people who don’t like him.
Leading that pack? My wife.