Last weekend the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, were in town to play the Dodgers. In the three years since the Dodgers disappeared from my TV, I have found a reliable stream that allows me to not only watch the games, but listen to the voice of Dodgers’ baseball himself; Vin Scully.
In that Cubs series, Vin wove a story about the Cubs second baseman, and all around baseball demi-god, Ben Zobrist. Specifically, Vin recanted how Cubs manager Joe Maddon described Zobrist as ‘lacking chrome’, which Vin went on to explain that it meant that Zobrist didn’t have any showboat in him. All business, 100 percent of the time.
Today, we’re going to talk about the Dodgers Chase Utley and his entire lack of chrome.
Chase Cameron Utley, born on December 17, 1978, earned the nickname THE MAN when he played baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies, from 2003 to 2015. He was the anchor on a 2008 Phillies team that won the World Series over Andrew Friedman’s Tampa Bay Rays.
Since that series victory, the Phillies have been, in a word, awful. The basement trolls of the NL East, they have been shipping out their most valuable (and tradable) assets since their championship season; Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, and now Utley.
When the Dodgers got Chase Utley, as a fan I was intrigued, but my first thought was ‘Well, great…an aging second baseman whose best days are behind him….yay?.’ I could not have been more wrong.
You see, what Utley brings to a team is so much more than just a batting average or statistics that show up on the box score.
Pete Rose will always be ‘Charlie Hustle’. Utley’s game mirror’s Rose’s in many facets…
Utley was never a power hitter; he can hit the ball out of the park, as evidenced by his first major league hit, a grand slam. But, on every ball he hits in play, no matter where it’s hit, he’s out of the batter’s box and sprinting to 1st like his life depends on it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. That stuff rubs off on the younger guys on the club, like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig. What a great influence to have in your clubhouse; a guy who has not only won it all, but did so by giving the game 100 percent every time he walks on the field.
The Dodgers front office has let it known that one of the very first things a player needs to do to play for the Dodgers is play defense; Utley is an amazing fielder at second base, and one needs to look no further than the play he made from his bum against the Cubs to get the third out in an inning with runners on first and third.
Last year, in the playoffs, the New York Mets faced the Dodgers in the NLDS and the Dodgers were not going down without a fight. Game two, Mets lead 2-1, bottom of the seventh inning, and Dodgers have runners at the corners with one out versus Bartolo Colon.
Howie Kendrick hits a grounder up the middle, and Ruben Tejada is covering second base when Utley comes in and breaks up the double play to allow the tying run to score. This is playoff baseball, and runs are at an absolute premium, so I’m 100 percent okay with the slide either way; Tejada was right on top of the bag, and Utley didn’t veer off the base path at all. Did he start his slide a little late? Okay, maybe. But I still think it was a good, hard slide. Unfortunate that it broke Tejada’s leg, but that’s baseball.
Mets fans were up in arms, decrying how dirty of a player Utley has always been, and how nobody else plays that dirty. Initially, Joe Torre suspended him 2 games for the slide, but that suspension was later overturned. The slide did help instigate a new rule, nicknamed the Chase Utley Slide Rule:
That aspect of Rule 6.01(j) is not new. Rule 7.09(g), which remained unaltered through last year, states:
If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate.
Nobody will argue that we want to keep players safe and this rule definitely falls in line with the Buster Posey ‘can’t run over the catcher like a freight train’ rule. As exciting as those plays may have been, to expose those players to not only the bodily injury, but the concussion issues that arise out of those impactful plays, well we’re kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. So, in the end, although his Dodgers didn’t advance, Utley’s slide did bring some good with it anyway.
Gritty, tough, gives 100 percent every time he steps on the field.
I want that guy on my team each and every time I get the chance, and to think that the future of our organization is being groomed by the likes of men like Utley puts the Dodgers in a very advantageous position.