With the conclusion of the 2018 World Series comes a loss that goes much farther than the city of Los Angeles. As the Dodgers lose their second consecutive World Series in two years, they also lose a legendary member of the National League championship team due to retirement. This retirement, however, hits home much harder to fans of the Phillies than the Dodgers, even though his final season did come in their trademarked blue and white. That is because this World Series marked the end of Chase Utley’s historic career.
As he once began as a member of the 2000 Draft, after four impressive years at UCLA, the Phillies took a risk by using their 15th pick on the second baseman. In a draft class that at the time included “can’t miss” prospects like Billy Traber, Ben Diggins, or even another middle infielder in David
Espinosa by their pick, the Phillies put their faith and future into Utley. And it is safe to say that their controversial pick worked out even better than expected.
It would take the Phillies top prospect until 2003 to make his long-awaited debut to the major league squad on April 4th against the Pirates. He would not get many opportunities in his rookie season, as he only played in 43 games, but he would make the most of his limited playing time. Although lacking the power shown in the Phillies farm system instantly, but the consistency was immediately proven. Posting an impressive .239 average in his rookie season would show his potential, as that would be the lowest season total ever recorded while wearing a Phillies uniform.
From that rookie season on, the rest would be history. He would force his way into the Phillies stacked starting lineup for 94 games, including David Bell, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Jim Thome. The current GM Ed Wade would consistently work to rotate the group of future Hall of Famers around the diamond, which would prove evident for the improvement of Utley’s skill set. His batting average would jump 27 points from his rookie season, and his slugging would begin to form, as he increased from 2 to 13 homeruns in 267 plate appearances. His growth in the organization would not only show growth in his personal career, but for the Phillies organization as well.
In Utley’s 2003 rookie year, the Phillies finished third in the NL East, 15 games back of the Atlanta Braves. The following season, the team would jump to second place in the league, 10 games behind Atlanta. In 2005, the Phillies would just fall short of the NL East title by 2 games, missing the second Wild Card spot by one game. By 2007 however, the team would finally overcome the Braves death grip on the division. This was their first division title since 1993, and Chase Utley was at the helm of their successes.
Offensively, Utley had his best season. Hitting a .332 batting average, a .410 on-base percentage. He would always been found on base, and when reaching, he would only return to the dugout after another run was added to the board. From 2006-2009, he would total over 100 runs per every season. The other key of this season would be his postseason debut, where he would be remembered as one of the center pieces of their triumphant post season runs.
Looking at the numbers of Utley’s playoff appearances may seem as though he was a streaky hitter, varying from series to series. But whether he hit in the .100s or .400s in a series, it always seemed his offensive contributions came in critical situations. In ten series over a span of 5 years, Utley finished with a .265 average, 25 RBIs, and 38 runs. Especially in the 2008 championship team, where in those playoffs Utley would finish with a .218 BA, .377 OBP, and .449 slugging. This would be his only championship ring in 16 years of playing, but it would solidify him as a Philadelphia legend for many years to come.
Although it is difficult to speak of Utley’s career with the Dodgers, his time in LA would be fitting for the California native. The team would make the playoffs every season of his brief career there, including two trips to the World Series. Since the Dodgers had youthful weapons in the middle of the infield, including Max Muncy and Manny Machado, Utley would not have as much of a presence in these series as he did in Philly. Regardless, this did not stop him from working through every practice and pregame like he was a starter. Whether being told by Dave Roberts he may be used or being left off the World Series roster, he would be at the stadium hours before taking grounders and batting practice, game ready.
This little trait barely attested to his true work ethic that transformed a kid from Long Beach California across the country to the city of brotherly love. He was the definition of grit and determination who fought his way into the majors, assuring that he would be worth the risk. He would total 1,885 hits, 1,025 RBIs, 259 homeruns, and a career .823 OPS. It will only be a matter of time until he has his famous number 26 retired in Citizen’s Bank Park, and hopefully makes a trip to Cooperstown to be affiliated with some of the best to ever play the game of baseball.
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