In his first appearance at the plate in a Phillies uniform, he hit a grand slam. With one swing of the bat he became the first of my many Man Crushes. From, “Boo? F- You!” to “World F–in Champions!” Chase Utley is a Philadelphia fan’s dream. He never wants to miss a game and he plays the way all ball players should play. Hard.
Obviously though, Utley’s hard play has taken a toll on his body. The guy played on one hip in the ’08 Series and was still more than a factor. He belted in the first runs of the series and made arguably the best play we’ve ever seen in postseason baseball, with the fake to first and then the throw home to get Jason Bartlett out at the plate in the seventh inning of Game 5. I mean, who does that? And with one working hip! It’s unbelievable, but I digress.
Shortly after the Series, Utley announced he needed surgery on the hip, and while analysts said he would be out until June, Chase threw it back in their dumb faces, saying he would start Opening Day. And he did. He would go on to appear in the All Star Game that year, and, in the World Series that no one wants to remember, he tied Reggie Jackson for most home runs in a World Series with 5. Not bad, huh?
Let’s fast forward past a sprained thumb injury last season and a disappointing post season for the whole team, to this season. Utley, again, is injured. This time it’s his knee. This new injury could be a continuation of the hip problems he experienced in 2008. It started as just a little knee soreness and now many are whispering the dreaded S.E.S. Otherwise known as, Season Ending Surgery. Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge recently chimed in, having experienced the same knee tendinitis in 2009, saying that Utley could either have the surgery or play through intense pain.
Now, I’m here to tell you Phillies fans to calm down. Chase Utley is going to be fine. Whether he plays through the pain or gets the S.E.S. won’t affect this team in the least. For those of you who have been smashing the panic button until your fingers are bleeding from the nails, I have two words for you: Wilson Valdez.
In 111 games last season Valdez hit .258 with a .306 on base percentage. He’s proven that he can handle large amounts of playing time. While his bat isn’t anything to write home about, his fielding makes up for it. He doesn’t hurt the team while he’s out there, and he has proven his versatility. He’s our new Tomas Perez, people. Get used to hearing Dan Baker say, “Now batting for the Phillies, Second Baseman, Wilson Valdez!”
So I say let Chase have the season ending surgery. Doctors will tell him he won’t play until 2012, and Chase will just laugh in their faces. With a wink and a smile he’ll say, “I’ll be on the field in September.” And he will be. Just imagine a fully rested Chase Utley in October. That’s going to be scary good.
Rest up for the postseason Chase, we’ll get your ring ready.
SW – Brian Maloney