Chase Utley

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Chase Cameron Utley

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Biographical Information[edit]

"Dear Chase, I feel like I can call you Chase because you and me are so alike. I'd like to meet you one day, it would be great to have a catch. I know I can't throw as fast as you but I think you'd be impressed with my speed. I love your hair, you run fast. Did you have a good relationship with your father? Me neither. These are all things we can talk about and more. I know you have not been getting my letters because I know you would write back if you did. I hope you write back this time, and we can become good friends. I am sure our relationship would be a real home run!" - Dee Reynolds (played by Kaitlin Olson), reading one of Mac's (played by Rob McElhenney) letters to Utley on a 2008 episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Chase Utley was a second baseman who played his first thirteen seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and was arguably the best to play the position in team history. When he was in his prime, he hit for power (over 30 homers three times), had good range defensively, had speed, and his average climbed steadily from the time he broke in until the 2007 season.

At UCLA, his batting average was .342 with 174 RBI in 177 career games. In his junior year, he hit .382 with 22 HR and 69 RBI in 64 games.

Drafted in the second round of the 1997 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school, he chose instead to play college ball and was later drafted in the first round in 2000 by the Phillies. He played in their minor league organization from 2000 to 2004. His peak was in 2003 for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons of the AAA International League, where he hit .323/.390/.517. He also played 33 games there in 2004.

His first Major League hit was a grand slam off Colorado Rockies' pitcher Aaron Cook at Veterans Stadium. This happened during his first call up to the majors in 2003; he played 43 games for the Phils that first season, hitting .239 with 2 home runs, and was sent back down to AAA to start the 2004 season. He hit .266 with 13 home runs in 94 games in the big leagues after being called up for good. He showed his first signs of stardom in 2005 when he was a starter for the entire season and belted 30 doubles and 28 homers while hitting .291 in 147 games.

Utley at bat

In 2006, he improved on that already high standard, batting .309 with 40 doubles and 32 home runs. He also put together a 32-game hitting streak and was named to the All-Star team for the first time, while picking up the Silver Slugger Award as the National League's best-hitting second baseman. In 2006, Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins were the first National League double play combination to hit at least 25 home runs each.

In 2007, Utley was batting .336/.414/.581 and leading the National League in doubles, was second in runs and total bases and fifth in OPS when he broke his right hand on July 26 after being hit by a John Lannan pitch. To deal with his absence, Philadelphia traded for Tadahito Iguchi. Utley came back later in the year but played only 132 games, and was not at his best in the postseason, going 2 for 11 with no extra base hits as the Phillies were swept in three games in the NLDS by the Colorado Rockies.

On April 8, 2008, Utley tied the major league record by being hit by pitches three times a game. He was plunked twice by Oliver Perez and once by Scott Schoeneweis of the New York Mets on his way to leading the league for the second consecutive year with 28 hit by pitch. He started off strong, setting a major league record with 85 total bases by the end of April, a record which stood until surpassed by Cody Bellinger in 2019. He was healthy all season, playing in 159 games as the Phillies won the NL East title for the second consecutive year. While teammate Ryan Howard outpolled him in the NL MVP vote, he was probably the team's best all-around player, and arguably the second-best player in the NL after St. Louis' Albert Pujols: his batting line was .292/.380/.535, with 41 doubles and a career-high 33 home runs, while he scored and drove in over 100 runs. He was at his best in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .353 with 2 doubles, a home run, 4 runs and 3 RBI in his team's 5-game win. In the World Series, he only picked up 3 hits in 18 at-bats, but two of them were home runs and he contributed to the Phillies' win over the Tampa Bay Rays with 5 runs, 4 RBI, 5 walks and 3 stolen bases. His two-run home run off Scott Kazmir in the first inning of Game 1 set the tone for the Phillies; he then made a fabulous defensive play in the 7th inning of the clinching Game 5, gunning down Jason Bartlett, who represented the winning run, at home plate after faking a throw to first. The Phillies scored the Series-winning run in the bottom of the inning.

Utley had another good season for the Phillies in 2009, batting .282 with 31 homers, 93 RBI and 112 runs scored in 156 games. He led the National League in being hit by pitch for the third consecutive year, and played in his fourth straight All-Star Game, winning another Silver Slugger Award. He also set a major league record by being successful in all 23 of his stolen base attempts, the most steals by any player in a season without a caught stealing. He was at his best in the World Series against the New York Yankees, as he blasted five home runs in 21 at-bats - including three homers and a double off Yankees ace CC Sabathia. However, the Phillies failed to repeat as World Champions, bowing in six games to the Bronx Bombers. He continued to be one of baseball's top players in 2010, although he was limited to 115 games by injuries. He hit .275/.387/.445 when he did play, blasting 20 doubles and 16 homers and driving in 65 runs. He once again played in the All-Star Game, but the time he missed cost him when the time came to vote for the various postseason award winners. The Phillies won their 4th sright NL East title that year, He went 3 for 11 with a homer and 4 RBI as the Phils swept the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, but like most of his teammates, his bat was stymied by the San Francisco Giants' strong pitching in the NLCS, when he hit only .182 with a single RBI.

Utley missed the beginning of the 2011 season with a knee injury; Wilson Valdez filled in during his absence. He came back to the lineup on May 23rd, going 0 for 5 against the Reds. He ended up playing just 103 games, with a career-low batting average of .259, although he did hit 21 doubles, 6 triples and 11 homers, and his OPS+ was still a very solid 109. Despit his limited contribution, the Phillies had one of the best seasons in team history, but were upset by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. It was not Utley's fault, though, as he hit .438 in the series, with a pair of doubles and a triple, and scored 5 runs in the 5 games. He was bothered by injuries again at the start of 2012, missing all of spring training with chronic tendinitis in his knees. With potential back-up Michael Martinez out with a broken foot, the Phillies were down to minor league veteran Freddy Galvis as the only in-house option to start the season at second base. Utley was finally cleared to begin rehabilitation in the Florida State League on June 4th, and returned to the majors on June 27th. By then the Phillies were quite desperate, as Galvis had been handed a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. In his first at-bat of the season, Utley homered off James McDonald of the Pittsburgh Pirates; the Phillies lost the game, 11-7. Chase hit .256 in 83 games, with 11 homers and 45 RBI.

In 2013, Utley was able to play 131 games and brought his batting average back up to .284, his highest since the 2008 championship season. He hit 18 homers and drove in 69 runs while scoring 73, good for an OPS+ of 126. In 2014, he hardly missed any time, playing 155 games and getting 589 at-bats. By then the Phillies had sunk to the bottom of the standings as the team was aging badly, but Utley was named to his sixth All-Star Game, even if his stats were not as good as his best years, or even as those of the previous season. He hit .270 with 11 homers and 78 RBI, scored 74 runs and added 36 doubles. For all that, his OPS+ was only slightly above average, at 108, and was his lowest since his sophomore season of 2004.

Utley started the 2015 season about as cold as a hitter can be. On May 10th, his average stood at .116 in 28 games - after getting a hit in each of his last two games - yet he had somehow managed to drive in 14 runs. He hit somewhat better after that, as rumors that he was on the trading block began to surface. He made it through the non-waiver trading deadline, but on August 19th, he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for two minor leaguers, OF Darnell Sweeney and P John Richy. As a veteran of more than 10 years, including the last five with the same team, he had a right to veto the trade, but agreed to the move, happy to head to his native southern California and be reunited with long-time double play partner, Jimmy Rollins. He was hitting .217 with 5 homers and 30 RBI in 73 games, and while he was slated to start in place of an injured Howie Kendrick in the short term, what he would be doing after that remained fuzzy. His debut for his new team came in a memorable game, albeit for the Houston Astros, as the Dodgers were no-hit by Mike Fiers, 3-0, on August 21st; Chase went 0 for 4 as the starting DH and made an out in the 9th inning. On August 30th, he struck out again in the 9th inning, this time against Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs as the Dodgers were no-hit for the second time in ten days. He hit .202 in 34 games for Los Angeles to finish with a batting average of .212 with 8 homers and 39 RBI in 107 games.

Chase was at the center of a major controversy in Game 2 of the NLDS against the New York Mets on October 10th. In the 7th inning, he attempted to break up a double play by barreling into shortstop Ruben Tejada, upending him and fracturing his leg. Both Utley and the batter were declared safe in spite of the Mets' protests that interference should be called, and the Dodgers went on to score four runs in the inning and win the game, 5-2. However, most observers thought Utley's slide was unnecessarily dangerous; the Commissioner's office issued him a two-game suspension - which he appealed - and this play was a major impetus for MLB and the Players Association to define a new rule governing slides before the next season, under which Utley's slide would have been clearly disallowed. This new rule was informally dubbed the Chase Utley rule by sportswriters. But because the rules at the time were "too vague", the Commissioner's office decided on March 6, 2016 to rescind Utley's suspension.

The Mets tried to get their revenge against Utley on May 28th, but it backfired when Noah Syndergaard was ejected for throwing at him in the 3rd inning of a game. Chase made them pay by hitting a solo homer off Logan Verrett in the 6th, tacking on a grand slam off Hansel Robles in the 7th to lead the Dodgers to a 9-1 win. On July 6th, he had a career-high six hits in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Dodgers lost, 6-4, in 14 innings. He had a similarly memorable game on August 16th when he returned to Philadelphia for the first time since being traded, almost a year earlier. He again went deep twice, including a grand slam to lead the Dodgers to a 15-5 win. The Philly fans showed their appreciation with three long standing ovations - one before he first stepped up to the plate, and one after each of his long balls. He played 138 games that season and hit .252 with 14 homers and 52 RBI. But he struggled with the bat in the postseason, as he went a combined 3 for 28 as the Dodgers once again fell at the NLCS stage. The Dodgers brought in Logan Forsythe to play second base in 2017, with Utley getting on years, but he ended up with more playing time than his younger rival, appearing in 127 games with a .236 average, 8 homers and 34 RBI. This time, the Dodgers managed to get to the World Series for the first time since 1988 and Utley was one of just three players on the two teams with Fall Classic experience when the Dodgers faced the Houston Astros. He played sparingly during the postseason, and went hitless in 15 at-bats as Los Angeles lost in seven games to the Astros.

Utley had two years left on his contract when the 2018 season began, but just before the All-Star break, he announced that he would retire at the end of the season. His playing time had started to go down at age 39, and he had spent some time on the disabled list with a sprained thumb, but he was still considered a leader on a team whose sole objective was to make it all the way to the top that year. He hit .213 in 87 games, with 1 homer and 14 RBI. He was left off the postseason roster as the Dodgers returned to the World Series and on November 9th, he was released by the Dodgers to make his retirement official.

Chase Utley picked up many awards in his time in professional baseball. In high school, he was a second-team All-American infielder. In 1999 in college, he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Star, and in 2000 he was again a Pac-10 Conference All-Star as well as a first team All-American. In 2003, he was the Baseball America Second Team Minor League All-Star at second base. In 2005, he was the Phillies Player of the Year. He has also picked up four Silver Slugger Awards and has been selected six times to play in the All-Star Game.

Along with Ryan Howard, Utley appeared in a 2010 episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. He is revered by Mac (Rob McElhenney), whose chance to finally meet him was thwarted in the episode.

He first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2024 and did pretty well, obtaining 111 votes or 28.8%. While that put him a long way away from the 75% needed, a number of players had mounted successful candidacies starting from a lower base in recent years.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 6-time NL All-Star (2006-2010 & 2014)
  • 4-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2006-2009)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (2006)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (2005-2009)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2006, 2008 & 2009)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (2005-2008)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (2006-2009)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (2006)
  • Won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Thomas Harrigan: "5 reasons Utley belongs in the Hall of Fame",, January 2, 2024. [1]
  • Meghan Montemurro: "Ex-Phillie Utley homers twice, including a grand slam, in magical return", The Wilmington News Journal, August 17, 2016­. [2]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Kindred keystones: Chase Utley, Corey Seager bridge generation gap for Dodgers ", USA Today Sports, September 1, 2016. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Chase Utley: Dodgers' 'most powerful voice' a critical cog, even at 39", USA Today Sports, March 22, 2018. [4]

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