Anytime Chase Utley makes plans to speak to the media more than an hour in advance, the Phillies universe goes into a collective panic.
"Is Chase injured? Did his knees explode?"
We are not a very rational people much of the time, so it was actually really nice to hear Chase on WIP Monday morning have about as boring a conversation as the team's best player can have.
In the end, Utley was not there to announce a new show on Comcast SportsNet entitled "Chase Utley Uncomfortably Stares At You For A Good, Solid Hour," as part of the team's new deal with CSN. In fact, it seemed as though his appearance was merely to remind Phils fans that there still was at least one good player left on the team, and that they should buy up all the tickets they can so they can see Chase Utley continue to be awesome.
No real news was made, but there was some good insight into the inner workings of Chase Utley's baseball and puppy-obsessed mind.
Chase, asked about his legs and overall health as he heads into 2014, delivered the biggest news of the morning when he declared there really was nothing to report and that his knees feel as good now as they did going into last season, when he had his best season since 2010.
"There was no off time during the off-season, no off-season whatsoever," Utley said," I took 2 days off then started working again. Normally, I would take 2 or 3 weeks off, but didn't have that luxury."
Utley was asked if there was ever a time he was worried he'd never be a productive player again.
"I never really thought about it that way, I always tried to attack the problem. I still feel like I have a lot left in the tank. I know I missed some time over the last few years, but you can't let it get you down."
As for 2014 projections, Utley said he thinks he can be as productive as he was before his chronic knee injuries flared up, perhaps even be a 30-home run hitter again, something he hasn't done since 2009.
Utley acknowledged that the veterans on the team have to stay healthy this year, but seemed optimistic the new lineup (with the additions of Marlon Byrd and Cody Asche) could be much better this year.
"We all feed off each other in the lineup," Utley said. "I'm looking forward to getting to spring training and putting a good year together as a team."
UTLEY'S NEW CONTRACT:
Chase could have left the Phillies as a free agent this off-season and gotten off of what many see as a sinking ship. Instead, he signed a two-year, $25 million contract, with a series of vesting options that will trigger if he stays healthy. So, why did he decide to stay?
"I really enjoy playing baseball in Philadelphia, there is no better place to play. As long as we're playing well, there is no place better. [The fans] are tough, but bring the best out of you."
"I didn't really think about cashing in on a big free agent contract."
Utley also talked about how much he likes playing at Citizens Bank Park.
"There is no more beautiful stadium than Citizens Bank Park. There is a small transition going on, but the young guys are exciting to watch, we've got some good young pitchers with big arms who can strike some guys out. [Staying] was a fairly easy decision for me."
NEW CSN-PHILLIES TV DEAL:
Chase said he didn't know much about the details of the deal, but when told it was a 25-year, $2.5 billion deal, he summed it up pretty succinctly.
"Wow, that's a lot of money."
I would have used an exclamation point there, but I don't think Chase has ever exclaimed anything before in his life. Anyway, Utley also talked about whether the Phillies have a responsibility to maintain a high payroll, given the influx of cash the team will start receiving in a couple years.
"The goal is to put a winning team on the field, whether it costs a lot of money or not. Everyone wants to win. The goal is to put a strong team on the field, and it doesn't matter how much it costs. Some teams can do it for cheaper, and the expensive guys on this team who are making a lot of money need to produce. We all understand that, but we can't put extra pressure on ourselves."
ON CHARLIE MANUEL FIRING:
Utley said the Manuel firing was not a fun time for the team, and that unfortunately, the players' substandard play was the reason for his ouster.
"The team needed to play better baseball, it was not necessarily Charlie's fault. Things just got out of whack, especially in July and August, things got out of control. Someone had to take the blame, and it was Charlie, although it was more the players' fault."
2014 PROJECTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS:
While Utley wouldn't put any specific expectations on the record, he did say he thinks the Phils will be a much better team next year.
"If we can get it together and our pitching can stay strong and our offense can stay healthy, we'll give it a run."
A-ROD AND PEDs IN MLB:
Utley was asked about Alex Rodriguez and PEDs in baseball. Utley wouldn't take the bait about steroids and Hall of Fame eligibility, but was outspoken in his desire for PEDs to be out of the game.
"A guy who gets caught using should be suspended. MLB has done a better job catching guys. It's frustrating to see guys still doing it, you want to feel strong and feel fast, but there are other ways to do it, keep yourself in shape and eat a good diet."
PAPELBON CLUBHOUSE COMMENTS:
Jonathan Papelbon recently went public again with criticisms of the Phillies clubhouse. And while Utley didn't slam Papelbon and the things he talked about, he indicated he handles things differently.
"What happens in the clubhouse should stay there. No one wants to lose but you try to learn from your mistakes as you're going. Paps is a fiery guy, a very good closer and last year was a rough year for a lot of different reasons. A lot of awkward things happened last year."
"Come this year, it's time to get it rolling now."
Utley also has a press conference scheduled for 4pm ET Monday, but gave no indication what it would be about. Needless to say, a news-less WIP performance should keep people from climbing up bridges.