I caught a few seconds of the Mets' radio broadcast during this past series and they were reflecting on how lucky they are to not be facing the Phillies regulars in their prime as some of the starters sat out.
"Can you imagine 2009-2010, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both sitting out of a game?"
"And this is really a guy whose started to get it of late, [cites Howard's recent numbers]."
Then they recommended that listeners "become the hippest guy on their block" by coming out to "Mets Fedora Night."
After choking back emotions over the course of the following hour, it became clear that any sort of life shown by Ryan Howard this point is extremely noticeable against the backdrop of his very, very low default setting. Chase Utley, on the other hand, was an All-Star in 2014, but has been dreadful of late, forced to do the unthinkable and take time off despite not suffering from an actual physical injury. The truth is, they're both older and slower and outside their primes. But the panicked rationalizing done by Utley-defenders is becoming closer and closer to straight forward weeping.
According to @baseball_ref, Chase Utley's .099 average is lowest among qualified hitters through team's first 30 games since 1914.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) May 9, 2015
So you would think - if you were not from this city, or maybe from this region, or coast or planet - that the tireless support would shift from Utley, whose vetoing of any trade deal keeps him on the roster and likely playing despite face-eatingly poor offensive output, to Howard, who in the last two weeks is hitting .289 with a .989 OPS with three home runs and a triple in 42 plate appearances. But the "alien-freak" version of you that you are in this instance would of course be wrong.
I won't be the one to say Chase Utley is cooked; hell, according to Mike Schmidt, Utley's as good as cured, any day now. But one thing we can tell is going on, even from down here in the fan trenches, is that Utley, despite his very clear struggles, is far from openly despised in the way that Howard is routinely.
A colleague of mine, after poking gentle fun at Utley's inability to hit this season, received a one-line email almost instantly after his post was published: "Really? You a-holes are going to go after Chase Utley now?" Further evidence lies in a recent comic mocking Utley that was somehow morphed by fans into a dig at Ruben Amaro rather than speak ill of their hero.
This indicates that not only do some people feel Chase Utley, he of the .109 BA and .389 OPS, is not struggling, and that even if he were, he would be off-limits to commentary. Not only that, but if pointing out how bad Utley has been qualifies as "going after" him, than people have been "going after" Utley since mid-April.
To counterbalance the universe, I then received an email from another fan in response to an article that had nothing to do with Ryan Howard, or the Phillies, or Philadelphia, or baseball:
"The fatso you should be investigating is the one making $25,000,000 this year and next with a $10,000,000 team buyout in 2017. When will any self-respecting journalist investigate Ryan Howard?! Can't blame him for signing the worst contract in Philadelphia history but he's not even trying anymore and hasn't in a long, long time."
Judging by emails from the past week, the general flow of logic appears to be:
- Comment on Chase Utley = Be rebuffed for commenting on Chase Utley
- Don't comment on Ryan Howard = Be rebuffed for not commenting on Ryan Howard
And even days ago, following the a loss, it was apparent to at least one of the beat writers.
Phillies fans' willingness to jump all over Howard but not Utley this season is kind of amazing.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) May 10, 2015
They are two different people with two different careers, personalities, histories, and stories, told and untold. We without inside access know even less than we think, but ultimately, you don't have to work too hard to dig up an unbalanced take on two of this town's biggest-ever sports stars.
Regardless, this is not a fun thing to watch and is not being handled by some people very wait the Mets are having a "Fedora Night?!"