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Is the end of the Chase Utley era upon us?

Every career has to end, even the best players. We may be getting even closer to that point with Chase Utley.

How I'll always remember him.
How I'll always remember him.
Jeff Fusco/Getty Images


Is there any other appropriate reaction to the news this morning that Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that Chase Utley likely won't be the starting second baseman when he returns from his stint on the disabled list?

Here are the details from the Daily News this morning:

Amaro was asked, point-blank, if he considered Utley the Phillies' primary second baseman upon his return from the DL.

"Not for me, he's not," Amaro said. "Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman."

Amaro didn't drop the mic. He kept answering questions for another 15 minutes.

So, uh, what happens when Utley returns?

"I would assume that Cesar will be our second baseman," Amaro said.

Amaro continued the interview detailing everything he likes about Hernandez: "Cesar Hernandez has been one of our best players on the field right now in a variety of ways - running the bases, playing defense, playing with energy. He can switch-hit. He can run. He's doing a lot of the things that we want to see out of our young players."  He said that Utley could see some playing time at second base and first base.

There's no denying that Cesar Hernandez has been great over the past few weeks and that Chase Utley has struggled mightily this season.  Over the last 16 games, Hernandez has played regularly and produced a terrific .426/.487/.500 triple-slash line, including 9 stolen bases and a very strong 12:7 strikeout to walk ratio.  (Pay no attention to the .518 BABIP (not a typo!) for now....)

Utley's story has been well covered.  Before going on the disabled list on June 24, he had a putrid .179/.257/.275 line and a 49 OPS+ for the season.  Looking back a little further, since July 1 of last year, Utley has struggled consistently - .216/.295/.324 over roughly 550 plate appearances.  There's no two ways about it - Utley is a ghost of the player he used to be.

But still - it's really hard to take this news.  Utley has been one of the cornerstones of this franchise for so long now that it's difficult to acknowledge that his time is almost over.

In fact, that's exactly what this announcement likely does - tell everyone that 2015 will be Utley's last year as a Phillie.  His current contract extends through 2018, but starting this year, he needs 500 plate appearances for his option in the following year to vest (and the same applies for each of the years 2017 and 2018).  Currently, Utley sits at 249 plate appearances, thus needing 251 more before the end of the year to reach 500.

If Utley returned Friday July 17, the first game after the All-Star Break, and stayed healthy the rest of the season, he'd be on the active roster for 71 games.  He would need to average 3.54 plate appearances per game over the second half to reach the 500 plate appearance mark.  As a starter, that would be attainable (though with not more than a few days off and no room for injuries); but as a fill-in, forget it.

In other words, if Amaro's announcement last night actually happens, we can all make plans to say goodbye to Chase Utley as a Phillie at his last game with the team on Sunday October 4.

Given Utley's performance over the past year, I completely understand this.  But, as a fan who has watched his entire career . . .