Chase Utley, The Man, the deker of throws, the dropper of F-bombs, the guy who could have been named the MVP of the 2009 World Series despite being on the losing team, has announced that he will retire from baseball at the end of the 2018 season. And he did it in the most Chase Utley way possible.
Chase Utley announces that he has signed a five year extension. When laughter subsided he announces he will retire at end of season. #Dodgers— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) July 13, 2018
Utley, who has a section of a rival team’s stadium named after him because of how often he owns them, spent 16 seasons in the major leagues. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1997, he denied them his greatness and instead waited until 2000 to be selected by the Phillies in the first round of the amateur draft after attending UCLA, not far from his birthplace of Pasadena, CA.
He played in parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons for the Phillies, logging his first hit in the form of a grand slam and subsequently setting a new land speed record as he circled the bases. John Kruk would later prank the extremely serious 24-year-old, saying that because of a clerical error, the Phillies were going to be fined $250,000 for having Utley on the roster and every game in which he played would have to be forfeit, erasing his grand slam from the record books.
It wasn’t until his third year in the majors that the Phillies’ second baseman would receive MVP votes, receiving 22 points in 2005. The next season in 2006 not only saw him lead the league in runs scored (131), but begin a five-year stretch of All-Star Game appearances through 2010 (He would make an additional one in 2014, as well).
Utley was a part of the Phillies core that took the team to five consecutive NL East division championships from 2007-11, winning a World Series in 2008 and a pennant in 2009. His post season career is rich with iconic moments, such as the aforementioned deke in 2008, back to back home runs with Ryan Howard, and a dinger that set the tone early against the Rays—“Utley rips one into left field. At the track... at the wall... it’s a good start for the Phillies,” crooned Joe Buck.
From 2007-09, he led the league in getting hit by pitches, something about which he would go onto claim, “I don’t dislike it.” He is one of eight players in baseball history to be struck by over 200 pitches.
Playing in the same infield as Phillies legends Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, Utley helped the Phillies become the National League’s most dominant force for half a decade, establishing a signature handshake with his middle infield mate Rollins, and appearing on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with Howard. Once Rollins was traded in 2014 to the Dodgers, Utley lamented that their pre-game handshake would be something he missed the most.
In 2015, at age 36, Utley, too, was traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers as the team attempted to convert its veteran assets into prospects for a rebuild. Utley’s 13-year Phillies career ended with a slash line of .282/.366/.481, 233 HR, over 1600 hits, 625 BB, 142 SB, and 173 HBP. He remains the best Phillies second baseman of all time, and one third of the greatest Phillies’ infield of all time. “Devastation” is the appropriate word to use in describing fans’ reaction to his departure, not just for his play on the field, but for his work in the community, such as with the local ASPCA. He remained close enough to enjoy water slides with those from his Philadelphia days.
Joining Los Angeles in the twilight of his career from age 36 to 39, Utley served as a leader in the clubhouse, praising and providing an example for young players like Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. His hard style of play got a deserved national side-eye in the 2015 playoffs when he destroyed the Mets’ Ruben Tejada with a brutal take-out slide.
“It was a hard, hard slide at second base by who else but Chase Utley. Bringing some of that Philly with him out here to L.A.,” the Mets broadcast said.
Utley’s silent demeanor, leadership through example, and elite baseball talent allowed his career to extend past a decade and a half. Emotions on Utley have been best summed up by one of the singular poets of our generation (a proclamation of love to which Utley eventually responded):
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!