Chase Utley isn’t likely to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award this season. As long as this 10-year veteran plays in the range of 130 games and hits like his knees don’t care, Philadelphia Phillies‘ manager Charlie Manuel will have plenty to smile about this season.
For five years (2005-2009) Utley ranked among Major League Baseball’s best all-around players. He carried a sound glove to the field, was a positive double play partner to Jimmy Rollins and made solid contact with the ball when he came to the plate. Thus, the legendary Harry Kalas memorably dubbed him “The Man”.
After his historic five-home-run-ride through the 2009 World Series against the New York Yankees, Utley’s career crash was breathtaking. Everyone was wondering how a man who was in his early 30s could simply stop hitting. Two springs later, with his chronic knee condition accurately diagnosed, it all made sense.
Last year was encouraging for many reasons. Topping the list was the fact that Utley returned from the disabled list in late June and rarely left the starting lineup through the end of the season. He genuinely seemed to have learned how to manage his pain, which teased his 2013 potential.
Projecting that Utley would have his currently expiring contract extended last year would have seemed foolish. If this 34-year-old modern Phillies’ icon logs a nearly full-slate of games and remains healthy this season, that extension option isn’t out of the question.
Regarding the approaching season: If number 26 can find a way to soar once more, Philadelphia’s baseball team will be in good shape. Of course, keeping the 25-man roster healthy is really what everyone (including Utley) is hoping for.