As part of a weeklong series, the bloggers of Philthy Stuff will be explaining their favorite guys in red pinstripes.
When it came to choosing my favorite Phillie, it was a fairly easy decision. Despite the fact that I've burned more calories than most carrying the water for Cole Hamels and extolling the virtues of the home grown lefty on multiple occasions, I find that the Phillie that I appreciate most is Chase Utley.
Maybe it's because I find myself routinely rooting for second basemen -- the position that I spent the better part of my youth playing -- because historically, second basemen aren't necessarily known for their bats, but for their glove, and until recently, that's been the status quo for the second bagsmen. They are the underrated and under-appreciated sons of our national pastime.
Utley changed all that for the Phillies. He was the first five-tool second baseman to come along since, well, ever -- OK maybe Ryne Sandberg. Drafted in the first round of the 2000 draft, Utley wasn't an immediate star in the lower levels of the organization. He had a good stick, but there were concerns about his ability to hit lefties and questions about his glove.
Flash forward 10 years, and Utley has matured, right before our eyes, into not only a great hitter, but arguably into the best defensive second basemen in the Majors while providing a stoic professionalism and leadership that has made him one of the most emulated and respected players in the game.
With Chase, it goes further than just the box score. We all know that he can hit for power, work a count and steal a bag, but what puts him over the top is his innate ability to effortlessly do the things that you can't see on the back of a baseball card. Things like running inside the baseline to get the throw from first to glance off your back to spark a rally late in the game or by knowing, almost instinctively, to fake the throw to first before gunning out the go-ahead run in Game 5 of the World Series.
But what I most appreciate is his subdued attitude and how he just goes about his business with zero fanfare and heaps of hustle. When he homers, he doesn't make a big deal of it. When he bloops one over the shortstop's head, you can bet that he is going to be running all the way and taking a big turn at first base and thinking about taking second.
Of course, that attitude, that dedication to be the best, is ironically one of the causes of his current trip to the disabled list. His off-season workout regiment and the stress of the daily grind has worn down Utley and has left the 2011 Phillies without him since day one, which is a lot like missing some pieces to a puzzle. You get an idea of what it's supposed to look like, but there is still those all important missing pieces.
That is what Chase Utley is about.