Top Five Chase Utley Moments

Chase Utley turned 35 years old today. Having recently signed a new contract extension with the Phillies, he’s looking forward to the 2014 season, which will be his 12th in the big leagues. He didn’t miss a significant amount of time due to injury, racking up more than 475 plate appearances for the first time since 2010. Utley was the team’s most productive player in 2013 by many measures. Not surprising.

Rather than look forward, I’d like to look back on Utley’s career. Inspired by this thread on /r/Phillies, let’s go over the top-five moments of his career.

5. Any of his three inside-the-park home runs

Utley has hit three inside-the-park home runs over his career:

MLB.com only has a highlight clip for the Zito ITPHR, so here it is:

4. Utley’s two-homer game against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series

Back in 2009, CC Sabathia was not only the ace of the Yankees’ rotation, he was considered one of the most formidable arms in baseball. He was a workhorse just two seasons separated from the AL Cy Young award. Worse, he was hell on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .560 OPS during the 2009 regular season — bad news for the 3-4 combination of Utley and Ryan Howard. Utley, however, wasn’t fazed as he took Sabathia deep twice: a solo shot in the top of the third to put the Phillies up 1-0, and another solo shot in the top of the sixth to move the score to 2-0.

The first homer, a nine-pitch at-bat:

The second homer:

3. Utley makes his first impression in the Majors in grand style

When you look back on the lineup the 2003 Phillies put together — Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Jim Thome, Mike Lieberthal, and Utley — it’s no surprise they finished with the fifth-most runs scored in the National League. Utley was just getting his feet wet in the Majors that year (he played in just 43 games) but he certainly made an impression when he hit his first career Major League home run. With the Phillies already up 2-0 over Rockies starter Aaron Cook, Utley went deep to right field for a grand slam in the bottom of the third inning at Veterans Stadium. Bonus nostalgia with Harry Kalas making the call:

Notice the batting stance, too.

2. “Chase Utley, you are the man!”

Some of baseball’s most exciting plays involve a tremendous amount of hustle — the aforementioned inside-the-park home run, a straight steal of home, a diving play in the gap. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more exciting play than what happened on August 9, 2006 at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves had taken a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth but their bullpen was letting the lead slip away in the top of the seventh. Tyler Yates walked in a run with the bases loaded when manager Bobby Cox yanked him for lefty Macay McBride to face Utley and Ryan Howard. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Utley laced a double to left-center, clearing the bases and putting the Phillies up 5-3. But that wasn’t the exciting part.

On the first pitch of the at-bat against McBride, Howard drove a low fastball right into the ground — “chopped”, as Kalas put it, about 20 feet into the air. McBride grabbed the ball and casually tossed to first baseman Scott Thorman. Utley was stampeding around third base, making his way home. Thorman fired to catcher Todd Pratt but it was too late as Utley safely slid in under the tag. Kalas said in excitement, “Chase Utley, you are the man!”

“You Are the Man!” from Maria Bazurto on Vimeo.

1. The Deke

“The Deke” is one of the most important plays in World Series history but it has unfortunately been lost in time. Utley saved the Phillies’ hide in Game 5 of the World Series, but because it wasn’t a home run or a play that ended the game, it was forgotten with memories fresh in mind of Brad Lidge dropping to his knees in celebration after recording the final out or Utley’s own celebratory “World Fuckin’ Champions!” in front of a packed Citizens Bank Park after winning the championship.

With Bartlett on second base, Akinori Iwamura hit a grounder up the middle to Utley. Given that Utley’s momentum was taking him towards left field and Iwamura’s speed, there was basically no chance for Utley to spin and fire to first for the out. Utley appeared to try anyway, making an off-balance throw towards Howard at first base. Rays third base coach Tom Foley bought it, waving Bartlett home. There was just one problem: Utley never actually made the throw. Instead, Utley pump-faked towards first base, then fired home to catcher Carlos Ruiz, who corralled the ball and dove to apply the tag to Bartlett just in time to record the final out of the inning and preserve a 3-3 tie.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a baseball play that requires more baseball smarts and instincts, and even harder-pressed to find one successfully made in a deciding World Series game.

(skip to 1:40)

Just missed the cut: Utley coming out to a round of boos at the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. His response? “Boo? Fuck you.” (video)

What is the best moment of Chase Utley’s career?

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If we are fortunate, we should see another memorable moment or two over the next two years, perhaps more if any of his three options for 2016-18 vest.

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41 comments

  1. Eric Longenhagen

    December 17, 2013 10:31 PM

    Gotta throw in that HR he hit in his first game back from injury in 2012 as an honorable mention.

  2. WayneKerrins

    December 18, 2013 04:08 AM

    Saw the most recent inside the park homers at CBP when I had the privilege to live in PA for 2 years. I’ve seen a lot of sports in England and round the world in my near half century and that was right up with the best 2 or 3 moments.
    Great man and what a game that gives you the chance of this type of play.

  3. Ned

    December 18, 2013 08:37 AM

    Everybody hits! woohoo!

  4. tom

    December 18, 2013 09:46 AM

    July 30th, 2009.

    wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=5835019&c_id=mlb

    Sanchez throws a fastball up by Utley’s head.
    Next pitch Utley steps out of the box late.

    Two pitches and a death stare later he knocks a home run out of ATT stadium.

    I’m going to say if I still remember this incident – a nothing game for years ago- it has to be one of my favorite.

    The downside – I think this game lead to a lot of the bullshit that happened in game 6 in 2010.

  5. TomG

    December 18, 2013 09:25 AM

    This was awesome. I voted for “Boo? Fuck you” because I just consider that to be the essence of Chase Motherfucking Utley. He is the apotheosis of Love me or hate me … makes no difference to me cos I’m just trying to win a game here and it’s about that, the win – it’s not about me; which is an attitude I just love. (Ironically enough, the fact that Chase disdains my love – and yours, too, anyone who’s reading this!- just makes me love him more. Perhaps i mean “tragically” here, not “ironically”. *Sigh*)

    I remember his being interviewed during the 2009 World Series (probably just after game 5 or just before game 6) and someone brought up the fact that he’d hit 5 homers and had a chance to break R. Jackson’s record and Utley’s borderline contempt at the question was palpable. He essentially said, Hey, dickwad, we’re trying to win a World Fuckin’ Series, here, that’s the issue, don’t you get that?

    Utley just personifies that it’s-not-about-me-it’s-about-the-win attitude, and it’s obvious it’s genuine with him. It right there every time he hits a home run and doesn’t pimp it. Not “makes of point of not pimping it. But just doesn’t do it. It’s as though, to him, the entire meaning of any home run he hits is merely that it’s a run for the team, another step toward getting that win – and that’s it. It’s not as though he’s trying to make not pimping it the new pimping it (which would be pointless because it already is, since so few players don’t pimp it these days); it’s just how he is.

    You wanna boo that? the only proper response to that is (to quote Chase): “Fuck you.”

    If some girl could print this mash note of a comment out, and run on the field during a Phillies game and hand it to Chase after giving him a kiss, I would appreciate it. (Has that been tried yet?) Because I think our friendship – mine and Chase’s, that is, which at this point is only hypothetical – could be a HOME RUN! (<–non-pimped)

  6. Corinne

    December 18, 2013 09:34 AM

    Thank you for giving the criminally underappreciated Deke some love. I’d also include Utley’s tag, spin, and throw double play in the rain during Game 5A.

    Two absolutely brilliant plays in a World Series clincher. How I love that man.

  7. Corinne

    December 18, 2013 09:37 AM

    Also, the 35-game hit streak in ’06 was incredibly fun.

  8. LTG

    December 18, 2013 10:42 AM

    You had me at Chase Utley. Thank you. It amazes me how little the Deke is mentioned among great WS plays.

    On that hit streak Corinne mentioned. The night before he lost the streak, I drunkenly mumbled to my now fiancee something like, “Utley’s gonna break Dimaggio’s streak,” after about 4 doubles of scotch. I pride myself on being sober-minded and rational, but I must apologize for my cursed words.

  9. Marty

    December 18, 2013 10:46 AM

    Don’t forget the 2 run homer off Kazmir in the top of the first, Game 1, 2008 World Series at the Trop. That hit made all the unforgettable moments that happened that week possible. Chase Utley, you will always be the man.

  10. TomG

    December 18, 2013 11:22 AM

    That home run tom (no relation) links to: also awesome in that quintessentially Utlian way. No pimping or Carlos Gomezing it. Just a homer and a quick trot around the bases. Because Chase Motherfucking Utley knows that res ipsa muthafucking loquitur.

  11. Zach

    December 18, 2013 11:53 AM

    Best off season post in recent memory. Thank you for warming my loins, Bill.

  12. santo

    December 18, 2013 11:55 AM

    the Utley grand slam stance looks very Ryan Howard like.

    Also baseball used to be fun.

  13. Paul

    December 18, 2013 12:01 PM

    For a general vote, I went with the Deke. As soon as it happened, my brother and I both said that this was the ’08 version of the Pete Rose/Bob Boone play from ’80. On a personal level, I actually went with Independence Day 2012. I went to Citi Field for the first time, sat in Utley’s Corner – and he promptly hit a home run to my section and propelled Cliff Lee to his first win of the year. Great highlight of an otherwise awful season.

  14. GB

    December 18, 2013 04:26 PM

    Great stuff, Bill…love Utley

    That 2003 offense was indeed sick; if only the Phils had invested in pitching instead of waiting until later in the decade. Sad also to remember what happened with Abreu, one of the truly under-rated and un-appreciated Phils of the last half century

  15. Phillie697

    December 18, 2013 04:32 PM

    And this is the dude some of you asshats wanted to trade this season? Shame on you :P Yes, I still remember.

    The “asshats” comment is a joke, btw :)

  16. Phillie697

    December 18, 2013 04:37 PM

    @GB,

    Hate to say it, but you might be on to something. Someone should do a “study” and determine how many games the Phillies FANS has cost this team. I mean, crap, if we would just treat our players with a little more love… Think about this lineup – Howard, Utley, Rollins, Rolen, Ruiz, Burrell, Werth, Abreu. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s an entirely home-grown lineup that could have all played together had us fans not driven some of them away. ARE YOU FING KIDDING ME???

  17. Bob

    December 18, 2013 05:23 PM

    That’s not a homegrown lineup.

  18. Chris S.

    December 18, 2013 05:56 PM

    Yeah we signed Werth for next to nothing and we traded Kevin Stocker for Abreu. All I have to say is that Chase Utley is the man and he is one of the best to ever put on the red pinstripes.

  19. adam

    December 18, 2013 06:58 PM

    I miss Harry Kalas. Voice of my childhood listening to the Phils on radio. So glad he got to call a WS and Chase really is the MAN.

  20. AK

    December 18, 2013 07:02 PM

    Have to agree with Dan R 100%
    August 30 2007 11-10 walk off single to sweep Mets
    That is my favorite all-time Phillies moment. I will never forget it and went to work early the next day to rewatch the 9th inning in its entirety (I am in NYC and had the MLB tv package) 3 or 4 times before my boss came in…i can’t find the video online right now but it had been there as recently as a few months ago.

    “Here comes Iguchi …”

  21. Pete

    December 18, 2013 11:13 PM

    The Deke. Amen. I was fortunate enough to be at the game and watch the whole play unfold in front of me. Jaw-dropping. Absolutely jaw-dropping.

  22. jauer

    December 18, 2013 11:56 PM

    I enjoyed when he tried to score from third on a pick-off throw to first and snapped Jesus Flores’s leg when he bowled him over at home plate. Dude is a kamikaze.

  23. SteveH

    December 19, 2013 10:32 AM

    Question for everyone. Putting aside stats and injuries and only looking at it from a pure enjoyment of watching baseball perspective; is Chase Utley the greatest Phillie in the clubs history? I say yes, beyond any doubt. Schmidt a very close second but the deke and “the man” play are two of the greatest and most heads up plays I have ever seen from a superstar ever. I would love to hear some opinions on my question. Thanks all and Happy Holidays!

  24. JM

    December 19, 2013 12:04 PM

    Let me start by saying that I own 5 Phillies jerseys. Mike Schmidt (4) and Chase Utley. They are my favorite Philiies of the last 40 years. That said…I loved watching Dykstra. You never knew what he was gonna do, but he went balls to the wall (and even into it)with so damed much intensity all day long….

  25. LTG

    December 19, 2013 02:32 PM

    SteveH,

    Absolutely not. Mike Schmidt is an inner circle HoFer. Two smart plays does not make up for a vast difference in hitting prowess and defensive ability. (Schmidt was a superior defender despite Utley’s greatness.)

    Top 5 Phillies in no order:
    Schmidt, Utley, Delahanty, Carlton, Pete Alexander

    The top 2 are obvious:
    1. Schmidt
    2. Carlton

    After that the ordering is controversial.

  26. Matt M

    December 19, 2013 06:07 PM

    I don’t comment a lot on here, but I love the analysis I can get here. As for my own personal favorite Chase Utley moment, it’s the unassisted double play he turned in Game 4 of the ’08 NLCS.

  27. Paul

    December 19, 2013 06:13 PM

    You know, I didn’t get that comment about Utley’s batting stance on his grand slam in 2003 until now. It’s Ryan Howard’s batting stance!!! Makes you wonder – if Howard changed his stance to what Utley has now…?

  28. Mike B.

    December 20, 2013 03:27 AM

    LTG, I can’t disagree with you that Schmidt was “better,” but I am not so sure that the difference between them is anything approaching “vast.” Utley is essentially Joe Morgan with a shorter career.

  29. yo

    December 20, 2013 08:39 AM

    Schmidt was a better fielder and better hitter and played for a significantly longer time than Utley. Schmidt had 12 5+ WAR seasons. Utley has a 11 seasons. As good as Utley is/was, it’s vast.

  30. Scott G

    December 20, 2013 12:06 PM

    yo,

    Maybe the quality of replacement level has changed? Or is WAR timeless?

  31. LTG

    December 20, 2013 01:23 PM

    On comparing Schmidt’s and Utley’s hitting, the metric to cite is wRC+, which is era, league, and park relative, and doesn’t use a somewhat contentious replacement level standard but rather is oriented to league-average:
    Schmidt career: 147
    Utley career: 128

    Utley is likely to lose a few percentage points above league average as he plays through his decline years, and the difference is already large.

    If you want to look at peaks as a more fair measure for Utley, who might have better numbers if he’d been brought up earlier, then here are their 3-year hitting peaks:
    Schmidt (’80-2): 171, 198, 162
    Utley (’07-9): 150, 134, 141

    The difference between their peaks is even greater than the difference between their careers.

    ‘Vast’ is a comparison-class-relative adjective. Certainly, if the class is all professional baseball players, the difference between them is not vast. If the class is MLBers from MiniMart to Miggy, the difference is not vast. If the class is guys I think should be in the HoF, then the difference is vast.

  32. LTG

    December 20, 2013 01:29 PM

    Also, I love Utley. But he’s no Morgan.

    Morgan
    Career: 135
    Peak: 162, 176, 184

    Utley might be the best 2B since Morgan, but that does not mean he’s basically Morgan.

  33. LTG

    December 20, 2013 01:31 PM

    And how about an honorable mention for Utley’s unassisted double play in the 6th inning of game 4 in the 2008 NLCS?

    I was doing housework and threw on the game in the background. As I watched the inning I started wondering how on Earth the Phillies escaped that inning down only by 2!?!? The answer, of course, was Chase Utley.

  34. Phil Ease

    December 20, 2013 10:02 PM

    Awesome thread. Wish there was an option to vote for all of the above.

  35. Jay Simmons

    June 11, 2014 02:34 PM

    Smartest play I ever seen in a pressure game .

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