Chase Utley has earned a distinction accessible only to the worthiest of athletes. He deserves to finish his career where he started it, in Philadelphia.
As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, Utley’s name will lead a list of aging Phillies available to the highest bidder, and the second baseman holds a special appeal to contenders because he plays the game the right way. Utley respects baseball the way few do these days, and that’s why the Phillies absolutely should not trade him, regardless of the offer.
“I kind of view Chase Utley as a Phillie for life,” GM Ruben Amaro said. “That’s my hope.”
And yet the trade rumors grow louder, both because Utley is in the final year of his contract and because the Phillies absolutely must get younger. The urge to convert a revitalized Utley into a top prospect or two will be strong.
But Amaro shouldn’t do it. Instead, he should call up the replay of a game-winning moment against San Diego last week in the 13th inning, when Utley busted it from second on what should have been an inning-ending groundout. He wasn’t done. Then, Utley beat the throw home by a stride after the ball was booted.
How many players would have made it home on that play? Or in that situation? One player who would not have scored, guaranteed, is teammate Jimmy Rollins, who continues to abuse the game with his chronic laziness. Rollins isn’t alone. Hundreds of other players act as if running hard three or four times a night is an unreasonable imposition.
At 33, with brittle knees, Utley refuses to compromise his ideals. In an internet poll involving hundreds of fans the morning after that hustle play, 85-percent said they would trade Rollins — who still has a year on his contract — before they would ever part ways with Utley. Yesterday, another poll showed that 68-percent want Utley to finish his career as a Phillie.
What it comes down to is that the Phils will need to begin rebuilding their old roster after they come to grips with the futility of this season, and there is no player, anywhere, who would be a better influence on the next generation than Utley.
On Aug. 6, 2006, legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas highlighted a play in which Utley scored all the way from second on an infield out with words we will remember forever: “Chase Utley, you are the man!”
All these years later, he still is.
Who is Sam Hinkie?
After six weeks in hiding, Sam Hinkie unleashed his plan for the Sixers with a blockbuster trade, a flurry of other moves and the promise of a basketball revolution.
One question: Who the heck is Sam Hinkie?
All we know about the new GM is that he embraces the power of statistics and that he may be the most socially awkward sports executive in at least a generation here. We are also pretty sure he is paranoid about secrecy in a city that demands transparency, and that he doesn’t give a damn about 2013-14.
The amazing thing about Hinkie’s first steps toward a total reboot of the organization is that fans embraced it. The totally unproven GM traded the one valuable player on the roster, Jrue Holiday, and fans had no problem with it. At 23, Holiday is not much older than the three young players — Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Arsalan Kazemi — Hinkie drafted, and far more accomplished. So why the cheers?
Because the thing fans hate most is the boring, hopeless status quo that has destroyed all interest in a once-proud franchise. They would rather swing for the fences and strike out than try to lay down another bunt. Hinkie gave them what they wanted last week. He gave them hope.
Please consider these hard truths amid the joy over the GM’s first bold moves. Sam Hinkie is unproven as a GM, in an organization with no support system. He still hasn’t even gotten around to hiring a coach. He has no feeling for the city where he works. He is a long shot.
Last year, the Sixers built their future around the brittle knees of Andrew Bynum, with predictable results. This year, the savior is a stat nerd with no experience as a GM and no feel for the public demands of the job. Good luck to the Sixers and their loyal fans. They are going to need it more than ever.
Good riddance, Bryzgalov
Let the record show that Ilya Bryzgalov ended his eventful two-year tenure as a Flyer last week in typical style. He hung up on reporters twice, issued the most insincere statement in sports history and then called upon his agent to vilify the team that handed him $22 million not to play here.
To a vast majority of the fans, Bryzgalov was the biggest bust in free-agent history, a reckless head case who was not very good at closing his legs when a shot approached or his mouth when a microphone appeared. In a sports world filled with jackasses, he is king.
Bryzgalov’s refusal to answer questions after the Flyers used an amnesty exemption on him was one final middle finger to a city that he hated even more than we hated him. Remember, he recently called Philadelphia dirty and depicted residents as a pack of welfare frauds.
Of course, the real fraud was Bryzgalov himself, as he proved with a lame statement of thanks that was followed the same day by insulting remarks from his agent, Rich Winter. In a radio interview in Edmonton, Winter called Philadelphia a “horrible’ place for a goalie, because of the pressure from fans and the defensive schemes of coach Peter Laviolette.
The agent was obviously speaking for his client when he denigrated our city, so now I’d like to speak for the fans who wasted thousands of dollars watching a loudmouth stiff ruin two seasons.
Good riddance, Ilya. You didn’t deserve Philadelphia.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» People hoping for Carlos Zambrano to join the Phillies — mainly talk-show hosts — can forget about it. Last Friday, he left his final start at Lehigh with a shoulder problem, just days before he was going to be cut anyway. It’s a shame. He would have been fun.
» Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has no sense of humor. He was doing a TV interview with Michael Barkann of Comcast-Sportsnet last week when an alarm went off. “There’s another goal,” Barkann shouted. Holmgren glared into the camera. Hey, if he can’t laugh at the current state of the Flyers, what can he do?
» Mike Vick said he was really, really surprised that fans reacted the way they did to his public request for a decision in the Eagles quarterback competition. Three weeks ago, he told a reporter to “Print it!” after issuing the challenge to coach Chip Kelly, and now he’s confused by the response? Please.
» Donovan McNabb has been using Twitter to poll people on how a murder charge will affect Aaron Hernandez’s NFL career and on whether fans think the Patriots tight end committed the crime. There are more eloquent ways to react to this stuff, but sorry, not this time. What an idiot!
» Darren Daulton, the best leader the Phillies have had in at least a generation, is facing the biggest fight of his life. He had two brain tumors removed Monday, and the prognosis is much better than originally anticipated. There is no one we should be rooting — or praying — harder for right now than Darren Daulton.