The Phillies must — absolutely must — trade Chase Utley.
That’s right. The player who personifies the most successful era in franchise history, and the man most revered in our sports community over the past generation, should be handed a release from the hell where he currently resides.
The simple truth is, there is no good reason for the Phillies to keep their resident icon. At 35, he will not be here by the time the next wave of talented players matures into a winner. He needs a place where every hit will have meaning. He has earned one (or two) more pennant races, one (or two) more curtain calls.
If there was still any doubt that Utley’s remarkable run here was ending, it came 10 days ago, when he repeatedly beckoned from first base for teammate Ben Revere to take a bigger lead off third. Revere ignored him, but that moment illustrated the level of frustration Utley feels, and the futility of his presence on this lazy, stupid team.
The only good Utley can do for the Phillies right now is to bring back a package of young players. Winning a few more games will not revive any hopes to contend this year; it will merely provide one more painful reminder of an era long gone.
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Peter Gammons, the national baseball commentator who lists Utley among his favorite players of all time, said last week that a bidding war is inevitable between the Giants and the Dodgers if the Phils decide to test the market. He also said the Phillies could expect to get either two or even three top prospects from those talent-rich NL West rivals.
When I asked GM Ruben Amaro Jr. last week about the notion of trading Utley, he quickly dismissed the talk as “a moot point” because Utley has a no-trade clause. Really? Has anybody asked the best second baseman in Phillies history if he would rather go out a winner or an after-thought?
Amaro is convinced that Philadelphia would never accept the departure of a hero like Utley, but he is wrong about that, too. A recent Internet poll I conducted on my WIP radio show revealed that — among hundreds of votes — 61 percent of fans think it’s the right time to trade their favorite player.
The Phillies will be better in the long run if they trade Utley now. Utley will be better in the short run playing meaningful games in August and September, and maybe even winning another championship. And the team that acquires him will be getting a terrific player and an extraordinary role model.
That’s why the Phillies must, absolutely must, trade Chase Utley.
- Ryan Sandberg went berserk Saturday when the umps blew a call at the plate and then MLB officials refused to uphold his challenge. The Phillies manager was right when he said catcher Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati sat on the plate before receiving a throw – a blatant violation of new rule 7.13. If baseball can’t get something simple like that right, it should go back to the old rule.
- In case you haven’t noticed, Cliff Lee hasn’t throw a baseball in three weeks. The medical staff’s decision to let him pitch for a month with a sore elbow is one of the worst in a season of bad decisions. The Phils don’t just need new players. They need new doctors, too.
- Finally, the Phillies have called up fire-balling reliever Ken Giles. There should be an investigation into how GM Ruben Amaro chose trade bust Phillippe Aumont last week over a 23-year-old pitcher with a chance to be special.
- Pete Rose isn’t just out of baseball; he’s also out of his mind. The biggest stat whore in baseball history, Rose ripped Jimmy Rollins for wanting so badly to set the Phillies hits record. Hello? Rose played three years too long just to beat Ty Cobb’s all-time hits mark, and now he’s complaining about Rollins? Please.
- Anyone who still feels badly that California Chrome didn’t win the Triple Crown last weekend must not have watched co-owner Steve Coburn’s embarrassing tirade after his horse finished fourth at the Belmont. Apparently, they have stupid owners in horse racing, too.