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The Impact of Chase Utley

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, June 27, 2012 08:18 AM | Comments: 28
IronPigs, Posts

Chase Utley, #21, went 2-5 with a HR in his rehab appearance for LV yesterday. Photo by Ian Riccaboni

I arrived yesterday at Coca Cola Park well before game time. I introduced myself to Jeff Skversky of Channel 6 ABC and Comcast SportsNet’s Leslie Gudel. Their news trucks were piled up at the front gate near the ever-growing piles of fans. I’ve been to IronPigs games since the beginning and saw Raul Ibanez, Pedro Martinez, and Brad Lidge rehab here. This was much different.

While some fans were at the park early for the John Mayberry Jr. bobblehead giveaway, about 20 were lining the right field fence. No, not the colorful, filled-with-ads fence located at the back of the park but rather the large, black fence that establishes the boundaries of the park. They were trying to get a glimpse of Chase Utley.

I caught up with Michael LoRe (@MichaelLoRe) of the Express Times and Jeff Schuler of the Morning Call in the dugout when Utley began to throw. They cover each and every IronPigs game and have never seen anything like this. Finally, I asked the voice of the IronPigs, Matt Provence (@PigsRadio), who has also seen it all, what his thoughts were on Chase Utley’s impact.

One number he gave me said it all: 2,000 tickets were sold in 20 minutes.

“(Chase’s rehab) has a huge effect. We’ve had other rehabs before but this one is special because he has been with the Phillies his whole career and what he has meant to the Phillies’ dynasty period that they have had,” Provence said. A man of such impact, however, could not even get his own number. No, mascot Ferrous was unwilling to relinquish his jersey. “Unless Chase gains another 300 lbs., he’s not fitting into that number 26,” joked Provence.

Fans lined up as early as 1 PM to be the first in line to see Chase Utley's rehab at Lehigh Valley. Photo by Ian Riccaboni

It didn’t matter that Utley has been secretive on the health of his knee and the fans weren’t scorned by his absence. Utley’s 2-5 night with a home run to help the Pigs move into a tie for first was much more symbolic than that. You could see it in the volume of fans who were at the gate by 5 PM, the ones that didn’t have tickets trying to grab a view of the greatest second baseman in Phillies history watching from behind the black bars in right, or even the twinkle in Pigs manager Ryne Sandberg‘s eyes when asked about Chase.

Sandberg replied “Oh yeah,” with a smile only a father would have when talking about his son when asked if he saw any of himself in Utley.”He’s a hard-worker, he’s dedicated to the game, he’s dedicated to the organization.”

Sandberg thinks he’s ready to contribute to Philly, too. “I saw a good quickness; a good first step. He looked like Chase Utley to me. It looks like he’s excited to be here, that’s what I see.”

After hearing Sandberg talk and watching the look in his eyes, seeing the thousands of fans lined up, an assumption I have carried for years was finally clear: Chase Utley is the Phillies. Sandberg indicated that Utley was among the first players there to stretch and warm up and Utley looked serious as he ran the bases during BP. His home run to put the Pigs ahead was the icing on the cake.

This is beginning to feel like a turning point in the Phillies season.  Chase Utley has already made his impact off-the-field in Allentown, it is now time to see the impact he brings to Citizens Bank Park.

To check out all of what Ryne Sandberg had to say about Utley, check out the video below:

Sandberg on Utley, Brown, Cloyd

Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 812 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

 
 
  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Great piece. I can’t wait to see Chase back (tonight, right?)! With Chase on board I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll continue to right the ship and be serious contenders.

     
  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    I love Utley, who doesn’t? But he will not improve the pitching.

     
    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      bob i agree. he won’t improve the pitching physically, but the mental part is what i think will change! the phils pitchers all year seem to be pitching or trying to pitch like they need to throw a shutout! with chase and hopefully ryan back that part of their game will change. they need to throw like they’re capable of and let their stuff work! if that happens and the lineup solidifies, whew! i’m salivating at that thought! the bench will improve in late game situations also cause now the guys they got in the offseason will be able to do what they were brought here for spot start to give rest to the regulars and pinch hit late in the game. when nix gets back also the whole team will be mor solid in every aspect. i didn’t mention the pen but i think if things go as in the past rube will add a pitcher in the pen. then the rest of the division can do what they’ve been accustomed to. lookin up at the phils! GO PHILS

       
    • Posts: 872 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      If you mean fixing the pitching is more important, I disagree. If on the other hand you mean the Martinez to Utley improvement won’t be enough, you’re probably right.

       
      • Posts: 0 George

        Right now, the Phils’ pitching does need to be fixed more than the hitting. I’m not referring to the starters, because they will improve when Halladay returns (even a bad Halladay beats a Kendrick).

        But the bullpen is a shambles. Some of the rookies might improve with more experience, but they might not, and two of the injured guys will probably miss the entire season, so they’re not going to help. Qualls and Bastardo are too inconsistent. The offense has proven they can supply a decent lead, but no lead has been safe when those BP guys come in.

         
  • Posts: 0 Keystone

    I agree with Bob. A quick look at the Phil’s stats compared to the division show the offense is 1st in BA and hits and 1st in home runs. They trail only the Braves in runs scored. They’re still the best offense in the division even without Utley and Howard. It’s the pitching and errors that’s killing this team.

     
    • Posts: 872 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      They might be the best offense in the division (though not based on the stats you quoted, since the only purpose of hits and HRs is to score runs, and they’re second in that), but a run is a run. Reducing runs allowed is no more important than scoring more.

       
      • Posts: 2069 Brooks

        Avatar of Brooks

        I assume you watched the game last night?
        How huge was that 8th inning hr by Chooch –

        Well known quote in baseball: “Good pitching always beats good hitting”

         
      • Posts: 872 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        I did. Scoring that run was just as important as not allowing a 5th run in the 9th.

         
  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Let’s give it 20-30 games before we decide if he has much of an impact. My gut is telling me that he doesn’t have a whole lot left but, if by that it’s meant that if he only hits .250, then that’s a WHOLE lot better than MiniMart. So, almost by default, he should have some kind of an impact. Plus, it enables the lineup to be set better, etc….

     
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    Schmenkman, you’re funny –
    that 8th inning HR by Chooch would have meant nothing at all if Papelbon could have shut down that second string catcher, hitting .220 at the time

     
    • Posts: 872 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      If, if, if. And furthermore, a run is a run is a run.

       
      • Posts: 0 Keystone

        a saved run is a saved run is a saved run. tomato-tomato
        defense and pitching-offense

         
    • Posts: 872 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      Sorry – that was flippant. A team’s won lost record can be predicted pretty reliably by its ratio of runs scored to runs allowed. If a team scores 100 and allows 100, it’s a .500 team. It’s true that allowing 10 fewer runs will result in slightly more wins than scoring 10 more. 10 more runs scored is roughly as valuable as 9 fewer runs allowed.

       
  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Seriously??? We’re now splitting hairs over what’s more important…scoring runs or giving them up?? Wow.

     
  • Posts: 992 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    I think one thing some of you are overlooking with Chase coming back is the effect he will have on the team off the field. I know he has been around, and he is not rah rah talk it up type of guy in the club house. But I think when he speaks people will listen but he has not played yet once he is on the field I think his mental approach and “playing the game right” mentality will help this team.
    Off the beaten path, all the concerns about the Phillies offense where a little overstated I think, they have been scoring runs better then last year and I think if you look at games with 3 runs or more they are above where they were last year. And how this team is put together with their pitching 3 or 4 runs a game should be enough to be over 500.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    They dont have 20-30 games to waste to see if he has anything left in the tank.

    Wish the old man would put him towards the bottom of the line up at least to start.
    But he is incapable of that.

    I do love Utley and think after Chooch is inducted to the wall of fame from this team he should be player #2.

    Just dont know what if anything he has left in the tank.

     
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    There will be a chill in the air when Utley comes up to bat tonight for the first time

     
  • Avatar of "Big Ed" Delahanty

    I agree with George. The bullpen is a hot mess and needs our attention stat. Unless Utley can Chuck Norris their a$$es into shape, which he cannot, the bullpen needs to call the Red Cross.

     
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