When Chase Utley drove to work on August 7th, he knew he left a very important document sitting on a table somewhere waiting for his signature. This document would guarantee him $27 million and all he needed to do was go to a doctor for a physical, sign Chase Cameron Utley, and the money was his.
Somewhere in his mind behind those intense eyes, Utley drove to Citizens Bank park knowing that if he could remain upright for one game he would be $27 million richer. So what did Chase do in that game? He slammed his creaky, chronically hurting knees into a 205 pound catcher draped in plastic equipment.
With complete awareness of the new contract, Utley raced around third base with the score tied in the seventh inning and prepared to slide into home plate with the go-ahead run. Chase realized at the last minute that Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro was blocking the plate, so he changed his approach mid slide, planted his foot, and plunged his knee and shoulder into Navarro.
It didn't matter that he was less than 24 hours away from signing a multi-million dollar contract. It didn't matter that it was essentially a meaningless game for a bad baseball team. All that mattered was that Navarro was blocking his path to the go-ahead run.
That is Chase Utley.
Chase is a rare and special player whose tireless work ethic and extreme intensity could eventually make him a legend in Philadelphia.
Utley reminded us just how special he is with his recent contract extension, a hometown discount if ever there was. Utley could have tested free agency and would have received more money - that is a fact.
Why would a player do that? Take less money on a team with aspirations for 90 losses? It might be because he doesn't want to move his family. It could be that his wife told him to stay. It could be that he loves the city of Philadelphia. Or it could be as simple as being too lazy to move. But I believe he signed this contract for us. The fans.
This contract only locks the Phillies in for an average of $13.5 million over two years. $13.5 million for one of the most productive second basemen and the opportunity, if he remains healthy, to keep him until 2018 when he will be 39.
Now don't get me wrong, people who accept 26 million dollars don't win Nobel Peace Prizes. But this was a classy move by a player who put the needs of others ahead of himself. It is not altogether unheard of, but it is a rarity in today's game. Ryan Howard would accept nothing less than top money. Jayson Werth did the same and left town. So did Aaron Rowand.
This says what we already knew about Chase. That team comes first...in everything. It is why he busts it down the line, it is why he spends countless days and hours preparing his knees throughout the entire calendar year, and it is why he gave a hometown discount. It is also why Chase Utley should be a Phillie for life.
His former manager would certainly agree he deserves that title. “I know he’s one of your favorites,” Charlie said to Peter Gammons a couple of years ago. “And you know what? I played with Hall of Famers, I’ve managed and coached great players, but Chase might be my favorite player of all time.”
Phillie for life.
It is a term used for a very elite number of Phillies players. Richie Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Robin Roberts are all Hall of Famers who do not belong to this exclusive club. Mike Schmidt, Larry Christenson, and Charlie Ferguson stand alone as the three players with significant careers spent entirely with the Phillies.
If any player deserves to be the fourth member of the Phillie for Life Club, it is Chase Utley. Nobody works harder or plays harder than Chase Utley. Not just on the Phillies but maybe in all of baseball. In a game where staring at home runs, jogging around the bases, and lollygagging down the line is the norm, it is refreshing to watch a player give 100% on a routine pop-up.
As Ruben Amaro said, “Chase epitomizes everything we expect our Phillies to be." Chase Utley also epitomizes everything that is right with the game of baseball.
Of course, there is one black eye on the reputation of Chase Utley - one word that might haunt him forever. Chase’s decision to drop the F-bomb during the World Series celebration was an irresponsible use of a vulgar term heard by children, senior citizens, and entire families - everyone. It nearly tarnished a magical day for many people.
As disgusting as it was, I believe the intent was not malicious at all and actually reveals just how much the championship meant to Chase Utley. Chase never allowed himself to enjoy winning because there was always more work to be done and another game to focus on. Beating the Dodgers in the NLCS just meant another series with the Rays. In his mind, no win mattered until it was the very last one. When Lidge struck out Hinske, Chase was finally able to enjoy himself.
I considered ignoring that four letter word for this piece, but I think it is important to include because it helps paint the entire portrait of Chase Utley. Chase brings an intensity to all that he does. He is intense on the basepaths, he is intense on the field, he is intense at the plate, he is intense in the weight room and video room, he is intense in the clubhouse, and he is even intense in his celebrations.
He is also intensely loyal, which brings us back to his wonderfully creative contract. Chase wanted a contract that in his words treated him "fairly in the marketplace," but more importantly, one that was fair to the organization and the fans. Chase only wanted his contract to benefit him if it benefited the fans. His contract forces him to earn his paycheck - he gets paid only if he plays.
If Chase Utley is on the field, he will undoubtedly earn that paycheck as he always has and earn his rightful place as a Philadelphia Phillie for life.
Previous article: Domonic Brown very average after hot streak
Next article: Phillies review: August 2013