Dear Phillies fans: It’s time to stop the standing ovations for Chase Utley

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On April 4, 2003, a 24-year-old kid from Pasadena, California stepped into the box for the first time as a Philadelphia Phillie. He was subsequently punched out by Pirates’ pitcher Jeff Suppan. 20 days later, in his first Big League start, things went a little differently, as the lefty second baseman got a hold of a pitch from Aaron Cook and ripped it over the wall for a grand slam, his first career homerun. While he would be sent down to the minors later that season and wouldn’t return until August, this was the first taste of Chase Utley that Philadelphia would get to see.

Over the years, the lore of Utley grew into the stuff of legend, the anecdotes of which we still speak of some 14 years later. They’re the stories we’ll pass down to our kids and our grandkids when they ask about the Phillies “in your day”. From the immortalized “Chase Utley you are the man,” call from the legendary Harry Kalas, to the fake throw to first to nail Akinori Iwamura at the plate in the 2008 World Series to Utley attempting to single-handedly will the Phillies to a repeat championship the next season, ultimately falling to the New York Yankees.

Whatever your greatest memories of Chase Utley are, they’re likely to stick with you for life. Utley played 12 and half seasons with the Phillies, amassing six All Star appearances and four Silver Sluggers. He hit 20 or more homeruns in five straight seasons from 2005-2009. Over that span, he hit no worse than .282 in any given season. And his work ethic and leadership abilities went far beyond his play in between the lines. Utley was, in every sense of the word, a fan favorite.

But he’s no longer a Phillies. Since the middle of 2015, Chase Utley has worn Dodger blue. And while his best years are certainly behind him, as Utley has accepted a reserve role with the Dodgers over the last few seasons, he still is on an opposing team. Last time I checked, the Dodgers have no affiliation with Philadelphia, right? Unless you’re one of those sick, twisted people who root for the Dodgers because, “I rooted for them when I was a kid,” which effectively translates to, “I didn’t want to root for the Phillies in the early 70’s because they were bad, and the Dodgers perpetually better, but I swear I’m not a front runner,” Unless you have that warped view on baseball, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have no standing with each other. The Dodgers moved out of Brooklyn after the 1957 season, trekked 2796 miles across the country and ended in Los Angeles. So I’m not quite drawing a connection.

I know you all love Chase Utley. I do too. But, please, for the love of everything that is decent in this world, STOP WITH THE STANDING OVATIONS.

Here we go. Someone had to say it. Someone had to be the bad guy in this market. Did it really have to be you, Tyler? Don’t you find solace in reminiscing about the good times last decade? Don’t you think Utley was a big reason as to why the team won the 2008 World Series? Don’t you idolize Chase Utley as a player yourself?

Reply: Yes, to all. Yes, I have to be “that guy”. Yes, I do enjoy talking about the 2007-2009 seasons when every single game was edge of your seat, as the Phillies were never out of it regardless of what the score was. Yes, Chase Utley was a major contributor to the team, the backbone of the team even, who propelled the Phillies to victory on and off the field. And yes, as someone who works very hard to give 100 percent on the field every single day, I do idolize Chase Utley in his preparation, baseball acumen, and fundamental play.

But it still doesn’t mean we have to continue to give the guy a standing ovation every time he comes to the plate for the better part of two years.

When the Dodgers visited Philadelphia on August 17, 2016, it was the first time Utley played in Citizens Bank Park since the trade. He received a long, deserved standing ovation as the Phillies promptly played Kashmir while he walked up, symbolizing the respect this town and organization had for Utley. It was a beautifully surreal moment. Utley acknowledged the fans, tipped his helmet and finally got into the box.

Okay, let’s move on.

But it happened again in the second at-bat. And again as Utley rounded the bases after he parked one into the crowd off Vince Velasquez. And again when he came up for the third time that evening. And once more when he hit his second homerun off Michael Mariot in the seventh, which prompted a VISITING TEAM curtain call. That should not happen.

But it did. And we move on. That should have put an end to it. The ceremonious gesture was nice. The curtain call, as grotesque as it was as a microcosm of how the 2016 season was going for the Phillies, was over the top. And then there was the following two nights, when the same hero’s welcome continued for Utley. And now we’re into full season number two for Utley as a Dodger. Philly fans continue to give the man a standing ovation. It needs to stop.

When Chase Utley eventually retires from the league within the next few seasons, he’ll likely sign a one day contract with the Phillies to retire as a member of the organization. Five years later, he’ll be inducted the Phillies’ Wall of Fame. Shortly after that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his number 26 retired by the club. All of those instances are reason to celebrate the career of the beloved character known as Chase Utley. I’ll probably be right in the crowd celebrating his accomplishments right beside one of you. I’ll wear my Utley jersey, I’ll sing along to Kashmir if they allow it to play out that long, and I’ll sit in my seat and listen to Utley as he speaks to the crowd (and hopefully doesn’t drop another F bomb). That’s all down the road, however.

This series isn’t the time or place for any more standing ovations, curtain calls or other absurdities. Utley will politely tip his cap to you every first at bat he gets, because that’s the professional kind of player we’ve come to expect, but please, leave the man alone when he strides to the box. Let him hit.

He’s not a Phillie anymore, at least within the confines of the league. He’ll always be a Phillie to us. But he’s not on the Philadelphia roster right now, and shouldn’t be treated as if he were. You don’t have to boo the guy, and in fact, I’d encourage you not to, as most fans won’t take to kindly to that. But don’t continue to give the man a standing ovation.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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