If you followed the Phillies during the 2008 World Series era, you witnessed one of the best middle infield duos of the time in Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. On defense, the pair was known for converting nearly every double-play opportunity that came to them. Offensively, Utley and Rollins were among the consistent threats that made the World Series possible.
The duo played 1,336 games together over their 12 seasons together in Philadelphia (and a brief stint in Los Angeles). As a pair, they combined to earn nine All-Star Game appearances, 8 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, and one MVP. Not to mention the five-straight National League East titles, two National League pennants, and, as Utley would say, one “World F***ing” championship.
While Phillies fans were given a true treat in watching the pair (not to mention The Big Piece as well!), like all good things, it had to come to an end. In December 2014, Rollins was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Zach Eflin and Tom Windle. Next season, Utley joined Rollins out west in a waiver trade for Darnell Sweeney and John Richy.
Filling Their Shoes
Utley and Rollins weren’t just two faces when they were on the Phillies, they were team leaders. They started seven Opening Days together in Philadelphia. Rollins made 14 straight Opening Day starts, pairing up for the first five with Marlon Anderson or Placido Polanco. Utley joined Rollins on the Opening Day lineup in 2006, only missing Opening Day twice due to injury from that point on.
Towards the back half of their careers, the Phillies began to groom a couple of players they thought could eventually take over for their two middle infield superstars. One such player, Freddy Galvis, filled in for Utley at second base on Opening Day in 2011. Spending a few years as a utility player off the bench, Galvis was eventually given the starting shortstop job when Rollins was shipped off ahead of 2015, making the start that year across from Utley.
Following the Utley trade, Cesar Hernandez jumped in to serve as the Phillies’ second baseman. While the pair were decent infielders in their own right, neither would necessarily aid a team in a playoff hunt. Over the next near decade, the Phillies would see many faces turn through their starting lineups in the middle infield. From Hernandez and Galvis to J.P. Crawford, Jean Segura, Scott Kingery, and Didi Gregorius, many looked to fill the gap. While most of these players had great seasons or moments in Philadelphia, for one reason or another, they just did not work out in the end.
The Phillies Next Generation is Here
Like many a prospect before him, the hype surrounding Bryson Stott during his rise through the Phillies’ organization was palpable. A close friend of Bryce Harper, the odds are high that Harper convinced the Phillies to draft him 14th overall in the 2019 Draft.
Nearly earning a spot on the team in 2021, Stott made his debut as the starting third baseman on Opening Day in 2022, filling in for Alec Bohm. Fittingly, Stott and Bohm would quickly become linked throughout the season as the Phillies Daycare began to form. As the young rookie got acclimated to the Majors, his overall contribution to the team was relatively subdued with a .234 average and a .653 OPS in 2022. However, the young infielder quickly solidified himself as an everyday player, making 75 starts at shortstop and 41 from second base over the season.
Stott filled in a lot for either Segura or Gregorius during the year, becoming the starting shortstop when the Phillies released Gregorius. While Segura and Gregorius are both well-respected ballplayers, their time in Philadelphia was limited from their first arrival. Both were looked at as great pieces to have, not necessarily as long-term fixes. Now, following an offseason where the Phillies went in on a long-term fix in Turner’s 11-year, $300 million contract, things have changed.
You see, Stott is not due to become a free agent until 2029. For the next six seasons at least, the Phillies have currently committed to Turner and Stott manning the middle infield. When you combine the best shortstop in the game with an up-and-coming young gun, you get a pair that can make great things happen.
Their connection goes beyond the field, of course. Both are within Bryce Harper’s ever-growing inner circle on the Phillies. Turner played with Harper for four years in Washington while Stott and Harper share Las Vegas origins. One of the most prevalent things to come out of Spring Training so far is just how much fun the team seems to have together. Stott and Turner were in the same group for the recent Phillies golf outing, in which there was plenty of friendly trash talk going around.
And that brings us to one other thing to drive this narrative home: Do you know who else golfs together? Utley and Rollins.
In all seriousness, Turner and Stott have a lot to prove before becoming the true successors to Utley and Rollins, but they are the closest thing to such a dynamic duo as the Phillies have seen since. Give us a few masterful double plays and a World Series title, and then we’ll seal it in stone.
Until then, play ball!
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum