all-star chase utley to stay in philadelphia through 2015

IN AN EARLIER ESSAY on this site (“I def­i­nitely didn’t come here for this” posted on Au­gust 1, 2013), I stated that “If I were the gen­eral man­ager of a base­ball team, I would have a plaque on the wall of my of­fices at work and at home that fea­tured Branch Rick­ey’s fa­mous state­ment: It is better to trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.”

For the tender-hearted, that may sound ruth­less. It’s in­tended to be ruth­less. It’s also damn good base­ball rea­soning—if the state and wel­fare of the team is para­mount. Which is what it is sup­posed to be to everyone in­volved with the team but es­pe­cially with the gen­eral manager!

In my post of Au­gust 1, I also noted that “For the past four years, I have been en­gaged in an on­going ar­gu­ment with my fa­ther about the Philadel­phia Phillies.… that the Phils should have been trading away each of their over-30 players one per season and re­placing them with younger players. Three years ago, Rollins, Howard, and Utley had con­sid­er­able trade value. Today, they have little.… ”

Fast for­ward to to­day’s Seattle Times (Au­gust 8, 2013, page C5) and an As­so­ci­ated Press entry: “Chase Utley and the Phillies agreed to a con­tract ex­ten­sion that could keep the five-time All-Star second baseman in Philadel­phia through at least the 2015 season.… The deal re­port­edly is worth around $27 mil­lion over two sea­sons with mul­tiple vesting options.”

All-Star Utley to stay in Philadelphia through 2015

For five sea­sons (2005-2009), Chase Utley was ar­guably the “best” second baseman in base­ball: he av­er­aged .300 with 29 homers and 65 walks while playing ex­cel­lent de­fense. That’s a hel­luva middle infielder!

For the past four sea­sons, he has been ham­pered by season-derailing in­juries cou­pled with the usual loss of “skills” as­so­ci­ated with any aging athlete.

Mr. Ut­ley’s next three years do not look like the kind of years that I, as a gen­eral man­ager, would put ANY amount of money on, let alone $13,500,000 per season!

A gen­eral man­ager’s al­le­giance and loy­alty should be to the team, of which each member is a piece. Main­taining the the pres­ence of the team as a winner, a contender—at least in the case of a team like the Phillies, who have been among the best teams in base­ball since 2001—should be more im­por­tant that re­taining the pres­ence of a revered player who is com­fort­ably past his prime.

As a GM, “youth move­ment” would be the mo­ti­vating factor in each of my (often ruth­less) decisions.

Ob­vi­ously, in the Phillies’ case here, the GM, his ad­vi­sors, and own­er­ship are not in ac­cord with my goals as their hy­po­thet­ical gen­eral manager.

Fi­nally, so I don’t seem ex­ces­sive: there would be ab­solutely nothing wrong with this signing if it weren’t for the fact that Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, the other aging stars of the team—who make up the team’s nucleus—are al­most im­pos­sible to trade and so will be a fix­ture on the team’s roster for the next few years. It should also be noted that the Phils’ reg­ular third baseman and catcher are also over 30 years old …

As a fan/observer, I would ex­pect the per­for­mance of the Philadel­phia Phillies of the next few sea­sons to re­semble their 2013 season, not the pre­ceding eleven seasons.

The Best Second Baseman in Baseball!

Re­garding my use of the word “best” above in de­scribing Ut­ley’s per­for­mance 2005-2009: I try not to use that term without qual­i­fiers in al­most every human en­deavor imag­in­able. For ex­ample, I can NEVER an­swer what are, es­sen­tially, end­lessly moot ques­tions: In your opinion, what is the best album ever made? Who is the greatest movie star of all time? Who was the greatest hitter in the his­tory of base­ball? can tell you which al­bums res­onate the most with me—what my fav­er­aves are—but that’s about it.

If My Dog Talks for You, Can I Get a Free Drink?

So, this old man and his dog wander into a bar and take two seats. The bar­tender looks at them but be­fore he can say any­thing the old man says, “My dog can talk! If he talks for you, can I get a drink?”

The bar­tender smiles and says, “Okay! For each ques­tion that your dog an­swers sat­is­fac­to­rily, I’ll give you a drink.”

So, the old man turns to the dog and says, “Waldo. What is on top of a house?”

Waldo barks, “Roof! Roof!”

The bar­tender frowns so the old man asks a second ques­tion: “Waldo, what do you find on a tree?”

And the dog goes, “Bark! Bark!”

To which the bar­tender says,m “Al­right, This ain’t funny!”
The old man begs for one more ques­tion: “Waldo, who was the greatest hitter in the his­tory of baseball?”

And Waldo wags his tail and barks, “Ruth! Ruth!”

The bar­tender loses his pa­tience and says, “That’s enough! Both of you outta here!”

So, the old man and the dog leave the bar. As they are walking down the street, Waldo turns to the old man and asks, “So, should I have maybe said Ted Williams?”


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