Sunday, May 04, 2008

Can the Phillies have 3 MVP's in a row?

It's possible, but even they would tell you that they trade all the individual awards for a World Series trophy.

Last year, when the sportswriters called NL MVP Jimmy Rollins on the day that he was elected MVP, one of the things that Rollins said was, "if Chase Utley hadn't gotten hurt, you'd be calling me about a quote on his winning the award." Or something to that effect, as my memory isn't that precisely. Utley was having an all-world year when he got hit by a pitch twice on the same day, broke his hand and went on the DL for a month. That injury effectively ended Utley's quest for the MVP award. Rollins seized the mantle and led the Phillies to their first division title in 15 years.

This year, Utley's making up for lost time, as he hit his 13th home run last night in an extra-inning loss to the Giants. There are four great things (among many others) about Utley. First, his work ethic is terrific. Second, his demeanor is even keel, he takes his successes and failures in stride. Third, his swing is excellent, short and compact with tremendous torque in between. The economy of his swing seems to guarantee that he won't go on prolonged slumps. Fourth, his size. He looks like the size of the guys who played 20+ years ago -- no extra substances for him, or as much as we can possibly tell from looking, anyway.

There's no doubt that Utley is the best second baseman in baseball, and he's a joy to watch play. The Phillies are hanging in there at 17-14 despite having missed reigning MVP Rollins for most of the season (high ankle sprain) and CF Shane Victorino for a few weeks. How many teams can flat-out hit the baseball well enough to survive a loss of their numbers 1 and 2 hitters for an extended period.

At any rate, this season promises to be a great contest among the Phillies, Mets and Braves for 1 or 2 playoff spots in the NL. Those three seem to bring out the best in one another, and it promises to be a great season.

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