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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is Chase Utley Through?

I am open to persuasion to the contrary, but outside of a trip to St. Mungo's (for the initiated, the hospital for wizards in Harry Potter), it's hard to see what palliative measures can cure Chase Utley and return him to being the premier second baseman in the National League. Instead, his a struggling big name who doesn't put fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers the way he once did. And that's sad for the Phillies' nation.

But he hasn't played more than 115 games in a season since 2009, and he's on the books for this season and next. Ironically, when he signed the long-term deal many years ago, I wondered how the Phillies would be able to re-sign him after 2013. Now, I'm just hoping he can be productive in a part-time role through the end of the deal.

This type of result is hard to predict for baseball players, who don't wear out the way that football players can, the way that soccer players can, and the way that basketball players can. Typically, they get thicker in the middle, they aren't as quick to recover from nagging injuries, and they can't pick up pitches as well as they once did. They also start families and don't want to be away as much as they might have wanted to when they were younger.

But Utley seems to have "baseball lifer" written all over him, as he's the baseball version of a "gym rat," always trying to do something to improve. Perhaps that drive is what led him to his current state -- he worked himself so hard that his key parts have all but worn out. It's sad to see, but it would be worse for the team to be in denial and hope to get much out of him ever again. A demise happens to every athlete; we just didn't think it would happen to Utley in his early 30's.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the New York Times ran a story a year or two ago about when baseball players start the downward trend in their physical capabilities. The point of the article is that the tipping point, in their early 30's, takes place a half-decade or so earlier than most fans would guess. The article presented a lot of data which showed that batters begin a clear decline after this age. Maybe it's strength or fast-twitch reflexes or eyesight but Mother Nature puts us all on the downhill part of the mountain earlier than we would like.

2:39 PM  

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