Chase Utley: The Cornerstone

This season began with Chase Utley riding the pine in the opening game of the season. Manager Charlie Manuel elected to platoon Utley and Placido Polanco and instead of allowing Utley to make his first opening day start, Manuel gave the nod nod to Polanco. Since then Utley has been alternating between launching long home runs, playing first base, second base and riding the pine. Yet despite his inconsistent playing time, Utley is having one of the best seasons of any current Phillie.

Since making his major league debut in 2003, Chase Utley has blossomed into one of the best all around hitters the Phillies have had in their lineup. Utley has proven that he is able to hit for average and is known to have some pop in his bat as well and has put up solid numbers this year despite not consistently being in the lineup. Still, despite Charlie Manuel's reluctance to play Utley everyday, Chase is truly the cornerstone of this franchise.

Throughout his minor league career Utley was known as a consistent hitter who would hit for average and drive in runners in scoring position. He was also hailed as an above average fielder who would make spectacular stops on occasion. So far in his big league career, he has surpassed all of those expectations and is blossoming into not only the most consistent hitter in this lineup, but also the best all around second basemen in the National League East. Yet despite all of this, he still has not gained the full time starting job at second base.

In 40 games this season, Utley is batting .305 with 9 home runs and 25 RBI with 5 stolen bases to boot. During a season that has seen much of the Phillies lineup battle injuries and struggles at the plate, Utley has infused life into the lineup. He has made spectacular defensive plays at first base in Jim Thome's absence, and when given the opportunity to play his natural position, second base, he has impressed many an observer of this club. His .981 fielding percentage is a testament to his hard work to improve the defensive part of his game. While Utley may be able to play other positions, his future and the future of this franchise have him at second base and that is where he deserves to play.

Manuel does have a point when he explains in his usual Uncle Charlieisms that Utley struggles against left-handed pitchers. Utley is hitting just .063 against lefties this season. However, that stat alone simply cannot keep him out of the lineup against left-handed pitchers. Unless Utley faces left-handers this season, how else is he going to improve down the line? After all, in this stage of his development, it is essential that he not only is in the lineup everyday, but that he also be exposed to left-handers for the betterment of both his and the club's future.

This organization as of late has not been known to develop young players and bring them to the Major League level where they succeed and live up to the long discussed potential they supposedly possessed. However, Utley is living up to those expectations each and every time he steps into the batters box. To handcuff him against pitching that he is currently struggling against is detrimental to his long term development. Whether or not Manuel or Ed Wade likes it, Utley truly is the cornerstone of this franchise. He is the second baseman; let me say that again, second baseman of the future, based on both his offense and for being part of one of the top double-play combinations of the league along with Jimmy Rollins.

For an organization that has been known for public relations blunders of epic proportions, Chase Utley represents a chance to do right by the club as well as the fans that follow this team year after year. Not only does Utley have the potential to be the best player in this lineup for a very long time, but he also may develop into a perennial all-star who has the personality of a very humble and approachable young man. In a time that this franchise is facing turmoil for hirings gone awry and under producing players drawing scrutiny from every corner, it only makes sense to market Utley as the face of this franchise. In order to do that however, he must be given the opportunity to play everyday and develop into the player that we all know he has the potential to be.

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