If Chase Utley were a racehorse, the vet would be getting ready to administer some “sleepy medicine” as we speak.
On Monday, Utley left the team in Clearwater to see a specialist concerning his pain-riddled knees, knees so painful that Utley has to make Laynce Nix carry his books for him from class to class.
Knees so painful that he will almost certainly start the season on the disabled list.
Knees so painful that Utley may never play another baseball game again.
I know that sounds ominous. I know that sounds rash. I know that sounds like I’m jumping the gun.
But here is the honest truth. If Chase Utley’s knees never feel any better than they do right now, I don’t think he will ever play another baseball game as long as he lives.
Granted, I am not IN Clearwater following the team. I have never interviewed Chase Utley or any members of the Phillies’ training staff (of course, who has?). And I have not been watching Utley behind the scenes this spring, so all this is speculation, I admit. But my argument stands to reason, right?
In the past, it was Utley’s right knee that was the problem, the one that forced him to miss 46 games last year. It was assumed that an off-season program designed to strengthen his knee, while also keeping less pressure on it, would allow Utley to have a mini-comeback season in 2012.
But now Utley’s left knee is causing him pain too, more so than the right one. The left knee was never known to be a problem in the past, but has now flared up as an even bigger issue.
Chase’s condition is chronic, he has pain that will never go away. He will always have to deal with this, much like great players Mickey Mantle and Don Mattingly had to deal with chronic injuries that cut their careers shorter than they should have been.
And everyone knows Utley’s batting average and OPS have steadily declined since 2007. It’s no secret. But everyone assumed Utley would play through this latest ailment, at least to the point where he was still an above average second baseman, both in the field and at the plate.
But at this moment, it seems more likely than not that Utley’s career, at least as we know it, is over.
Perhaps he could be an American League DH. That may be the only way his career can continue. Right now he simply is unable to field ground balls, which is a somewhat necessary task when playing second base for a living.
Any time a player leaves their team to go see a “specialist” of any kind, it’s usually because the player and the training staff can’t figure out a way to get that player healthy. It’s usually because that player sees no way they can play their sport under their current condition.
Chase Utley admitted on Monday that his knees are worse than anyone thought, and no one is sure if they will ever be any better.
That could ultimately mean Chase Utley’s career with the Phillies has come to an end.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong and that Chase Utley’s specialist really is “special.”