It’s no secret that the Phillies’ single problem this season has been the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. All analysts agree; with even one of their sluggers back in the lineup, this team would be leading the division by 5-7 games, and probably lower the crime rate in this city because we’d all stop hurling televisions at each other.
Which is why it’s so critical that Chase Utley is on his way back from another awful, pointless injury.
Yes, Ruben Amaro’s Talent-and-Flesh Factory is about to release it’s latest model of Chase Utley. After two prolonged trips to the repair ward, don’t be surprised if Chase comes out a bit altered; if he’s lost that spring in his step; if he repeats himself in interviews; if he’s handed a puppy and tries to drain and consume its energy instead of saving its life; if a trainer has to chase him down during outfield sprints to tape up some exposed wiring as it flails out from the back of his knee panel.
Chase participated in an experiment this week, in which he performed amicably, going 3-for-4 with a home run. Naturally, the Phillies are not permitting this one to run or field yet, which should be tight enough precautions to keep any minor issues from resulting in a situation similar to that of the now infamous “Chase 1.5″ disaster.
What ever happened to the real Chase Utley, you ask? We can assume he’s in there, somewhere; perhaps given up on fighting to reach the surface of his own consciousness. Two seasons of devastating knee injuries have left him underdeveloped and malnourished. Under layers of Ruben Amaro’s secretive madness, there may still exist that sharp, savvy, power-hitting middle infielder who charmed us with profanity so perverse it would have easily had him escorted from the stadium had he not been the starting second baseman.
But now, we are left with this machine, battling its way through the painful monotony of rehab starts.
All season long, we’ve been saying that getting Chase and/or Ryan back won’t be enough to save this team, but now that’s it’s happening, it is of course the only thing that matters.