Chase Utley, as we’ve discussed, is currently working his way through the lower levels of the Phillies farm system. Every pitch he sees in every at bat, every swing, every trot, even his walk-up music, are all being monitored so that the Chase we get back is the best possible Chase there can be.
Of course, we expect a lot from our Chase. And in the time we’ve had away from him, our imagination and nostalgia have combined to create an image of Chase Utley that not only goes beyond the talents he possesses, but the capacities of the human body. I certainly don’t remember Chase breaking his bat and ripping his own arm off to replace it, but hey, if you want to reminisce about it, pass the punch.
The other factor in all this, as is the case in everything I’ve written for the past nine weeks, is that the Phillies are very bad. It’s not often that watching a baseball team blurs our understanding of reality, but this team has been so bad, it had made us think that the return of an older, less mobile, more fragile Chase Utley will change them in some way. And maybe it will. But it probably won’t. Not in the way it does in our fantasies, anyway.
So when Chase went 0 for 5 in his first rehab start in Clearwater with three strikeouts and got booed, that was probably a bunch of unrealistic people watching the MacGuffin of the 2012 season and realizing it may mean nothing. Last night, however, Chase went 2 for 5, with a double and an RBI, and scored two runs. He said the past few weeks have been “very positive.” No one booed.
Which is a big step in the process. If there’s one thing that has affected Chase throughout his career, it’s reactions from the crowd. And if we’re already letting our insecurities and dependencies leak into Chase’s performance, then we are already losing.
More than before, I mean. More than the baseball losses.