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Will Chase Utley really make a difference? And why didn't Amaro have a better Plan B?


Is anyone actually working in the Phillies’ executive offices these days? Or was the plan all along to wait for the prodigal son to return on wounded-knee and save the season?
Nothing gets my creative juices flowing more than unencumbered adulation or when talking heads and media scribes drink the kool-aid.  And the arrival of Phillies second basemen Chase Utley has the Delaware Valley acting like he’s going to channel his inner Rogers Hornsby. 
Photo: ESPN
The question is, why? 
By all accounts Utley is a mere shell of his former self. He hasn’t played at an All-Star level in three years and his injury is a degenerative knee which in regular parlance means he has a bad wheel. Is his knee really going to allow him to play 65 games at a high level this season? 
Yet the local and national media are touting Utley’s return to the lineup as if he is about to hit .320, drive in 50 or 60 runs and carry the Phillies to a playoff spot.  As if his mere presence will somehow make Cliff Lee a dominant pitcher again or make Placido Polanco more than a fifth infielder. This entire narrative is absurd and speaks to the fundamental problem with general manager Ruben Amaro’s stewardship. 

Utley’s inevitable decline should have been clear to anyone paying attention.  And if you think I’m simply piling on after the fact, think again.  I expressed my opinion on Utley, Amaro and the Phillies months ago (you should have called me Ruben, I could have helped).  
I won’t bore you with Utley’s recent offensive numbers, but what is important to remember is he has missed 182 games since the start of the 2010 season. The fact is his body has let him down and he can no longer be counted on. In actuality, Utley isn’t even a story. He’s barely a part of the Phillies present and is nowhere near a part of their future.    
About the best the team can hope for now is he shows enough over the next month or two to entice an American League team to trade for his services. Though it’s no given he can even be a quality designated hitter. 
As for Amaro, there is no question the Phillies’ mediocre status is solely his doing. His media pals and faithful fans site injuries and suggest he is somehow a victim of circumstance. They’re wrong. The Phillies have indeed sustained some key injuries but so have the Nationals, Braves, Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees and they’re all challenging in their respective divisions. Besides, when the core of your roster is past its prime it’s reasonable to expect some injuries, isn’t it?  Still, Amaro has sat idly and watched the team become increasingly irrelevant.  
There were moves available if he had simply had the wherewithal and courage to make them. I still believe he could have traded Lee for a hitter this past off-season and extended pitcher Cole Hamels.  He could have resigned utility man Wilson Valdez. He could have traded center fielder Shane Victorino for more bullpen help since he had to know Jose Contreras is nearing his 50th birthday (okay maybe he isn’t, but is anyone surprised he broke down?).
The Phillies are an average ball club and the only thing to do now is rebuild for a future run.  Perhaps Amaro should call Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to see if he would be willing to part with shortstop Dee Gordon for Jimmy Rollins.
It’s time the Phillies brass, media and fans acknowledge the harsh truth: this run is over and it’s going to take legitimate skill (and a little luck) within the team’s hierarchy to change its fortune. 

Do you honestly believe Chase Utley’s arrival matters on the field?  Do you trust Ruben Amaro to make the necessary changes despite the fact he has ridden Pat Gillick’s coattails for nearly four seasons? 
Wake up Phillies fans and recognize what has happened to your beloved baseball team. Prepare yourselves as things will get worse before they get better. 
And most importantly, see the Chase Utley circus for what it really is: a glorified publicity stunt designed to make sure you keep spending good money on Broad Street.

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Photo: MLB (AP)