Chase Utley Booed In Minor League Debut
Generally, I don't warm to booing. Think it equal parts classless (you know you're taking a gamble when you buy tickets) and counterproductive (as if that's going to make your money better spent).
But here? Now? With Chase Utley? Good for you, Phils fans. Good for you.
Yesterday, in his Single-A Clearwater debut, Utley stunk up the joint. Terrible. Egriously, atrociously, godawful. Dude went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, against the Tampa Yankees, who, unlike the clowns he crushed two homers off of in two extended spring training games last week, weren't throwing underhanded. (Kidding.) Still, it's not like he faced anyone bearing any semblance to a major leaguer. Yet he struggled. Mightily. Like he was swinging a pool noodle at a mosquito. (You can peep his first three at-bats -- how long it took camera crews to realize that the news value there had pretty much dried up -- at CSNPhilly.com. If you're up to it...)
And per this footage, of Marshall Harris stand-up for CSN Philly, Phils fans let him have it.
Also: Utley hasn't played the field yet. Eventually, he will.
Now, it should be noted, that these are Floridian Phils fans, who, Ruben Amaro notwithstanding, don't have the same vested interest as do you Philadelphians, which may have precipitated more off-the-cuff boo birds than, say, a much more contrived and considered and caring boo birds, like the one (we hope) you'd let fly had this all gone down in Citizen's Bank Park. Still, there's something commendable in the realism here. These fans (whoever they are) aren't enamored. They're not duped. From what it seems, yeah, they want Chase Utley back. Everybody does. But they want Chase Utley , Chase Utley. You know. The World Series winner. The five-time all-star. The Phils consummate heart-and-soul guy. Not this busted-up Bizarro Utley, masquerading around in his skin like (SPOILER ALERT!!!) ...well...nevermind. Most of you haven't seen the movie yet. Can't in good conscience ruin it.
That, Philly fans, is something to behold. That's your point of (almost) professional pride. That's what makes you different (better?) than, say, the mindless, permissive masses in Atlanta and St. Louis and Baltimore and anywhere else touted as "A Really Nice Place To Go Catch A Game," unmistakable coding for, "Yeah, Their Fans Don't Care." You have standards. You demand results. You hold your sports stars -- even ones as hallowed and revered and indelible in your history and your hearts alike -- accountable. And, in the midst of what's shaping up to be a (recent) historic lull for your baseball team, the one that brought you a championship, the one that's made the No. 3 sport in the country the No. 1 sport in your city, you won't compromise.
Utley said he's trying: "It was Day One. It was good to be out there playing at night, which is a change at times. But it'll be fun to continue this. I plan on DH'ing tomorrow, but hopefully at some point -- some point soon -- I'll be able to get out there and play a little defense."
But, until he's doing -- hitting and running and scooping and rounding and, ultimately, helping the Phils get winning -- that won't be good enough. Nor should it be. (Nor should the p.m. start time be a valid excuse. Kind of a joke he went there, actually.) Not for a guy who put this on himself. Not for a guy who didn't retire, who did cash 62/162 percent of the $15 million 2012 salary he's still getting, who did keep the team hung up in this awkward, four-month-long limbo of uncertainty -- and excruciating privacy -- about his return. In a lot of ways, Utley did this to himself, and you didn't give him a pass. Nor should you have.
And for that, I say, good for you.