Is Chase Utley a Hall of Famer?
Forgive me in advance for being all over the place with this article as my feelings about the topic are all over the place.
Is Chase Utley a Hall of Famer? It’s a tough question. Was he the best second baseman in the major leagues for at least five to six seasons? Yes he was. Did he play the game the way it should be played? Yes he did. Was he a winner who led his team to a World Series Championship? Yes again!
On the other hand, he will retire after the 2018 season with barely 1900 hits over parts of 16 seasons. Roughly 260 homeruns and 1050 RBI (at the end of the season) with a .276 batting average doesn’t scream Cooperstown to me.
It leads me to this question. How important are actual statistics in HOF worthiness? I am the number one critic of Mr. 1500 Hits, Phil Rizzuto being enshrined. He had no statistics, not a single one, that would make anyone think he’d even be a candidate for the HOF. What he did have was friends on the Veteran’s Commitee. Kind of like, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
I am not going to spout all of Chase’s numbers to you, there are plenty of places you can see just how good he was early in his career and they’ll explain it’s not his fault that he didn’t come up until he was 24. I remember that Larry Bowa wanted him up and upper management didn’t want to promote him. So it certainly wasn’t his fault.
The point to this article is quite simply, “what exactly is a HOFer that isn’t a Carlton, Aaron, Mantle, etc?” Is it straight numbers? Is it 3000 hits or 300 wins? Is it four World Series rings along with solid (but unspectacular) numbers? (I’m looking at you, Jorge Posada.) What about an MVP Award along with 5 or 6 really good seasons but only 1500 hits? (You are missed Thurman Munson.)
Can you put Utley in the HOF without a player like Munson whose career and life ended prematurely? Munson was also a top player for 5-6 seasons but his numbers fell short of consideration. Is it fair to put Utley in with only 400 or so more hits than Munson?
Utley played five years longer than Munson and only amassed 400 more hits? Couldn’t Munson do that in his sleep? One would assume so, but not necessarily. His knees were shot and he missed his family. The rumor mill said he was going to ask for a trade to Cleveland to be closer to his family or he was going to retire. It’s unlikely that Munson would have ended with 1900 career hits.
But the question is, would it have mattered? How many hits would Munson need to be HOFer? How many more years did he need to play? Is Utley in the same category? Are 1900 hits a HOFer over a 16 year career?
This is the question that needs an answer. And it boils down to one single question. Can you be a HOFer based on being a dominant player for a short time while your overall numbers are not Hallworthy on their own? If Joe Player hit .276 with 260 homeruns and 1900 hits over a 16 year career, are those HOF numbers? I say no. But is Utley the exception since he was so dominant for multiple years and was known as a true gamer and team leader?
It’s hard for me to answer this question. I have obvious bias being a Phillies' fan and an Utley fan. But I’m also against players like Munson and Posada being considered due to their lack of offensive numbers. You will read many articles over time for or against Utley’s HOF candidacy. When you find the one that correctly answers the question I posed, you will have your answer. It’s not a cop out, it’s just an answer a mere mortal like myself can’t seem to answer.
Either way, Chase Utley, you were the man!