Major League Baseball has been full of surprises in 2012. Manny Ramirez came out of retirement to sign with the Oakland Athletics, Ryan Braun reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and appealed his 50-game suspension (and won his appeal) and Albert Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (there’s a mouthful). Although these stories grabbed the headlines, they pale in comparison to Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley’s stunning retirement.
According to sources close to the Phillies, Utley informed Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. that he is retiring. Amaro has been unavailable to comment thus far. It is believed that Amaro and Utley are scheduling a press conference for later in the week (perhaps Thursday).
Utley – drafted by the Phillies with the 15th overall pick out of UCLA in the 2000 MLB entry draft – hit .290 with 188 home runs in his nine MLB seasons. Utley won the National League MVP in 2005, was a five-time All-Star and won four Silver Slugger awards. Utley played a large part in the Phillies’ success in the past decade and won the World Series in 2008.
Utley was perhaps the best second baseman in baseball for a span of five years. From 2005-2009, Utley hit .301 and averaged 29 home runs and 101 RBIs. Unfortunately, Utley has struggled with knee injuries in the past two seasons. Utley missed over 40 games last season due to his right knee; this time it is his left knee that ails him. Although the condition of Utley’s knee is degenerative, he initially discussed the possibility of rehab and playing through the pain in the 2012 season.
Utley’s retirement could not have come at a worse time for the Phillies. Infielder Michael Martinez will start the 2012 season on the disabled list (along with slugging first baseman Ryan Howard). It is unlikely that Placido Polanco will move back to second base at all; Polanco is likely going to stay at third base and 21 year-old Freddy Galvis will take Utley’s place. Galvis hit .278 between the AA and AAA level in 2011.
News of Utley’s retirement not only brings a somber mood to the Phillies clubhouse and fan base, but could also conceivably slam the door shut on the Phillies’ 2012 World Series hopes. Although Utley struggled with injuries during the past two seasons, Phillies fans will always remember him for being one of the best second basemen in his all-too-brief career.