There was once a Twitter question from MLB's Cut4 account asking fans to describe their favorite MLB player "as boring as humanly possible," and so I answered that he had hit .259 with 11 home runs in 2011. I added a picture of Chase Utley, the player in question (who I think I successfully described with admirable dullness), who I have always been proud to call my favorite to watch as I grew up throughout the 2000s and 2010s.
This response just about sums up how some fans felt about my choice.
Well, we can't all be Utley fans. And aside from the obvious incident that left Ruben Tejada with a broken leg, there seem to be a lot of fans who just hated Utley... because he was Utley. Sure, players are disliked by opposing fan bases because they're really good and have hurt rival teams time and time again, but it seems like there's more of a widespread view of Utley as an unlikeable player — that is, unless you're from Philly, of course, where he's viewed as a pride of the Phillies and will forever be remembered as one of the franchise greats — and that goes beyond just a horde of angry Mets fans. Opposing players haven't always had the best reviews of Utley, including one former pitcher who said that he would have hit him every time if he could've, and there may be a reason for that.
Another of Philly's all-time legends, longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins, weighed into why that might be the case on the latest episode of Jomboy Media's "The Chris Rose Rotation."
"Now, I will say they hated his intensity because they couldn't match it. They knew that they had to bring their lunch," Rollins explained (head to the 21:00 mark). "There was never gonna be a give. There wasn't gonna be a pitch or at-bat that he was gonna give away. It didn't matter the score and if you're up against that and you want a guy to just fold, just to give (you) something, that's the wrong guy. You're not gonna get that from him. You're gonna earn every single out, every single win, and they also knew he was a difference-maker."
It's true. In terms of hustle and effort out there on the baseball diamond, there were few better examples than Utley, which was part of the reason I admired him so much. There was me, a timid and skinny preteen who could barely stay in the batter's box long enough to face a pitch out of fear of being hit. And then there was Utley, who led the league in HBP three years in a row and almost seemed to actively seek out the pain. A role model? Maybe not for your physical health or sanity, but certainly for your passion and drive to win.
But beyond his playing style, he didn't seem to be the most approachable or friendly guy on the field. Not everyone can be a Freddie Freeman, after all.
"He didn't say much and maybe that was something that they wanted to get to see, to get to know him, say 'hey,'" Rollins said. "There were a couple of guys he would talk to — I mean, literally, you can count them on one hand — but other than that, he was always watching you. He was always accusing you of cheating, picking signs.
"And he just had this demeanor about him that made you think he was crazy, and he might've been a little bit crazy. I mean, I was on the inner circle, that circle of trust, but I just think it was the fact that there was no give. There was no break. And you wanted to see that.
"The guy was human and he would never let you see that unless you were his real good friend."