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Chase Utley is not the best second baseman ever

Nov 4, 2009, 8:20 AM EDT

Off days stink because they force writers to fill space with silly stuff like this article making an argument for Chase Utley as “the best second baseman in baseball. Ever.”  The evidence cited: his OPS is higher than Jackie Robinson’s!  He’s on pace to have more hits than Joe Morgan! He’s got more home runs than Eddie Collins!  He plays better defense than Rogers Hornsby!

All of which is beside the point.  I mean, it’s not hard to take four great second baseman, cite those stats which are among the least impressive of their case for immortality, and then note that Utley bests them in that department.  Try this out for size: I’m the greatest man in world history because I can run faster than
Steven Hawking, sing better than Albert Einstein, shoot better than
Ghandi, and shave closer than Lincoln.  Anyone see any problems there?

The fact is that Joe Morgan wasn’t just a guy who got base hits. He walked a lot and had superior power, defense and base running ability.  As the author of the linked article admits, Collins played in the deadball era, so his home run totals are pretty irrelevant.  Robinson certainly had a good OPS, but his all-around ability — he played many positions — base running and, oh yeah, BALLS OF STEEL are a bigger part of his story. Citing Hornsby’s defense? C’mon, he’s known as a subpar defender. He’s at the top of most people’s lists because he hit .400.  And oh yeah: all of those guys did what they did for way longer than Utley has done what he has done.

Utley is an outstanding player. He’s certainly the best second baseman in the game today. If he keeps up the current pace for a few more years, he’s going to be Cooperstown bound. But after what, in reality, is only five strong seasons, he’s got a long way to go before he can reasonably be compared to Hornsby, Robinson, Morgan, and Collins.

And Grich and Sandberg and Alomar and Whitaker and Kent and Gehringer and . . .

  1. Alex K - Nov 4, 2009 at 8:31 AM

    Someone actually askeed Joe Morgan if Utley is the best second baseman ever yesterday in his chat. What did the guy expect? Did he really think the best second baseman ever (in my opinion) was going to say, “Yeah, Utley is WAY better than me!”

  2. Crash - Nov 4, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    Right now we have the priviledge of watching two of the most instinctive players to play the game in my life time – in Utley and Jeter. (I remember Mantle and Maris dueling to get to 60.) Their bats can go quiet. Both men can beat you with their glove, arms, legs and head. Utley is not the best second baseman ever. Jeter is not the best shortstop ever. But, I love watching these two in the same game. Wouldn’t trade. Watching them is just a thing of beauty, baseball at its best and purest! Will just enjoy it and see what they will come up with next! Go Phils! Win tonight!

  3. Dan - Nov 4, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    I seriously doubt that you are a better singer than Albert Einstein was.

  4. jonny5 - Nov 4, 2009 at 9:19 AM

    It must be tough to come up with good articles every day. ehhh Craig? You’ve got a tough job. So did you suck that bad at being an attorney?? ;>)~ Myself, I hate when people start pointing out players and stats and touting these guys as “the best”. Seriously they play a sport and are some of the best at what they do. Isn’t that enough? I know for Utley sake ,he doesn’t want to hear it. This guy just wants to play the game and do it the best he can, without all the hype. Guys with this attitude (Jeter included) are the best the game has to offer for this very reason. They know they aren’t heros, just great ball players. Unlike some other ego maniacs in the game, which I won’t mention….
    BTW, I see fans on both sides of this series are finding a new respect for the opposing teams players here. It’s kinda nice for a change.

  5. smokehouse - Nov 4, 2009 at 9:19 AM

    What fun it is to watch the Phillies all summer long. They are an amazing team and play in an amazing stadium.

  6. Bill@TDS - Nov 4, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    Joe Morgan has no appreciation for the skills that made him such a great player. Is it THAT much of a stretch to picture Joe saying “well, he’s on pace to get more base hits than I did, so I guess so”?

  7. Grant - Nov 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    I dunno. This might be an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object. Joe Morgan’s ignorance vs. Joe Morgan’s arrogance. Ali/Fraser, eat your heart out.

  8. Alex K - Nov 4, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    Grant- I am banking on the arrogance to win out. That is one huge ego.
    I do see your point though Bill. Joe’s response was something along the lines of him not comparing players. It was only the second question or so in the chat, but I couldn’t force myself to even read the whole answer before I wanted to poke my own eyes out for looking at a Joe Morgan chat.

  9. jonny5 - Nov 4, 2009 at 10:50 AM

    I hear the Yankees are looking into buying Cliff Lee an Utley for 1 Billion Dollars next season…… Yup, that’s the rumor…. ;>)~

  10. Daryl R - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:22 AM

    I’ve been around the game a long time and I have NEVER seen a better all-around second basemen. In ten years, this argument will be moot. The only detractors will be for Hornsby, since no one alive has seen him play (and remember it), his efforts will be mythical. Utley BEST EVER…..PERIOD.

  11. The Common Man - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    And just how did you develop your amazing ability to see the future, Daryl? Can it be taught? And where did you stand on the “Is Carlos Baerga the greatest 2B ever” debate in 1994?
    I think the most persuasive part of your argument was “PERIOD.” I am convinced.

  12. Joe Morgan - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM

    The most remarkable stat lay within this article — I didn’t name-drop Tony PERez, not even once.

  13. Daryl R - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:57 PM

    I CAN see into the future. It can’t be tought, however. Not to a Met fan who is still bitter about the 1996 mistake to get a guy who had two seasons of 20/100 and 200 hits. Were YOU calling him the best ever when you got him after his success (limited) in the early 90’s? While you’re having someone help you think of something clever to say, I must get ready for Game 6. Enjoy the game. I’ll say it again, since you liked it so much… Utley is the best ever…..wait for it….PERIOD. Baerga????

  14. Ditto - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:06 PM

    Daryl R, you may be missing the point. What The Common Man is trying to say is that, while Utley is certainly putting up great numbers, and Utley may be the best 2nd baseman right now, we mustwait and see if he maintains through his entire career. If his career ended today, he would not be considered one of the greatest, for part of greatness is longevity. So, in closing, let me say that we should wait for his career to play out be fore we enshrine him – and, to borrow a word – PERIOD

  15. The Common Man - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    I hope your prognostication skills are better than your ability to read people, because I have no vested interest in the Mets. You’re close, though. I’m a Twins fan. People confuse obnoxious Met fans with respectful and unassuming Minnesotans all the time. Don’t blame yourself. Interesting that you immediately jump to that conclusion though…
    Anyway, Ditto’s right. It’s ridiculous to assume we know how Utley’s career is going to go from here on out. We can speculate, but if he gets Ray Fosse’ed or Tony Kubeked or Rocky Colavitoed, it’s clear that he would not yet belong in the pantheon of the greatest 2B to play, let alone the best ever. Can’t you be satisfied with what he is now? The best 2B in the majors, and (arguably) one of the 5 best players in the major leagues?
    By the way, “tought?”

  16. Daryl R - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    “Ditto” must be a Yankees fan. They seem to be much more intelligent. Thank you for putting your thoughts clearly (geez, they should find a way to filter out some of these guys). I am not an idiot (shut up, Common Man). I am aware of the need to let a man’s career play out. To make a “prediction”, which is what I said about “in ten years…”, you can’t wait. You must stick your neck out. In today’s day and age, most of these guys aren’t worth taking a chance on. Utley, however, has a different mettle. His numbers will be there. We can all just wait and see. Unless we’re still waiting on the Baerga Train.

  17. Daryl R - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:47 PM

    Sorry about the misspelling. My spell check dont always work to goodly. Way to throw names around to create the illusion that you know what you are talking about. (Sorry, I ended that in a preposition). I also want to (MOST SINCERELY) apologize for assuming that you were a Mets fan. That was a cheap pot shot. No one deserves that. By the way, what we East Coast fans find “charming” about you midwestern bumpkins is that you ARE respectful and unassuming…most of the time. Did you relocate there? In closing (and boy I hope I don’t make any spelling mistakes), I hope no one starts rooting AGAINST Utley because he has one obnoxious fan who is so deranged he named his son after him. Utley has class, is “respectful and unassuming,” and plays the game “the right way”. If you truly are a baseball guy, you know what I am talking about. Thanks for tolerating my prerjudice.

  18. Ahmet Hamdi Cavusoglu - Nov 4, 2009 at 2:13 PM

    Sorry, but I also doubt you sing better than Einstein … he was a pretty damn good violinist back in his time and he enjoyed throwing a good party with friends back in EPS/ETH by playing and singing music … how about better at having a happy family life?

  19. The Common Man - Nov 4, 2009 at 2:14 PM

    Hey, it’s all in good fun, Daryl. Not trying to pick on you. I’m sure you’re not an idiot. After all, look at what I did above, confusing Rocky Colavito and Tony Conigliaro (which I do all the time).
    Your comments do raise an interesting issue, however. As a Kirby Puckett fan from 1986 on, I remember how heartbreaking it was to discover that this Minnesota icon wasn’t quite as infallible as we had always made him out to be. I hope you never have a similar experience.
    The pathological need fan bases have to elevate players to incredible heights, to feel like we have invested or, as you say, taken a chance on a guy (when we did no such thing, we only watched them play baseball) is so odd to me. If a player meets those expectations that’s very nice, but if they ever fall short it essentially colors the way we see the game and all the rest of the players. I find that strange and an unfair burden. Again, why can’t we be satisfied to just say “he’s a terrific ballplayer.”

  20. comeonman - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:00 PM

    Chase is Reggie Jackson, No, he is Derek Jeter, NO HE ISN’T EITHER OF THEM BECAUSE HE HAS ONE WORLD SERIES RING AND HE WASN’T MVP OF ANY OF THEIR PLAYOFF SERIES.He is Chase Utley.

  21. comeonman - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:00 PM

    Chase is Reggie Jackson, No, he is Derek Jeter, NO HE ISN’T EITHER OF THEM BECAUSE HE HAS ONE WORLD SERIES RING AND HE WASN’T MVP OF ANY OF THEIR PLAYOFF SERIES.He is Chase Utley.

  22. comeonman - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:03 PM

    Dude, we have Derek Jeter, need I say more?
    I would hit chase 4 times tonight, he can’t even smell the ball
    much less get a chance to hi it out. Kid is GOOD!!

  23. Daryl R - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    I love knowledgeable baseball fans. For me, personally, it feels good to ordain someone “The Best Ever” at a position, because I am somewhat upset that I have NOT seen every player of every generation. And when old-schoolers tell me, “Well, you never saw…”, I feel the need, albeit silly, to have my own generation’s “undisputable best”. You are a worthy fan (how nice of me to grant you that, huh?) in an age where most fans only know how to regurgitate what the ESPN anchors say on today’s SportsCenter. Thanks for the excercise today. For what it’s worth, though I am not an AL fan, I always root for the Twins down the stretch. Got family from Minnesota…likeable people. Keep loving America’s game!

  24. John - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:43 PM

    Best 2nd baseman ever? Who cares for he’s the best in this series and in this entire postseason. PHILLIES IN SEVEN!!! MARK MY WORDS!!!

  25. g - Nov 4, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    Einstein’s musical abilities are well-known:
    Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood, with his memories in a trunk
    Passed this way an hour ago with his friend, a jealous monk
    He looked so immaculately frightful as he bummed a cigarette
    Then he went off sniffing drainpipes and reciting the alphabet
    Now you would not think to look at him but he was famous long ago
    For playing electric violin on Desolation Row

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