LOS ANGELES — Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley announced on Friday that he would retire at the end of the 2018 season, setting an end date to an excellent and underrated 16-year career that should land him in Cooperstown one day.
“For me this is a no-brainer Hall of Famer,” Dodgers baseball operations head Andrew Friedman said. “Doing this now, Chase’s point was to focus on helping the Dodgers win a World Series. There’s no better way to cement his Hall of Fame candidacy more than that.”
Friedman traded for Utley in August 2015 and has re-signed him as a free agent in each of the last three offseasons. On the field with the Dodgers Utley has been rather ordinary, hitting .239/.316/.387, a below-average 92 wRC+ and 89 OPS+. But Utley is revered in the clubhouse and throughout the Dodgers organization.
“He’s such an added bonus for us. Everybody talks about the intangibles, but I really mean it,” pitcher Clayton Kershaw said in 2017. “Regardless of how he plays, just what he does here in the clubhouse is the best I’ve ever seen.”
“The impact he’s had on this organization is immeasurable,” Friedman added. “It’s only been three years basically but the lasting impact will go far beyond that.”
Utley was a stud with the Phillies, part of five straight division winners and back-to-back World Series appearances. Philadelphia won it all in 2008 and lost in the Fall Classic the next year even though Utley slammed five home runs in the six-game series.
He had a six-year stretch from 2005-10 in which he averaged 36 doubles, 27 runs, 66 walks and 15 steals while hitting .298/.388/.523, a 133 OPS+. All while providing well-above average defense at second base.
Most Defensive Runs Saved - 2B— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) July 13, 2018
Since Stat Began Being Tracked in 2003
CHASE UTLEY 133
Mark Ellis 132
Ian Kinsler 118
Orlando Hudson 101
Dustin Pedroia 99
Utley will fall short of 2,000 hits, something achieved by 29 second basemen. But he has still reached base more than Hall of Famers Tony Lazerri, Bill Mazeroski, Joe Gordon, Jackie Robinson and Johnny Evers.
Using Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, Utley rates as roughly average among the 20 Hall of Fame second basemen. Utley’s career Wins Above Replacement of 65.6 is slightly less than the 69.6 WAR average of Hall of Famers at the position, but his seven-year peak of 49.3 WAR is ahead of the pace at the position (44.5 WAR).
“He’s had a pretty special career, to be as good as he has been for as long as he has. There’s a lot of nonsense that goes on with the voting,” Utley’s teammate Alex Wood said earlier this season. “Guys that should be unanimous Hall of Famers and guys don’t vote for them. Guys that are no-brainers. You don’t get much more well respected than Chase Utley.”
Wood and nearly the entire Dodgers team crammed together along with reporters in the tiny media room at Dodger Stadium just to be there for Utley’s retirement press conference, one day after he told the team in a private clubhouse meeting in San Diego.
The entire Dodger team is here for Chase Utley’s press conference. Never seen a more admired player.— Joe Davis (@Joe_Davis) July 13, 2018
“He’s the most well-respected guy in our clubhouse,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Utley was also at the center of a controversy in the 2015 National League Division Series, when his hard and late slide at second base led to Mets infielder Ruben Tejada breaking his leg. That spawned a major league rule change the next season that outlawed such slides that were once intertwined with the fabric of the sport.
It also made Utley enemy number one in New York, and eventually led to umpire Tom Hallion getting his “ass in the jackpot.”
“When they announced everybody’s names on the line in Game 3 of the NLDS, they were going name by name and the camera was rolling by everybody. Then when they announced his name the camera stayed on his face for like two minutes,” said Dodgers teammate Kiké Hernandez. “There were 50,000 people booing him from the bottom of their hearts and he didn’t even flinch. That was pretty awesome.”
After transitioning from a six-time All-Star and everyday player for well over a decade, Utley has transitioned into more of a part-time role the last few years with the Dodgers. He said he is stepping away from baseball to spend more time with his family, to be a full-time dad.
“I’m no spring chicken, I’ve got 15 or 16 years in the big leagues. My hair is going gray,” Utley said. “There are a lot of things letting me know it’s time.”