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For Phillies fans, saying goodbye to Chase Utley could get complicated

In Saturday’s Say Hey, Baseball, we wonder about a Phillies-Dodgers playoff match-up, fawn over a magical Billy Hamilton catch, and feel really bad for the Royals.

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

It was inevitable. At some point, the ageless-yet-silver-haired Chase Utley would have to retire. And on Friday, he told the world that the 2018 season would be his last as a player, and that he’s retiring to finally become a full-time dad.

Utley has played for just two teams in his career. He’s been on the Dodgers for the last three years, and so the players and staff have the next two and a half months to say goodbye to him. But the Phillies are a whole different story. Utley’s original team has seen a complete turnover since he was traded in 2015. There’s a new team president, a new GM, a new manager, and a whole new crop of players. So for the Phillies, saying goodbye is really about the fans. They’re the ones who remember Utley and all his incredible accomplishments, like his MVP-worthy 2009 World Series performance, and how he never gave up when it seemed like bad knees would end his career.

Phillies fans will get a chance to say goodbye to Utley when the Dodgers come to Citizens Bank Park at the end of July. In the past, he’s gotten standing ovations before each at-bat, and even the home runs he hit against the Phillies got wild, ecstatic cheers. (What other player in baseball gets that kind of reception when he plays his former team?)

But there’s a twist that no one really expected: what if the Dodgers and Phillies face each other in the playoffs? The Dodgers have made the playoffs every year Utley’s played with them, but Phillies fans never had to worry because the Phillies were, well, putrid. There was no chance of them making the playoffs, not unless the Nationals, Braves, Mets, and Marlins all quit baseball in the same year to become accountants. But now the Phillies are a legitimate contender, and have a very real chance of making the playoffs either as a wild card team or as the outright winner of the NL East.

And that presents a very new situation for fans. How will Utley be received if he comes to Citizens Bank Park as not just a harmless regular season opponent, but as a back-up player on a playoff team that could end the Phillies season? It’s honestly hard to imagine Utley ever being received at Citizens Bank Park with anything but cheers, but until recently it was hard to imagine the Phillies being in the playoff picture at all.

The good news is that Utley is primarily a back-up player, and if the two teams end up playing each other in the postseason (both teams would have to win their divisions, but without the best record in the National League), Utley might not even make it into a game at CBP. That would spare fans from having to figure out whether to cheer or boo or do nothing when Utley comes to bat.

But that’s not up to them. The gods of baseball will decide whether Utley will step onto the field at Citizens Bank Park during the playoffs wearing Dodger blue. And if he does, Phillies fans will have to reckion with it. Will he be cheered? Booed? Greeted with confused murmuring? We’ll just have to wait and see.