With the Philadelphia Phillies set to miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, fans of the team will be left to root for former Phillies this postseason, such as Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers. No one has publicly said this, but there's a feeling this could be the six-time All-Star's final chance to win a second World Series title.
Utley, who will turn 39 in December, spoke to Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register, and did admit that he has an uncertain future after 2017:
“That’s a good question. Again, I try not to look too far ahead,” Utley said when asked how much longer he expects to play. “But I think it’s no secret that I’m not getting any younger and my hair is not getting any darker. I still enjoy the competition. I still enjoy the grind. … And I still feel I can contribute in a number of different ways. It’s something that I don’t think a ton about. But clearly there’s not a whole lot more years left.”
Utley is slashing .234/.324/.406 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 286 at-bats, while FanGraphs says he's still been better than replacement level. What can't be measured in those statistics is the role Utley plays in the clubhouse, where manager Dave Roberts and shortstop Corey Seager have praised the positive impact that Utley has had. In a league where nearly all teams are using sabermetrics in an attempt to get an edge on other teams, we've come full circle to a place where someone like Utley, despite declining play, has become a valuable commodity to contending teams.
With that said, it is fair to wonder if this could be Utley's final season. His play has declined, but not to the point where he's not a major league player. Retiring after this season could allow him to leave on his own terms. That would seem even more likely if the Dodgers, who have a major league high 96 wins, were to win the World Series, or have a deep playoff run this October. It would be hard to top winning a second World Series on your hometown team.
As Philadelphia knows, and will be reminded of when the Dodgers are in town for the next four days, Utley has an unwavering passion for the sport. It wouldn't be surprising at all, regardless of how the Dodgers perform this postseason, to see Utley return for the 2018 season. But there is a very real possibility that this week will be the final time that Utley plays at Citizens Bank Park.