Missanelli: Chase Utley Fifth Best Player in Modern Phillies History

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley left town the other day as the fifth-best player in modern Phillies history.

Yep. Here’s what I’ve got, in this order: Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Utley. (I apologize to Dick Allen and Del Ennis, and the older Phillies who may have been candidates, Chuck Klein and Nap Lajoie. I have no frame of reference for Chuckie and Nap.)

I’m a baseball dude. I played the game for much of my life (and still play in an adult league, which explains my recent torn meniscus and micro-fracture surgery) and was an avid student of the art of hitting. For a period of five years, I thought Chase Utley was the best hitter I had ever seen. Yes, the best hitter I had ever seen. Utley had an amazing way of staying relaxed, then violently firing that short swing. He kept his bat path in the hitting zone for a loooong time — right on the plane of the incoming pitched ball — and hit every ball on sweet spot of his maple bat.

Utley was also the strangest player I have ever covered or seen in a locker room. Read more »

In (Limited) Defense of “Everybody Gets a Trophy”

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

“Everybody gets a trophy”- the view that, in today’s youth sports, kids are coddled to the point where they’re rewarded for nothing- is all of a sudden everywhere in the culture. HBO’s Real Sports ran a segment on the phenomenon a few weeks ago, and then last week Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison publicly announced on Instagram that he had confiscated participation trophies from his own children. One Washington, DC sports anchor even compared participation trophies to child abuse.

My view, as a parent of a pair of sports-playing boys, is that the outrage is misplaced and often ludicrously over-the-top. When it comes to issues facing youth sports and youth today in general, there are much worse calamities than participation trophies. Read more »

Chase Utley: The Perfect Philadelphia Athlete

utley-celebration

Chase Utley had doubled, knocking in a run. The National League still trailed in the 2014 All-Star Game, but the team had finally scored. Utley, on second, went into his trademark celebration: Hands on his hips, staring forward with a small smirk on his face. It’s as if Utley were a baseball-playing robot, thinking “my programming helped me achieve that positive baseball result” to himself.

The only other Philadelphia athlete in recent memory that attracted the kind of universal adulation as Chase Utley is Brian Dawkins. Utley appeared to be designed in a factory designed to produce the kind of athlete designed to appeal to every Philadelphia fan: He kept his head down and didn’t say much. He went 100 percent at every opportunity. The blue-collar fan stereotype is overblown, but there is a segment of the Philadelphia fanbase that likes guys who play hard and keep quiet. They can pretend it’s them out there, just doing a job.

Utley put up solid numbers every year. He had nice arms. He would show up at, like, the Morning Glory diner. He and his wife had a charity, anti-animal abuse, that everyone could agree with. His swing reminded people of Ted Williams. He tied a World Series record held by Reggie Jackson. Both of his famous quotes involve him dropping an F-bomb. How could anyone not like this guy? The only other Phillie possibly beloved as much as Utley was Richie Ashburn. Read more »

SEPTA Got Better with Joe Casey at the Bat

SEPTA-bus-fusco

Running a large transit system may just be one of the most thankless tasks anyone could take on. You have the responsibility for moving hundreds of thousands of people daily, usually with less money than you’d like to have for the job. Many of those people you move will not like the way your employees get them there, or fail to do so in a timely manner—and give them bad attitude while they ride. And chances are that the elected officials to whom you must answer will be among your most demanding critics while doing little to enable you to answer the criticism.

It’s a rare individual who manages to surmount even some of this to enact real change and improvement. The last person to do this at SEPTA was David Gunn, a name that’s become virtually holy among transit industry professionals for his ability to make every transit system he touched better, with the possible exception of his last, Amtrak.

SEPTA’s current general manager, Joe Casey, is Gunn’s equal—or his superior— in just about every measure. As he now takes his valedictory lap prior to his retirement Sept. 30, it might be worth pointing out why. Read more »

How Did Dîner en Blanc Become Philadelphia’s Most Polarizing Event?

It’s not that I hate Diner en Blanc.

It’s more that I really, really hate Diner en Blanc.

That is, if Diner en Blanc actually exists. My working theory is that it doesn’t, that the organizers of Thursday night’s dinner party accessed my subconscious and designed an elaborate hoax based on my wildest nightmares and most visceral fears. Think Freddie Krueger, but with more seersucker and entitlement, less clawed gloves and face melt.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But the alternative is believing that thousands of my fellow Philadelphians entered a lottery for a chance to buy $39 tickets to a dinner party that doesn’t serve dinner. That they’re seriously going to dress in head-to-toe white and drag their own tables, chairs, dishware and food into Center City during a heat wave. That — per the world’s most eye-stabby slide show — “once all the guests are settled in, [they’ll] spontaneously lift their white linen napkins to indicate the beginning of the dinner.” Read more »

Utley Trade Talks Heat Up

utley-celebration

The Phillies may be on the cusp of shipping Chase Utley — a beloved member of the 2008 World (Bleeping) Series champs — out of town as they continue their rebuilding project.

“Sources told MLB.com on Thursday night that several teams have made offers for Utley, although no deal is imminent,” MLB’s Todd Zolecki reports. “The Giants are just one of those teams. San Francisco general manager Bobby Evans confirmed to MLB.com that his team has made an offer. The Angels, Cubs, Astros, Yankees and Dodgers are in the mix. The Angels have been interested in Utley for more than a month, and are worth watching.”

Utley wants assurances of playing time on his new team: “He does not want to ride the bench, because he plans to play next season.” Read more »

Tom Brady Fights For His Legacy

NFL: Divisional Round-Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

If reports are true, then Tom Brady might find himself on the losing end of a legal case: The supposed divorce proceedings with his wife, supermodel Giselle Bunchen.

Certainly I don’t see Brady losing in his legal case against the NFL, and I have said that from the jump, even when some of the sports legal experts —uh, Lester Munson, are you listening? — were kowtowing to the NFL and the mastery of the league’s “commissioner powers.”

I am a lawyer – currently non-practicing due to some other current profession that takes up most of my time – who teaches a class in Sports Law to college undergraduates. We spend a lot of time in this class on the subject of professional sports leagues, their collective bargaining agreements, and how they interact with the federal anti-trust laws of this country.

Think of it this way: Most EVERYTHING you see in professional sports – drafts, trades, dress codes, salary caps – on its face and without a collective bargaining agreement – would be violations of anti-trust. Anti-trust laws exist to prevent price fixing and economic monopolies. The theory behind a collective bargaining agreement is that both sides – management and employee – have had a fair chance to agree to certain provisions with arms-length bargaining at the same bargaining table. Fair, right?

Yes it is. Except when some provisions of a collective bargaining agreement go way over the line and they are thus challenged legally. Which brings us to the case of Tom Brady. Read more »

Au Contraire, Mayor Nutter: The Pope Panic Does Make Sense

Nutter

Mayor Nutter’s op-ed in the Daily News — defending planning for Pope Francis’ visit and saying, in essence, “I got this” — would’ve been mighty reassuring if not for one thing: It came within a day of reports that the city’s rank-and-file police officers have no idea what their assignments will be during the visit.

“The [Fraternal Order of Police] has repeatedly inquired as to the plans for the Papal visit as it relates to our members and their working conditions,” FOP President John McNesby said in a Monday letter to his membership. “The FOP is concerned about an apparent lack of planning and notice to our members.”

Can’t anyone here play this game? Read more »

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