An MRI might show what is going on inside Chase Utley’s knees. It can’t tell us what’s going on inside his head.
That’s just as important, as the Phillies second baseman embarks on his second annual quest for a short-term solution to his chronic knee problems. Utley has chosen to keep his medical issues and options to himself, which is his absolute right. It is also the right of the fans who contribute to his millions in salary to wish he’d be a little bit more forthcoming.
Forced to honor Utley’s wish for privacy, the Phillies have come off looking less than honest with those same fans. Utley’s entire spring training program has been conducted under a cloud, and that cloud turned into a thunderhead with GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s announcement that things aren’t going so well with Utley’s “bad knees.”
What Amaro says matters much less than what Amaro does, however. Was he fooled into thinking Utley would be ready to go on opening day? If the signing of Ty Wigginton was more about second base than first, it still seems like a patch rather than a potential replacement for Utley. The gospel of Freddy Galvis, which all in pinstripes suddenly are preaching, sure was written hastily.
If Galvis and Wigginton hold it all together and Utley returns to play most of the season, then fine. Amaro and the Phillies will be OK.
If Amaro is able to make another move – Joe Blanton for a veteran infielder, say – then he will be covered.
If none of that happens, then it will be more than fair to wonder why Amaro splurged on Jonathan Papelbon instead of addressing the huge holes in the middle of his lineup (and the right side of his infield).
It is usually a bad sign when a team is relying on a lot of “ifs” to go its way. At this point, though, the one set of ifs – Galvis seizing the moment, Wigginton providing some offense, production from the likes of Scott Podsednik, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix – has at least as much chance of going right as the set that has Howard and Utley returning to form.