Chase Utley Gets the Last Laugh Against the Mets…. For Now

Perhaps no player in all of baseball is hated more by the fan base of a team than Chase Utley is loathed by the New York Mets fans. On Saturday night, the hatred was out in full force when the Los Angeles Dodgers were at Citi Field taking on the Mets.

Utley has been a thorn in the Mets side for years. Ever since his days with the Philadelphia Phillies, the 37-year old second baseman has always put up good numbers against them. In his career, Utley has hit 38 home runs against the Mets, the most he’s hit against any team. Especially when he was in Philadelphia, he had a knack for getting big hits when he played the Mets. However, this is only part of the reason that their fans dislike him so much.

In mid-August of last season, the Phillies traded Utley to the Dodgers in exchange for Darnell Sweeney and John Richy. This marked the end of his 13-year career in Philadelphia, but it certainly didn’t mean that his rivalry with the Mets was over. Sure enough, the Dodgers and Mets both won their respective divisions and ended up playing each other in the 2015 NLDS. Utley only had three at-bats in the entire series, which included one hit. His most memorable moment in the series came during the seventh inning of Game 2, following that hit. In an attempt to break up what possibly could have been an inning-ending double play, Utley slid into Mets shortstop Rubén Tejada. Not only was he ruled safe at second base after a video review, but Tejada had to leave the game due to a fractured right fibula. The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the game at that point, but they rallied and went on to win 5-2. Utley was originally suspended two games by Major League Baseball for the slide, but because he appealed the suspension, he was allowed to play the remainder of the NLDS.  The  Mets were able to win the series in five games, but Tejada did not return. He missed the remainder of the postseason, and the Mets eventually lost in the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.

It was assumed that the Mets were going to try and get revenge on Utley sometime during the 2016 season. Major League Baseball officially dropped his suspension on March 6, meaning there would be no punishment at all for the slide. Unsurprisingly, Mets fans were not happy. Although Tejada was released by the team on March 16, fans still expected the Mets to try and do something to send a message to Utley when they played the Dodgers. The two teams played a four-game series at Dodger Stadium in early May, but nothing happened. Last weekend, the Dodgers came to Citi Field for three games. This time, plenty happened.

As expected, Utley was booed vigorously by the Mets fans every time he came to bat. He was not thrown at on Friday night. Instead, he had a huge hit in the top of the ninth inning. Facing Mets closer Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded and two outs and his team trailing 5-2, Utley hit a game-tying three-run double. The Mets went on to win the game in the bottom of the inning after Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off home run.

When Utley’s name was announced during Saturday night’s game, he was booed even louder than the night before. With Mets ace Noah Syndergaard on the mound, he struck out looking during his first at-bat. He next came to bat in the top of the third inning. With one out and nobody on base, Syndergaard threw a fastball behind Utley. It didn’t him, but Syndergaard was ejected by home plate umpire Adam Hamari. This led to Mets manager Terry Collins getting thrown out of the game as well. Collins was clearly upset because no warnings were issued before the game. Clearly, Hamari knew Utley’s history with the Mets. He was not hesitant at all to eject Syndergaard for trying to send a message to Utley.

The Mets fans were more outraged than ever. Not only did Utley not even get hit by the pitch, but Syndergaard had been tossed from the game for trying to send a message to him. To make matters even worse for them, Utley hit a solo home run off of Logan Verrett in the top of the sixth inning. But he wasn’t finished yet. Just when you thought he couldn’t become any more villainous to Mets fans, Utley hit a grand slam off of Hansel Robles the next inning. This put the Dodgers ahead 6-0. They went on to win the game 9-1.  

For Utley, it was a very successful weekend in Flushing. The Mets failed to adequately get revenge on him for the slide into Tejada. He hit two big home runs to help the Dodgers crush the Mets. It seems as though Utley has gotten the last laugh against the Mets and their fans. The two teams do not play each other for the remainder of the season. However, there’s always the chance that they meet in the postseason again. If that happens, the series will definitely be must-watch television. The Mets would then have one last chance to get the last laugh against Chase Utley.

Predicting The 2015 World Series

Prior to playing the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, July 29, the Toronto Blue Jays had a mediocre record of 50-51. People questioned whether Toronto would go for it this season, or try and build their farm system up for the next few seasons.

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos rolled the dice and traded for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price and the gamble paid off immediately. On July 29 Troy Tulowitzki played his first game for the Blue Jays and hit a home run. Since then Toronto has not looked back and the club is a ridiculous 23-5 with Tulo on the team.

In 27 games with Toronto, Tulo has hit an underwhelming .227 with four home runs and 11 RBIs, but having the shortstop at the top of the lineup to go along with his solid defense has sparked the Blue Jays. The Canadian ball club now has Tulowitzki leading off followed by AL MVP Candidate Josh Donaldson batting second, Jose Bautista batting third and Edwin Encarnacion batting fourth.

That is an insane combination of hitters that can kill you in almost any way and Encarnacion has been red hot for the Blue Jays of late. Yesterday Encarnacion hit three home runs and knocked in 9 runs and now has 29 home runs on the season to go along with 90 runs batted in.

The Blue Jays have no doubt the best offense in baseball and with their starting pitching heating up, led by staff ace David Price, this team is primed for a postseason run. In five starts with Toronto David Price is 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched.

The ball club has gotten decent starting pitching as of late and with their incredible offense, that could be all the team needs. The Blue Jays are 3-1 against the Kansas City Royals in the second half and are now a game and a half up on the division in the AL East.

Toronto will enter the playoffs having won over 90 games and will dispatch of the Houston Astros in four games in the ALDS. The Blue Jays will then play the Royals in the ALCS and though it will be a great series, Toronto will win in six games thanks to their great offense and their pitching led by David Price.

The X-factor for the Blue Jays in the playoffs will be Marcus Stroman, who will likely come out of the bullpen for the Jays and will catalyze the pitching staff.

On the National League side the World Series favorite is the St. Louis Cardinals, but once October comes around they will not be the team in the World Series. The National League will be represented by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have arguably the two best pitchers in baseball with Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke.

Greinke leads the league in ERA on the season at 1.61 and Clayton Kershaw has been lights out in the second half. In 8 starts since the all-star break Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.o2 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. To go along with the two aces are Brett Anderson, who has a 3.36 ERA on the year, Mat Latos and Alex Wood.

The Dodgers have also gotten help from their closer Kenley Jansen, who has been great this year posting 27 saves in 29 opportunities to go along with a 2.39 ERA on the season. The Dodger lineup, led by Adrian Gonzalez who has 24 home runs and 75 RBIs, is full of veterans that have played in the spotlight before.

Gonzalez is joined by Howie Kendrick, who is hitting .296 on the season, along with Andre Ethier and ultra utility man Justin Turner who has been phenomenal this year. Turner on the season is hitting .295 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs and has been a big part of the team’s success.

To go along with those players the Dodgers have all-star catcher Yasmani Grandal, and veteran leaders Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley who have played many big games in their careers. The time is now for the Los Angeles Dodgers and with a 72-56 record on the year they will likely end up playing the New York Mets in what will be a great NLDS matchup.

The Mets young pitching will give the Dodgers hitters fits, but with Kershaw and Greinke leading the way the Dodgers will dispose of the New York ball club in five games. In the NLCS the Dodgers will have to find a way to get past the St. Louis Cardinals.

This series will be tough for the Dodgers, but Kershaw will come in fired up as he has struggled against the Cardinals in the past. Kershaw will lead the Dodgers to a NLCS victory in six games and the Dodgers will meet the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 World Series.

The X-factor in the playoffs for the Dodgers will be Yasiel Puig. The young player is immensely talented, but has not had a very good year for the Los Angeles ball club. Puig is going to figure it out down the stretch and in October will help carry the team to the World Series.

In one of the best World Series match ups in years Clayton Kershaw will face David Price in game one of the World Series. Kershaw will dominate the Blue Jays free swingers and will win game one for the Dodgers. The Blue Jays will make it a good series, but ultimately the Dodgers will win the World Series in seven games with Clayton Kershaw winning the World Series MVP.

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Teams That Could Land Chase Utley

On Tuesday night, Chase Utley cleared waivers, making him trade-eligible. The Philadelphia Phillies second baseman may find himself on a new team pretty soon. The Phillies aren’t in contention and have no reason to keep him. They are rebuilding and would really benefit from getting rid of his lucrative contract. It’s very likely that he’ll be traded within the next week or so. The question is, what teams make sense for Utley?

One team that’s reportedly shown interest in Utley is the New York Yankees. On Wednesday, the New York Post reported that the Yankees have Utley on their radar. This makes sense, considering Stephen Drew has really struggled offensively this year for the Yankees. Despite having 15 home runs, Drew is hitting under .200. Utley has also struggled this year, batting under .200 with only four home runs and 28 RBIs. He’s also only played in 70 games this year because of injuries. If the Yankees were to trade for Utley however, it could be viewed as a desperation move. After all, Utley makes $11.027 million this year. He’s a veteran player past his prime. Although he would be an upgrade over Drew, he certainly wouldn’t be the answer to the Yankees’ offensive struggles right now. Even though the Yankees are one of the teams that might land Utley, there are other teams that make more sense for him.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have also reportedly expressed interest in trading for Utley. The Dodgers have certainly shown that they’re not afraid to take on big contracts, especially over the last couple of years. They’re always a very active team in free agency and at the trade deadline. With starting second baseman Howie Kendrick being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring on Monday, the Dodgers could use a starting second baseman. Kendrick might be out until mid-September. Even though Utley’s not having a great year, he’d be an upgrade from what the Dodgers have right now. He may be past his prime, but he does have plenty of postseason experience. If Utley was traded to the Dodgers, he’d be reunited with his former Phillie teammate Jimmy Rollins. A change of scenery and being reunited with his old teammate might be just what Utley needs.

Another team that could be a good fit for Utley is the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs recently moved Addison Russell from second base to shortstop. Starlin Castro was benched when this switch happened. Castro played his first career game at second base on Tuesday night. There’s no guarantee that Castro will continue to play second base every night. He’s having a rough season at the plate and isn’t used to playing second base. The Cubs could use Utley as an alternative solution at that position. Many of the players on the Cubs have never experienced postseason baseball. Utley could provide veteran leadership, something that could be very valuable come playoff time. The Cubs have a good chance at making the playoffs this year. It seems like they’re going for it all. With Castro struggling, trading for Utley would definitely make sense.

It would be very surprising if the Phillies don’t trade Chase Utley. He’s been a lifetime Phillie, but sometimes you just have to trade players when the time comes. That’s what happened to Rollins last year. There wouldn’t really a benefit to keeping him. The Phillies are a rebuilding team who have to work on building up their farm system. For Utley, it would be more exciting for him to be playing for a team in contention. He’d have more motivation and might actually perform better. The Chase Utley era in Philadelphia is seemingly coming to a close. We’ll see where his next stop is.

 

James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez And Chase Utley Could Be Waiver Wire Options

Now that the trade deadline has come to pass teams will now look to scour the waiver wire to add assets for the stretch run.

While they may not be able to land a game-changing type of player, there are teams that could fill needs or add depth by looking at two potential names that could potentially end up available on the waiver wire. Take a look at 2 likely players and the teams that may be monitoring their status.

James Shields

It’s safe to say that the sentiment in San Diego regarding James Shields is that there aren’t any warm and fuzzy feelings over his performance.

After signing a hefty contract in the offseason and starting off fairly strong, Shields has been an overwhelming disappointment for an underwhelming Padres team that spent big in a failed effort to contend. Shields’ name was floated around in the rumor mill during the frantic last week of the trade deadline but was not moved.

Although Shields has been registering impressive strikeout numbers (144 in 126.2 innings) his walks have dramatically rose this year and for a player San Diego is paying to be an ace, Shields 3.77 ERA and 1.32 WHIP aren’t indicative of an ace.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal   reported that other general managers believe Shields could go unclaimed on waivers mostly due to a contract that will pay him $21 million for each of the next three seasons before a $16 million club option in 2019.

A waiver wire trade could allow San Diego to dump Shields and pick up a few assets in return (at least it’s something) but it’s unlikely teams will give up much value to acquire the veteran.

A team that could really utilize Shields is the New York Yankees who are rather thin in the rotation. With Michael Pineda heading to the DL and New York failing to make any big moves at the deadline, Shields could be an attractive option for the Bronx Bombers.

What will be appealing to the Yankees will be Shields’ playoff experience and AL East prowess.

It also makes sense for New York to chase Shields as it allows the team to lure in a starting pitcher without having to give up any prized prospects, which is something that Yankees refused to do this year.

 

Chase Utley

At this point in his career, Utley may be just a name at this point with his best days far behind him. Before shutting down in June, Utley tried to play through a high ankle sprain which effected his swing and contributed to a lowly .179 batting average and .532 OPS.

Philadelphia has been undergoing a youth movement after a dreadful season, highlighted by the trade of Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers, and with Utley slated to return from the disabled list later this month he very will could be a candidate for a waiver trade.

Utley’s return won’t come with any heavy financial implications as he will fall well short of the 500 plate appearances he needs to make a $15 million vesting option for 2016, which would make a trade for Utley more attractive for interested teams.

With Cesar Hernandez clearly slated as the team’s future at second base the writing could be on the wall for an Utley departure.

Expect the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees to be interested if Utley is healthy and available.

 

Francisco Rodriguez

The rumor mill when it came to relievers was headlined by San Diego’s Craig Kimbrel and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman, but neither player was moved at the deadline which leaves the waiver wire ripe for the picking for bullpen-needy teams.

One name that could potentially be available is Milwaukee Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez who is signed for $7.5 million in 2016, with a club option of $6 million in 2017. Ken Rosenthal listed Rodriguez’s contract as a concern among potentially interested teams.

Milwaukee may be motivated to move mostly due to some trouble numbers regarding what could be a decline in his fastball. Rodriguez who once averaged between 94-95 mph on a fastball has now been clocking an average of 89.6 mph.

What is of interest is Rodriguez’s production. Sporting a 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and with a strikeout to walk ratio of 40-9, the 33-year old could be a big pickup for a team looking to bolster their bullpen or in need of a closer.

The Houston Astros have been linked to Rodriguez and could be a team to watch.