Monday, March 19, 2012

Five Years Ago

The latest news on Chase Utley is not good. The Philadelphia Phillies' second baseman has hit a "plateau" in his rehab for his chronic knee problem. Utley has already missed 102 games combined over the last two seasons and his once great career seems at a crossroads. 2010 wasn't quite as off for Utley statistically, but last year, his numbers really dipped. His power at the plate seemed sapped and it really cannot give anyone any optimism that Utley can again be the elite second baseman he once was. There is no joy in this for any baseball fan no matter what team you root for. When an elite player has his career and abilities cut short due to chronic injuries, we all suffer. 

It was this sort of mourning moment that prompted a look at Utley's career. Just five years ago, he was one of the best players in the game. Not only was he a hitting machine as a second baseman, he was the best at playing his position. It was noting his several top ten finishes for the MVP Award that prompted this post. The focus was put on 2007. That was just five seasons ago. Five years is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but so much has changed in baseball since then that perusing the MVP finishes for 2007 are astounding. Let's look first at the American League:

  1. Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees) - A-Rod hit 54 homers, drove in 154 and finished with an OPS of 1.067. A-Rod has become a shell of that just five years later.
  2. Magglio Ordonez (Detroit Tigers) - Ordonez had 216 hits in 2007 batted .363 with 28 homers and 139 RBIs. Ordonez is now out of baseball.
  3. Vladimir Guerrero (Angels) - Guerrero had 186 hits in 2007 and batted .324. He drove in 125 and even posted a .403 on-base percentage. Guerrero could not get a job this off season.
  4. David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) - Ortiz is still cranking.
  5. Mike Lowell (Boston Red Sox) - Lowell batted .324 in 2007 with 191 hits. He drove in 120 runs with 21 homers. Lowell has been out of baseball for two seasons now.
  6. Jorge Posada (New York Yankees) - 2007 might have been Posada's finest season (at least offensively). He retired this off season.
  7. Victor Martinez (Cleveland Indians) - Had a terrific year in 2011 but busted up his knee and will miss 2012. He might not have a job when he returns.
  8. Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) - Cranked out 234 more hits in 2007. Didn't reach 200 last season for the first time.
  9. Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) - Had a 2007 slash line of .282/.411/.627. Hit 46 homers. He has flirted with the Mendoza Line the last couple of seasons.
  10. Curtis Granderson (Detroit Tigers)
  11. Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
  12. Grady Sizemore (Cleveland Indians) - Scored 118 runs and hit 24 homers as a lead off batter. Injuries has derailed his career.

And now the National League:

  1. Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies) - Rollins was the best shortstop in baseball in 2007. Had a two-digit season in doubles, homers and triples. Rollins is not the best shortstop anymore. 
  2. Matt Holliday (Colorado Rockies) - Among the best sluggers in the game in 2007. OPS of 1.016. Now he is more known for moths in his ear and injuries at critical times.
  3. Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers) - Prince wasn't rich yet. But he was working on it. He is now.
  4. David Wright (New York Mets) - Wright has become a tragic figure in New York and Citi Field put a stop to his prodigious numbers. Has not come close to having MVP-consideration numbers for years.
  5. Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies) - Bad contract, but lots of RBIs. Blew out his Achilles Ankle in last year's playoffs.
  6. Chipper Jones (Atlanta Braves) - Now a part time player on his last gimpy legs.
  7. Jake Peavy (San Diego Padres) - After several years of coming back for devastating injuries, there is now talk of making him a relief pitcher. Five years ago, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
  8. Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies) - The player that prompted this exercise.
  9. Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) - Still mashing and should have a big season for the Angels.
  10. Hanley Ramirez (Miami Marlins) - Considered at the time the best player in the NL not named Pujols. Looking for a comeback season in 2012 after a couple of way off years.
  11. Eric Byrnes (Arizona Diamondbacks) - Eric Byrnes!? Just five years ago...
  12. Alfonso Soriano - (Chicago Cubs) - Not much talk of a bad contract just five years ago like there is now.

As you can see, a lot has changed in just five short seasons. Remember how brittle careers are and enjoy today's great players. Who knows what will happen to them five years from now.


Thomas Slocum said...

All sadly true. Still, all you young male (at least at this point) athletes out there consider that football, and even basketball, pro careers are typically considerably shorter.

Thomas Slocum said...

A couple of additional notes concerning your post:
1. Can't say Hanley Ramirez' 2010 season could be categorized as way off, though certainly a little off his prior years;
2. Utley, the main subject, of course was still the main man at second, and still a high caliber and extremely productive player (and one of the best in the game) as recently as 2009.

Michael Jawitz, AKA: Grubby Glove said...

Another terrific post, albeit one etched in sadness. I have loved Chase Utley for years, his grit, hustle, ability, performance and sheer desire. Last September on my east coast baseball stadium tour I attended a Phillies game. When Utley came in as a pinch hitter at a key moment, the place erupted. When he delivered a hit, the place REALLY erupted. I'll never forget that moment. WOW.