Today is 26 days, which is three weeks and five days of the omer: hod she’b’netzach.
After those years of second baseman Chase Utley torturing the NL Astros as part of the Phillies club, I was not sorry to see him go 0-6 in the World-Series-that-Shall-Not-Be-Named as part of the Dodgers against the AL Astros.
But that performance was not at all indicative of Utley’s career, in which he was a six-time All Star, four-time Silver Slugger, and a World Series champion. He is tied (with George Springer and Reggie Jackson) for the most home runs (5) in a single postseason series. Utley also ranks in the top 10 in Phillies history in hits, doubles, home runs, and RBI.
And he was no slouch on the field either. While they played together, he and shortstop Jimmy Rollins were the most formidable defensive duo in the NL.
You can see what incredible skill he has in this play in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The Rays had a runner on second with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, with game tied tied at 3. Utley fields a grounder up the middle, fakes a throw to first, and then throws the runner out at home for the final out of the inning. Without the play, the Phillies might not have won that game, or the World Series.
In his first major league at bat, Utley hit a gland slam (yestersday’s pick Jim Thome was one of the runners he drove in). And as befits a guy who would go on to spend almost all of his career with Philadelphia, Utley happened to have had the distinction in his first year of play of the final at-bat in Veterans Stadium in 2003.
Rabbi Art Green says of hod, “Here we need the wisdom of Aaron the priest. . . . [H]e knows how to accept reality as it is . . . he stands silent in acceptance, knowing he will continue in the life of worship. Perhaps life cannot be changed; Aaron accepts it and finds it beautiful as it is.”
Utley was always a leader by example: not talking much to the press, arriving early to the ballpark, preparing obsessively. His teammates paid close attention to fundamentals because they didn’t want to “disappoint Chase.” He was known for his quiet, understated demeanor.
The nickname given to him by longtime Phillies play-by-play announcer Harry Kalas (father of current Astros play-by-play announcer Todd Kalas!) speaks to this sefirah: The oft-repeated phrase, “Chase Utley, you are the man.” That is, Utley was who or what was needed in that particular moment. He was not Moses, bending reality to his will. Utley was Moses staid brother, dealing with what was.
For lasting 15 years with that attitude, let’s count Day 26 in honor of “the man.”