Phillies fans are very familiar with Utley’s personality and Dodgers fans have been getting acclimated with him over the last year and a half. He’s all business on the field and willing to put his own health at risk to make a play or to send a message.
Anecdote No. 1:
Coaches tell the story of a game in which the Dodgers had a big lead in the top of the eighth inning when one younger, enthusiastic teammate stole second base, which ticked off the opposition. When Utley got to the plate in the ninth, he told the opposing catcher to have the pitcher drill him. Then his teammate would understand there are consequences for showing up the opposition.
This isn’t surprising. Utley led the majors in HBP three seasons in a row from 2007-09 and his career total of 190 HBP is by far the most among active players. It ranks 10th all-time.
Utley also understands the politics of baseball, so he went to great lengths to not show up the home plate umpire in a game last season.
Anecdote No. 2:
Then there was a game last year in which Kershaw wasn’t getting strikes he thought he’d thrown. When the Dodgers got back to the dugout, A.J. Ellis was hollering at the home plate umpire. Utley warned Ellis not to get ejected. Chase grabbed a batboy’s skull cap,a jacket, got a towel and rounded up a bunch of fresh baseballs and went out to give the umpires the balls, which is the batboy’s job. When the umpire asked him what he was doing, Utley told him he was not going to embarrass the ump, that no one would notice he was out there, but Kershaw had to have some of those pitches. Having spoken his peace, Utley ran back to the dugout like just another clubbie batboy.
In a perfect world, an umpire is mature enough to take criticism and not hold it against that player’s team, but we don’t live in that perfect world. Utley understands this and found a way to say his piece in a way that almost certainly wouldn’t negatively impact his team.