It's official: the Phillies have activated Chase Utley, and the second baseman is expected back in the lineup immediately. It would've been nice if it had happened a little sooner, say a month a ago (or spring training, sure), but better later than never I suppose.
Utley returns with the Phillies eight games back in the NL East, 4.5 behind a Wild Card spot. If your first question was whether or not he's joining the club in time to still make the playoffs, the answer is obviously a resounding yes.
If your question is what kind of player will be stepping out of the dugout tonight for the first time this season, and are his contributions going to play enough of a role to help turn the ship around, the answer is far less certain.
Either way, we'll take our chances.
The Phillies got better today, that much is unmistakeable. It doesn't change the fact that they are still battling injuries, or that the rotation has been less than dominant, or that the bullpen has been the opposite of dominant. They are better off with Utley than without though, and his presence alone could be a shot in the arm for his teammates.
Yet as exciting as tonight is, the five-time All Star's decline has been well documented, steady and consistent. After he came back in May of last year, he wound up having his worst season since '04, the year he became the permanent everyday second baseman.
So what kind of numbers does Chase Utley have to put up the rest of the way for this to be considered a successful campaign? It's probably not reasonable to expect '07 Utley to return, but is another season like last -- when he hit .259 with 11 HR and 44 RBI in 103 games -- going to cut it?
Sure, it's still better than what they have, but better than what they have isn't necessarily good enough for post-season baseball.