PITTSBURGH -- Joe Morgan arguably holds the title of the game's greatest offensive second baseman. So when he speaks about who could someday take over that mantle, people listen. Morgan said during ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" broadcast when the Phillies played the Mets last Sunday that Phils star Chase Utley could end up eclipsing the Hall of Famer. That's quite a statement, and what's more, Utley's manager agrees.
"I think there's a real good chance of that," Charlie Manuel said. "I totally agree with him. That's a pretty good assessment of it." The high praise doesn't stop there. After posting three consecutive seasons of averaging 24 home runs, 103 RBIs and batting better than .300, Utley has his name all over the National League offensive leaderboard as the first month of the season winds down. Heading into Saturday's action, Utley was third in the NL in batting average (.368), first in home runs (10), fourth in RBIs (21), tied for first in runs (21), second in hits (13), first in total bases (76), seventh in on-base percentage (.441), first in slugging percentage (.800) and first in extra-base hits (20). Add in the fact he plays a challenging middle-infield position, and it's no wonder there is talk building that he is the best player in the game today. Manuel wasn't willing to commit to that just yet, but he was willing to leave the door open. "I think that consistency is going to determine how good he is, as far as people starting to compare him," Manuel said. "I think that's always how it is. What makes Alex Rodriguez such a good player is that he's 30 years old, and what he's done in that period he's been in the big leagues, I think that definitely, you take notice to that. But I think you also look at him from the day-to-day basis. I think Ut needs a little more time. I think he will be getting the same kind of attention. I think that's coming for him." Manuel sounded certain that if Utley keeps his career on the trajectory it has been on during its first four-plus years, there is little doubt that Utley will be getting plenty of recognition. As for why Utley is such a dynamic offensive player, Manuel pointed to a couple of things. First, mechanics -- specifically balance and rhythm, which leads to a quick bat, quick hands and proper weight shift, according to Manuel. But what the skipper likes even more about Utley is more intangible. "He loves to hit," Manuel said. "He takes his hitting very serious. He doesn't give away at-bats, and he just loves baseball. That definitely helps make him the hitter he is. He's a good hitter. ... Same thing that makes Frank Robinson a good hitter or Rod Carew or anyone else. That's what makes them a good hitter. Because he wants to hit, that's all. Some guys want it more than others, some guys work at it more than others, some guys are more inspired than others. The mental part of it and everything. He's got the game down. I'm glad that he plays for us."
Chris Adamski is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.