Phillies.comChase Utley left camp on Monday because his chronic right knee condition remains a problem. It’s not good news for the Phillies, who seem likely to open the season with Utley on the disabled list. Manager Charlie Manuel offered a candid assessment of Utley’s health late last week when he said, “His problem is not going away. More than likely, it maybe never goes away.” Manuel added: “Will he ever be 100 percent? I don’t know about that. He might never be that.” Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. then released the following statement Monday morning: “Chase’s rehab process has come to a bit of a plateau. He has made some strides, but not enough to take the field. He is headed out of town for a few days to be evaluated by a specialist that has helped athletes overcome his issue. “We anticipate that this trip will allow him to build on what he has already done with [head athletic trainer] Scott Sheridan in order to get over the hump. He wants more than anything to be on the field with his teammates, and we believe that this is a step in that direction.”

I’m sure I’m not the only Phillies fan that feels like jumping off that plateau head-first so far this spring training. What the hell is going on with this club? Was everything all of our haters were saying 2-3 years ago true? Could our window of opportunity really be closing this quickly? I don’t want to believe it yet.

Okay so Chase’s knee is fucked. And Ryan’s ankle is fucked. And Polanco has some lingering issues with drinking too much of Mr. Burns’ nerve tonic. But we can get through this. I don’t know whether Rubes is going to have to trade for another 2B or what, but before all these make-believe Nationals fans come out of the woodwork and assume their role as the rightful heirs to the NL East, they need to remember who still has 3 All-Star aces, 5 straight division titles, and one of the slickest GMs on the planet.

Don’t panic yet. I mean, totally panic — but do it responsibly.