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The big surprise in our Phillies Ultimate Bracket Elite Eight

The search for the Ultimate player in team history is down to the final eight, and it’s pretty amazing who made the cut.

The search for the Ultimate Phillie is down to just eight players, and while there were very few upsets in the first round, the second round of voting, which set up this Elite Eight, was very telling. Now is your chance to vote for who makes the Final Four.

Admittedly, the way the four regions were constructed, the quarterfinal round gives us three legendary Phillies matchups and one that’s really sort of…weird. Schmidt versus Utley. Ashburn versus Klein. Carlton versus Roberts. McGraw versus Chooch. Wait…

Vote now in the third round of the Ultimate Phillie bracket, presented by SuperPretzel Soft Pretzels!

Here is a look at the full bracket (click to enlarge). For longer biographical capsules on every player, visit our original write-up.

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Infielders Region: No. 1 Mike Schmidt vs No. 2 Chase Utley

The two most popular infielders in Phillies history may be the two most popular players in Phillies history, but they’ll face each other here to see who advances to the Final Four.

Schmidt received 95.7 percent of our vote in the first round win over Jim Thome and 92.1 percent in a second-round thrashing of Ryan Howard. Schmidt is the best position player to ever play for the Phillies, and is back with the team in the announcing booth now. But was he as beloved as Utley in his prime? More importantly, perhaps, is the question of whether or not he’s more beloved now, and if Utley can steal this vote based on popularity, not performance.

Utley earned 83 percent of the vote over Dick Allen in the first round and, in what was surely the most fascinating vote of Round 2, beat out Jimmy Rollins while earning a significant 55.9 percent of the vote.

Utley was a six-time All-Star when he left Philly, with a .281 career batting average, .843 OPS, 236 home runs, 928 RBI and 143 stole bases. He ranks second in Phillies history in wins above replacement for hitters, behind only Schmidt. But Schmidt never had a “World F’ing Champions” speech, did he?

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Outfielders Region: No. 1 Richie Ashburn vs No. 3 Chuck Klein

It was hard to go wrong in the outfield region, with Hall of Famers atop the list in both second round votes. Alas, there was a bit of an upset in that round, but surely it didn’t come with the top seed (and one of the most beloved Phillies) losing to Pat Burrell.

Richie Ashburn advanced with 90 percent of the vote over Lenny Dykstra and 85.1 percent over Burrell. That 15 percent of our voters picked Burrell makes one wonder who is voting in this type of thing. But hey, we’re all for democracy.

The only person on our list with his own Alley at the ballpark, Ashburn is remembered for his work in the broadcast booth as well as his time in centerfield for the Phillies, winning two batting titles while serving as one of the best defensive outfielders of his time.

Chuck Klein’s career spanned  from 1928 to 1944, most of that with the Phillies. The Hall of Famer was a quintessential do-everything hitter in his time, winning the 1931 MVP by hitting .348 with 38 homers, 50 doubles, 137 RBI and a league-best 20 steals and that probably wasn’t even his best year in town. He won the first round vote over Garry Maddox with 53.5 percent of the vote, the closest of any first-round contest, then oddly destroyed fellow Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty with 76.3 percent of the vote in the second round. It seems players from the 1800s just don’t have the cache they used to.

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Starting Pitchers Region: No. 1 Steve Carlton vs No. 2 Robin Roberts

There was really no other way for this region to go.

Steve Carlton is by all measures the best Phillies player ever, at any position. He won his first round vote with 97.3 percent and beat out Cole Hamels in the second round—lefty vs. lefty—with 78.8 percent of the vote.

Carlton is one of the two best left-handed pitchers to ever play the game, which makes him one of the handful of greatest pitchers ever. He won the Cy Young Award four times and was a 10-time All Star. The only thing that could hurt his bid in this challenge is that he wasn’t always a Phillie, starting his career in St. Louis for seven seasons before bouncing around a bit at the end of his career rather than retiring. The other knock, as we’re looking for the Ultimate Phillie, not just the best Phillie, is that Carlton never endeared himself to the city like others did, especially after his career ended. Is that important? The vote will decide.

Robin Roberts may have had the toughest road to the quarterfinals of any Hall of Famer. He defeated Roy Halladay in the first round, earning 69.1 percent of the vote, before knocking out fellow Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander with 75.4 percent of the vote in the last round.

For years, Roberts was one of just a few Phillies to have his number retired—who could forget those giant discs for Roberts and Ashburn hanging on the trash bag walls over the outfield fence at the Vet?—and his legacy should be just as strong today. Roberts was workhorse, hurling 3739.1 innings in his 14-year Phillies career, making the All-Star team seven times. His numbers stack up against anyone in this history of the game.

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Catchers & Relievers Region: No. 2 Tug McGraw vs No. 5 Carlos Ruiz

This one was a surprise. A big surprise.

Carlos Ruiz, the No. 5 seed in this region, defeated Darren Daulton to advance to the quarterfinals, which has to be the biggest surprise of the entire contest given the spirit of this bracket in search of the “Ultimate” Phillie had all signs pointing to Dutch. This is especially surprising given the way the last few years have gone in Chooch’s career. Ruiz beat Dutch with just 54.3 percent of the vote; the closest vote of this round, but still a big surprise at this point in the competition.

That said, Chooch is credited with managing one of the best pitching staffs in Phillies history, as the run from 2007 through 2011 is maybe the best collective time in team history for pitching. Much of the credit rightly goes to Chooch for that. But to think he’s either the best or the most “Ultimate” catcher in team history is…wow.

Tug McGraw making it this far was less wow, reaching the quarterfinals after advancing with 96.5 percent of the vote over Jonathan Papelbon and 65.2 percent of Brad Lidge. The result of Round 2 wasn’t a surprise in terms of who won that matchup, but the percentages that far in Tugger’s favor did seem surprising.

McGraw was with the Phils for just over half of his career (he was an influential Met as well, but that hasn’t hurt him here yet) and certainly his personality endeared him to Phils fans as a player and long after he retired.

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With the Elite Eight now set, the remaining matchups feature two 1980 vs. 2008 votes and two votes where a Hall of Famer is guaranteed to advance. For such a long and up-and-down history, the Phillies do have some great players.

Now let’s see who makes the Final Four.

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