The 2016 Philadelphia Phillies are, in a word, notgood. Sure, there is hope for the future that a young star like Maikel Franco or Aaron Nola will end up, a decade or so from now, being a Philly sports legend. But right now things are pretty bleak. And so, as the Phils open their home slate, we choose to remember some of the greats.
This is a search for the Ultimate Phillie; an exercise much, much harder than it sounds. After all, for a team that has been around for 134 years and featured 1,986 different players, choosing the ultimate player isn’t easy. Even narrowing this list down to 32 was nearly impossible, leaving us with a list that doesn’t include Del Ennis or Greg Luzinski or Billy Hamilton or Juan Samuel or Charlie Ferguson or Gavvy Cravath or Steve Bedrosian or Sam Thompson or Steve Jeltz or John Kruk or Tony Taylor or Terry Mullholland or Steve Jeltz or Cliff Lee or Scott Rolen or Von Hayes or Nap Lajoie or…Steve Jeltz. In other words, there are a lot of players who were considered for this list (Note: not Steve Jeltz) but we feel this bracket of 32 players represents a fair and thorough cross section of the Phillies long and, at times, illustrious baseball history.
So what makes a player worthy of being considered “the ultimate” Phillie? That’s up to you, and the vote below. For us, the rankings are not solely based on performance on the field (Sherry Magee, for example, is eighth all time in Phillies’ history in wins above replacement and Jose Mesa is second all time in saves and neither made the list), but more about the impact they had on the team, the sport and the city.
(Let’s be honest, we all know “5-for-1” is the ultimate Phillie, and we don’t mean that in a good way. But this is an effort to be more positive.)
Chase Utley never won an MVP in Philly, but is he more revered than Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins? Is he more…ultimate? That’s for you to decide. We just labored for hours over this list so you can tell us how stupid it is that Pat Burrell is ranked above Johnny Callison.
That’s the least we could do.
The bracket is broken into four regions: Infielders, outfielders, starting pitchers and a combined region for catchers and relievers. Given the impact and personalities some players at each of those positions have had over the years, we didn’t want to lump them in with the other infielders and pitchers, respectively. And while we feel the Phillie Phanatic, Harry Kalas, Charlie Manuel, Dallas Green and John Vukovic deserve recognition for their contributions to the ballclub, we feel confident our list of players will accomplish the task we’ve set out to do.
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Here’s a look at the full bracket (click to enlarge), with capsules on every player to help you decide.
Infielders Region: No. 1 Mike Schmidt vs No. 8 Jim Thome
Mike Schmidt is, by all measurable accounts, the greatest Phillies player ever. He leads the franchise in home runs (548) with nearly 200 more than the next closest slugger. He ended his career with 1,595 RBI, over 300 more than the next player on that list. He won three MVP awards, 10 Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers. His 94.6 percent Hall of Fame induction is the 11th best in history.
Jim Thome was one of the last inclusions in our field of 32, but certainly deserves recognition for bridging the span from the Vet to Citizens Bank Park, as the franchise tumbled back to relevancy. He also brought us Charlie Manuel.That said, Thome was here for only four years of his 150 years in the bigs (give or take) and they were actually four of the least productive years of his career. Still, he did hit 101 homers for the Phils (of his 511 career bombs), enough for 23rd in franchise history. Not bad for a guy here for less than half a decade.
Infielders Region: No. 2 Chase Utley vs No. 7 Dick Allen
Chase Utley’s quiet, gum-snapping, slicked-hair, California style never should endeared him to fans in Philly, but he played the game as hard as anybody, and fans loved him for it. His drunken “World F**king Champions” speech turned him from a beloved figure into a legend in Philly forever. Utley never ranked higher than seventh in MVP voting, but was a six-time All Star in his 12-plus seasons with the Fightins, hitting .281 with a .843 OPS. In 2008, his wins above replacement was nearly double any other player on the Phillies. He was never the most valuable player, but during the last decade, he may have been the most important.
Dick Allen played nine years for the Phils, winning Rookie of the Year in 1964. He went to three of his seven All-Star games as a Phillie, though won his only MVP award as a member of the White Sox. Allen’s best year came in 1966, when he hit .317, slugged .632 and had a league-best OPS (not that they tracked that then) of 1.027. He had an oWAR (offensive wins above replacement) of 8.8 in 1964 and 8.3 in 1966, still the best two oWAR seasons in Phillies history.
Infielders Region: No. 3 Jimmy Rollins vs No. 6 Larry Bowa
Jimmy Rollins is one of the most important players in Phillies history. He first came up to the bigs in 2000, making the All-Star game in his first full season in 2001. He won the 2007 MVP award despite a sub-.300 BA/sub-.900 OPS year. He won four Gold Glove awards and was an amazing shortstop in his prime, but his numbers, oddly, don’t really support that. A great talker who usually backed it up, Rollins was the face of the franchise for a decade, and a bona fide star for 15 years in Philly.
Larry Bowa played 12 of his 16 MLB years in Philadelphia, making the All-Star game five times. He was a career .264 hitter for the Phillies with an OBP of .301. He had 1,798 hits in 1,739 games and was known for his scrappy style and skill on defense, winning two Gold Gloves in the era of Dave Concepcion and Ozzie Smith. He hit .375 in the 1980 World Series and ranks fourth all-time in games played and plate appearances for the Phils, behind only Schmidt, Rollins and Ashburn.
Infielders Region: No. 4 Pete Rose vs No. 5 Ryan Howard
Pete Rose played 24 years in the majors, but just five in Philadelphia. Known for his time in Cincinnati, Charlie Hustle embodied everything fans wanted in a Philly athlete during his time with the Fightins. He made the All-Star game in four of his five seasons, helping the Phillies reach two World Series, winning one. He hit .331 in 1979 and, at 40 years old, hit .325 with a league-best 140 hits in the shortened 1981 season.
Ryan Howard is second all-time in home runs in Phillies history. He hit 58 homers in his MVP season in 2006, and had three-consecutive years of more than 45 in the seasons that followed, amassing 198 home runs in a four-year span. A quintessential slugger, Howard is second all-time in strikeouts, and has six of the ten worst strikeout seasons in Phillies history. He won the 2005 Rookie of the Year award and the 2006 MVP, finishing in the top five four times. Injuries have destroyed his legacy (and the contract hasn’t helped) but Howard was vital to the World Series runs in 2008 and 2009, carrying the Phils on his back to the 2009 World Series.
Outfielders Region: No. 1 Richie Ashburn vs No. 8 Lenny Dykstra
Richie Ashburn is one of the legendary names in Phillies history. Younger Phillies fans may only know the Hall of Famer as that guy the alley is named after. Many of us never got to see him play, but learned to love him as a quick-witted analyst in the booth with Harry Kalas. But Whitey was one helluva player. A career .311 hitter in his 12 years in Philly, he helped lead the Phillies to the 1950 World Series, then hit .344, leading the league with 221 hits to go with 29 stolen bases in 1951. Ashburn won two batting titles, hitting .330 or better five times, and had a career on-base percentage of .396. He was a great outfielder as well, routinely one of the highest rated centerfielders despite not winning a Gold Glove in his career (the award wasn’t invented until 1957).
Lenny Dykstra played eight seasons here and was the best player on the only good team the Phillies fielded in the 1990s. In a lot of ways, Nails was the prototype for a Philly athlete. He was dirty, gritty, a little bit crazy (that turned into a lotta bit crazy after his career) and would do anything to help the Phillies win. He had the third-best season in terms of WAR in Phillies history in 1990—his first with the team—then led the majors in hits, runs and walks in 1993. He was a .289 hitter for the Phillies with a .388 on base percentage. He hit .348 with four homers and four steals in the ‘93 World Series and probably would have won MVP if the Phils didn’t lose to the Blue Jays. Centerfield at the Vet, wherever it may be, is surely still stained with his tobacco juice.
Outfielders Region: No. 2 Ed Delahanty vs No. 7 Bobby Abreu
Ed Delahanty was born in 1867, making his Phillies debut in 1888, so he’s probably not fresh in anyone’s mind, but the Baseball Hall of Famer was one of the great hitters in team history. He had a career .348 batting average in his 13 seasons in Philadelphia, batting better than .400 three times, including a league-best .410 in 1899. He led the league in hits, doubles, RBI, batting and slugging that season, too. He is behind only Mike Schmidt in oWAR in Phillies history.
Bobby Abreu is surely the most polarizing hitter on this list. His patient attitude at the plate unnerved fans and his defense in right field, despite a cannon for an arm, made people turn on him even more. But Abreu was one of the most productive hitters in the majors during his nine years in Philly. He was a .303 hitter, with a .416 OBP and .928 OPS, ranked second all-time in Phillies history. He hit 195 homers for the Phillies and had 1,474 hits in 1,353 games, adding an insane 947 walks and 1078 strikeouts to his stat line. He averaged 28 steals per season in Philly as well. He was a do-everything type of player in an era between titles, who should be more respected in Phillies history than he is.
Outfielders Region: No. 3 Chuck Klein vs No. 6 Garry Maddox
Chuck Klein was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. He played 17 years in the majors, 15 with the Phillies, from 1928 to 1944. In his first six seasons in Philly, he never hit worse than .337, hitting better than .360 three times, including .386 with 40 homers and 170 RBI in 1930. He won the MVP award in 1931, hitting .348 with 38 homers, 50 doubles, 137 RBI and a league-best 20 stolen bases. In ‘32 he finished second in the MVP race (to a pitcher) despite a .368/.422/.602/1.025 line, leading the league in hits (223), doubles (44), homers (28) and RBI (120). His numbers dwindled as he left Philly, then came back, but he was still a career .326 hitter for the Phils, with 243 homers of his 300 and 983 of his career 1,201 RBI.
Garry Maddox was a great defensive center fielder, and was a key part of the two World Series teams in the 1980s. His 1979 season ranks as one of the top defensive years in Phillies history, one of nine consecutive seasons (eight with the Phillies) in which Maddox won the Gold Glove in center. Maddox was a good offensive player too, hitting .284 with a .320 on-base percentage in his 12 years with the Phillies. He had 20 or more steals in his first six seasons with the Phils and was a .271 career hitter in the postseason.
Outfielders Region: No. 4 Pat Burrell vs No. 5 Johnny Callison
Pat Burrell, for many, was the “ultimate” Phillie on the 2008 World Series team. He was tactile (especially for the ladies), always out around town after games, famously saying he didn’t want to be traded because he loved the city so much. He is fourth all-time in homers (251), 10th in RBI and fifth in walks. He played just nine seasons for the Phillies, but it felt like 20, and he hit .257 with an .852 OPS in that span. He was a defensive liability his entire career—a converted first baseman in the minors—but was a huge part of the 2008 World Series run, hitting .333 in the NLCS before barely showing up at the plate in the Series. People may be mad Burrell is even on this list (especially over Del Ennis), but if we’re looking for the “ultimate” Phillie, it’s hard to have this list without Burrell.
Johnny Callison ranks 12th in team history in wins above replacement—8th among sluggers—but the three-time All-Star was a career .271 hitter in his 10 seasons with the Phillies with an OPS of .795. He finished second in MVP voting in 1964, finishing that season with 31 homers and 104 RBI. He had 32 and 101 the following season, and led the majors in triples in 1965 as well. In 1963 he hit .284 with 73 extra base hits, including 26 homers to go with 78 RBI, and thanks to the best defensive season of his career, and the era in which he played, his WAR ranks as one of the 10 best seasons in Phillies history.
Starting Pitchers Region: No. 1 Steve Carlton vs No. 8 Chris Short
Steve Carlton ranks atop almost every major statistical pitching category in Phillies history. He leads the franchise in games started (499) and wins (241). He had 3,031 strikeouts with the Phillies, the most in team history and his 4,136 career strikeouts ranks fourth all-time. At the time of his retirement, Carlton was without question the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history, now surpassed in some minds by Randy Johnson. Still, the four-time Cy Young Award winner and 10-time All Star had an incomparable career as a Phillie.
Chris Short ranks sixth all-time in Phils history in WAR for pitchers and is fourth all-time in strikeouts, shutouts and wins. The two-time All Star won 132 games in his 14 years with the Phillies, with an ERA of 3.38 and a K/BB ratio of 2.08. He won 20 games with the Phils in 1966 despite a 3.54 ERA, then went 9-11 in 1967 with a 2.39 ERA. His best year came in 1964, when he finished 17-9 with a 2.20 ERA and a 3.55 K/BB ratio.
Starting Pitchers Region: No. 2 Robin Roberts vs No. 7 Roy Halladay
Robin Roberts played 14 seasons in Philadelphia and won 20 or more games six times, leading the league in wins from 1952 through 1955. He started 38 or more games every year from 1950 to ‘55, leading the league each season, and had a ridiculous, even for the time, seven-straight seasons with 20 or more complete games, including a five-year span in which he lead the league with 30, 33, 29, 26 and 22 complete games. His innings pitched those seasons were also league-leaders, and while he did give up a ton of runs—he lead the league in earned runs three times and home runs five—he did have 198 strikeouts in 1953 and 185 in 1954, both league leaders, and he did lead the league in strikeouts-to-walk ratio five times. His WAR of 71 is second in Phillies history. His only postseason start came in the 1950 World Series, in which he gave up two runs in 10 innings, striking out five Yankees in the 2-1 complete game loss.
Roy Halladay may be the fourth-best pitcher on this list, historically, but he only played in Philadelphia for four seasons, and the last one was truncated due to the injury that ended his career. Still, Halladay ranks second all-time in Phillies history in winning percentage and K/BB. His “per 9 IP” stats are consistently in the top 10 in Phillies history and his single-season numbers in both 2010 and 2011, where he finished first and second in Cy Young voting, respectively, were as good as almost any seasons in Phillies history. His perfect game in May 2010 and a no-hitter in the playoffs later that season vault Halladay’s short time in Philly into ultimate company.
Starting Pitchers Region: No. 3 Grover Cleveland Alexander vs No. 6 Curt Schilling
Pete Alexander is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He debuted in 1911 and played until 1930, including seven full years with the Phillies. Still, he won 190 games to 91 losses for the Phils, and had a career 2.18 ERA, including three seasons in which he led the league with a sub-2.00 mark. In 1915, he made 49 appearances and had 31 wins, 36 complete games, 12 shutouts and 241 strikeouts (all league-leading marks). His WHIP that season was .842, one of the best pitching seasons in the history of the game. His career numbers could be better, but his arm basically fell off after pitching 2,492 innings for the Phillies in his first seven seasons, six of which he led the league.
Curt Schilling’s career is an enigma. He is a borderline Hall of Famer, but if he ever does get into Cooperstown, it will be thanks to his playoff success in Arizona and Boston. He did play nine years of his 20-year career in Philly, making three All-Star teams with the Phillies. He had a 3.35 ERA here, winning 101 games and losing 78 in 226 starts. He had an impressive 61 complete games, recorded 319 strikeouts in 1997 and followed that with 300 in 1998, both league-leading marks. He was named MVP of the 1993 NLCS despite not recording a win and his 2-0, five-hit complete game shutout victory in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series is still, to this day, one of the five best performances in Phillies sports history.
Starting Pitchers Region: No. 4 Cole Hamels vs No. 5 Jim Bunning
Cole Hamels’ last game with the Phillies was a 13-strikeout, no-hit shutout on the road. He was MVP of both the 2008 NLCS and 2008 World Series and is fourth all-time in Phillies history in WAR for pitchers, behind only Roberts, Carlton and Alexander. Hamels played 10 years in Philly, leaving with a 114-90 record and 3.30 ERA, with a 124 ERA+. Hamels never won 20 games in his career, and had an ERA below 2.50 just once, but both of those marks may be a product of his generation. Still, he was never an innings churner, averaging 6.5 IP per start in his career. Hamels was a three-time All Star and had four seasons with a K/BB ratio over 4.0.
Jim Bunning is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, though probably more for what he did in Detroit. With the Phillies for just four years in his prime, then two more before retiring in his late 30s, Bunning was 89-73 with the Fightins with a 2.93 ERA. He was a two-time All-Star in Philly and finished second in the Cy Young voting in 1967. In his four prime years with the Phils he went 74-46 and had a 2.60 ERA or better in each of those seasons. His K/BB ratio was nearly 4.5 in Philly in his prime, averaging more than seven strikeouts per game in that span. He led the league in starts in ‘66 and ‘67, strikeouts in ‘67 and hit batsmen in all four years he was in Philly during his prime.
Catchers & Relief Pitchers Region: No. 1 Darren Daulton vs No. 8 Mike Lieberthal
Darren Daulton played all but 52 games of his 14-year career with the Phillies, and while his numbers were never good—the career .245 hitter had more seasons under .200 batting than at .300—there may not be a Phillie in history more identified with an era than Dutch. In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Daulton was the face of the franchise during an era with very limited success. He made three All-Star games in his career, including 1992 and 1993, his only two seasons with more than 100 RBI. There were some crazy things going on inside the Phillies clubhouse that may have accounted for irregularities in his production those years—he never had more than 57 RBI for the Phillies in any other season—through it all, Daulton is one of the most beloved Phillies in team history. Ultimate? There was definitely something Ultimate about him.
Mike Lieberthal was Daulton’s replacement and was a much better catcher both at the plate and behind it. Lieby hit .275 in his 13 seasons with the Phils, hitting 150 homers and knocking in 609 runs. He was difficult to run on, throwing out 30 percent of his runners, outpacing the league more seasons than not. He was a solid backstop for some really bad teams, as Lieberthal bridged the gap between the ‘93 World Series team and the playoff run in the late Aughts.
Catchers & Relief Pitchers Region: No. 2 Tug McGraw vs No. 7 Jonathan Papelbon
Tug McGraw is the central figure in maybe the greatest moment in Phillies history. He gave up just one run in 7.1 IP in the 1980 World Series, finishing four games and recording two saves. He faced 36 batters that Series and despite a 1.957 WHIP against the Royals, he struck out 10, allowing just the one run in Game 3’s loss. But we like to remember the wins and, for Tugger, the saves. McGraw was with the Phillies for 10 of his 19-year career, made the All-Star game just once as a Phille but finished fifth in the Cy Young voting in 1980, almost unheard of for a reliever back then. (Carlton won it that year.) McGraw had 180 saves in 230 opportunities in his career, 94 of which he earned in Philly. He finished 313 games for the Phils and had a 3.10 ERA in 463 appearances.
Jonathan Papelbon is just on this list to annoy people, but in a lot of ways, isn’t he the ultimate Phillie? He’s loud, he’s brash, he’s a jerk who says whatever he thinks, sometimes without… thinking. He only cared about winning when he was here and he didn’t care about making any friends. He’s the perfect Philly athlete in that respect. Plus (and this is kind of insane) he’s the all-time leader in saves in Phillies history with 123, more than Jose Mesa, Steve Bedrosian, Mitch Williams Brad Lidge or Billy Wagner.
Catchers & Relief Pitchers Region: No. 3 Brad Lidge vs No. 6 Mitch Williams
Brad Lidge was a Phillie for four years. He pitched in 214 regular season games, but it was his 22 postseason appearances that people will remember the most. Lidge pitched 20.1 innings the playoffs for the Phillies and gave up four earned runs, three of which came in one World Series game against the Yankees in 2009. In 2008 he did not blow a save in 41 regular season opportunities, or his seven playoff chances. He wasn’t the same after that season, but what he did for the World Series team of ‘08 was pretty damn ultimate.
Mitch Williams was only in Philadelphia as a player for three seasons of his ten-year career. In 1991, Wild Thing took Philly by storm with a 2.34 ERA and 30 saves in 39 opportunities. In ‘93 he saved 43 games in 49 chances in the regular season. Many Phillies fans will remember the playoff-clinching finale with Williams on the bump. Others will remember Joe Carter. Williams never pitched in Philadelphia again after that World Series, but if he wasn’t the ultimate Phillie that year, I don’t know who was.
Catchers & Relief Pitchers Region: No. 4 Bob Boone vs No. 5 Carlos Ruiz
Bob Boone played the first 10 years of his 19-year career with the Phillies, winning the World Series as the team’s backstop in 1980. He was a career .254 hitter, .259 in Philly, and had little pop at the plate, slugging just .370 with 65 homers in 1,125 games. Still, he was a plus defensive catcher, winning six Gold Gloves in his career, though just two with the Phillies. He did make three All-Star games with the Phils, and hit .412 in the 1980 World Series.
Carlos Ruiz has played his entire career with the Phillies and, like Boone, he was never a tremendous hitter—career .266 and .397 slugging—but his defense was vital to the Phillies’ success. Also like Boone, Chooch called a great game, or had the benefit of catching for some all-time greats. He made one All-Star game, the year he hit .325, but history will look at that season in a skewed context, what with his suspension for Adderall coming after that season. Still, Chooch is rightly credited with holding the Phillies pitching staff together in some great historical seasons.