It was a difficult task to take nearly 2,000 players who have suited up for the Phillies over the last 134 years and narrow them down to the 32 best suited for this tournament, but hey it’s our call, so we’ll say that effort proved a success, as there were very few upsets in the first round voting of our Ultimate Phillies bracket.
In fact, the only “upsets” at all were No. 5 seeded players getting more votes than the No. 4 seeds in a few regions, which probably says more about how fans remember the 2008 Phillies, and perhaps our seeding process, as anything.
Round 2 has some awesome match-ups that will test your historical knowledge of the Fightins, pit old against new again, and finally settle the decade-and-a-half-long debate about who was the better part of the best middle infield in Phillies history. Who ya got? Let’s find out.
Vote now in Round 2 of the Ultimate Phillie bracket, presented by SuperPretzel Soft Pretzels!
Here is a look at the full bracket (click to enlarge). For full biographical capsules on every player, visit our write-up from Round 1.
Infielders Region: No. 1 Mike Schmidt vs No. 5 Ryan Howard
The two sluggers atop both the home run list in Phillies history, and the strikeout list, face off in our first battle in the Sweet 16.
Schmidt received 94.6 percent of the vote to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but 95.7 percent of our vote in the first round win over Jim Thome. (Seriously, how was this not unanimous?) Schmidt is the best position player to ever play for the Phillies, but his relationship with the fans, and certainly with the media, was mercurial at times. It’s unlikely that will hurt him in this round, but it might in the next.
Howard has had a roller coaster ride with the fans too, especially in the last few years when his effectiveness waned. But in his prime he was as beloved—dare-I-say ultimate—as any Phillie ever, even Schmidt. Howard beat Pete Rose in the first round, earning 55.8 percent of the vote.
Infielders Region: No. 2 Chase Utley vs No. 3 Jimmy Rollins
Without question the most fascinating vote of this round, and probably the entire tournament. It’s the question we’ve been asking for a generation of Phillies baseball: Utley or Rollins? If you have to pick one (hint: you do), who are you picking as the Ultimate Phillie?
Utley was the face of the franchise for 13 years, a most beloved Philly athlete for his worth ethic and penchant for getting (read: playing) dirty. The six-time All-Star left Philly with a .281 career batting average, .843 OPS, 236 home runs, 928 RBI and 143 stole bases. Utley ranks second in Phillies history in wins above replacement for hitters, behind only Schmidt. He earned 83 percent of the vote over Dick Allen.
If Utley was the face, Rollins was the mouth. Rollins left Philly with a .267 career batting average, .751 OPS, 216 homers, 887 RBI and 453 stole bases for the Phils. He won the 2006 MVP, and famously guaranteed a division title in 2007 that led to the most successful run this century. Rollins is the Phillies career leader in at bats, hits (2,306) and doubles (479) and is second to Schmidt in games played, plate appearances and total bases. He earned 71.6 percent of the vote over Larry Bowa.
Outfielders Region: No. 1 Richie Ashburn vs No. 4 Pat Burrell
As good as some of the infielders and starting pitchers have been in Phillies history, the outfield—at least over the last 40 or 50 years—has not produced many great players. There have been some solid outfielders, but nobody in the class of some of the older legends in team history, three still in this region. And also Pat Burrell.
Richie Ashburn advanced with 90 percent of the vote over Lenny Dykstra and it was surprising it was even that close. Whitey is more known to this generation for his work in the broadcast booth before his passing, but he was one helluva player for the Phillies, winning two batting titles and finishing his Phils career with a .311 batting average. He was also a stellar outfielder on defense.
Burrell, simply put, was not. But, this isn’t an attempt to find the best Phillie ever, it’s the “Ultimate” and there may not be anyone more ultimate than Pat “the Bat”. He beat out Johnny Callison in the first round, earning 57.9 percent of the vote. Still, it would probably be irresponsible if he got any votes here.
Outfielders Region: No. 2 Ed Delahanty vs No. 3 Chuck Klein
What’s more surprising: That Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty beat Bobby Abreu in the first round, or that he only beat him with 56.6 percent of the vote? That question obviously says way more about Abreu’s relationship with the Phillie fans than that Delahanty played his career mostly in the 1800s. Still, the guy hit .400 or better three times, albeit a vastly different era, but HOF after one’s name still means a lot in this town.
Chuck Klein is also a Hall of Famer, playing from 1928 to 1944, most of that with the Phillies. Klein 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.
Starting Pitchers Region: No. 1 Steve Carlton vs No. 4 Cole Hamels
When Steve Carlton only received 97.3 percent of the vote we started to think nearly three percent of the voters were just trying to mess with us. Carlton is one of the two best left-handed pitchers to ever play the game. He won the Cy Young Award four times and was a 10-time All Star. And yet, he did start his career in St. Louis for seven seasons, then bounced around a bit at the end of his career as well. Plus, he was something of a recluse, especially after his career ended, so he didn’t exactly endear himself to everyone in the city. Best? Without question. Ultimate? That’s for the vote to decide.
Hamels is, at least in this context, the second-best lefty pitcher in Phillies history. He defeated Hall of Famer Jim Bunning in the first round, earning 74 percent of the vote. Hamels will never have the numbers to back up just how good he was for the Phillies, but he does have the 2008 postseason, where he earned NLCS and World Series MVP.
Starting Pitchers Region: No. 2 Robin Roberts vs No. 3 Grover Cleveland Alexander
There was a case to be made that Robin Roberts should have been the top seed in this bracket, as the Hall of Famer was an unbelievable workhorse in his career, hurling 3739.1 innings in his 14-year Phillies career. His numbers may not be as good as Carlton’s, but they’re better than anyone else in Phillies history, that’s for sure. Roberts beat out Roy Halladay with 69.1 percent of the vote.
Roberts had better numbers than everyone except, perhaps, his opponent in this round. Grover Cleveland Alexander is one of the best pitchers in the history of the game, and the only reason he isn’t remembered more vividly in Philadelphia is because he played from 1911 to 1917, and I don’t think they had high definition back then for all that video footage we can watch of him, and he only played eight of his 20 years in Philly, and the last of those was at the age of 43, just before retiring. Still, his career numbers are stellar, though he eked out Curt Schilling with just 55.1 percent of the vote. Something tells me Alexander may have benefitting from more anti-Schilling votes than anything.
Catchers & Relievers Region: No. 1 Darren Daulton vs No. 5 Carlos Ruiz
Two of the most beloved backstops in Phillies history face off in the Sweet 16 in a vote that should be very telling about our audience, your memory of times gone by and how we look back on success in red-and-white pinstripes.
Darren Daulton is one of the great characters in team history and was the unabashed leader of the 1993 Phillies team. Daulton’s numbers, particularly offensively, never matched how much people in town loved him as a player, especially in the lean years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Again, if voting for the “ultimate” there’s a case to be made that helps his cause. Daulton beat Mike Lieberthal in the first round, earning 83.2 percent of the vote.
Carlos Ruiz is credited with managing one of the best pitching staffs in Phillies history, as the run from 2007 through 2011 (and really almost up until last year before Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee weren’t able to pitch anymore) is a phenomenal time in team history for pitching. Much of the credit goes to Chooch for that. He’s been an average at best hitter in his career, but did step up in seasons when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley weren’t healthy, endearing himself even more to the fans. He beat out Bob Boone in the first round with 71.9 percent of the vote.
Catchers & Relievers Region: No. 2 Tug McGraw vs No. 3 Brad Lidge
There is no surprise that the two closers left on this list are the two men who threw the last pitch in each of the Phillies’ World Series clinchers. This vote is almost like asking “which title do you remember better” because a case can really be made for both to advance this round.
Tug McGraw advanced with 96.5 percent of the vote, because 3.5 percent of the voters are jerks who just wanted to screw with us and pick Jonathan Papelbon. One voter picked Papelbon over McGraw and Jim Thome over Mike Schmidt, so let’s hope that person skips this round, okay? McGraw was with the Phils for just over half of his career (a very famous Met as well) and certainly his demonstrative personality endeared him to the Phillie faithful as a player, and long after he retired.
Brad Lidge advanced over Mitch Williams with 80.7 percent of the vote, admittedly higher than expected given how big Wild Thing’s personality was when he was in town. It goes to show what winning a World Series, not losing it, will do for someone. Lidge was a Phillie for a short time, but took to the city perhaps unlike any other closer—including Williams—setting down roots and embracing the area as much as we embraced him. If we were ranking the “ultimate” sports seasons (maybe another vote down the line), Lidge’s 2008 campaign would be a No. 1 seed. It was perfect.
But was it enough to take down Tugger? That’s for you to decide.