The Final Four in the Ultimate Phillies bracket is set and it includes two huge upsets, including one nobody saw coming. Nobody.
This bracket started out pretty much chalk, as there were very few upsets in the first round of voting or the second round of voting. But in the Elite Eight, things changed, and players from the 2008 team beat out stars from the 1980 team, including the best player in Phillies history, who lost before the semifinals.
Yes, Michael Jack Schmidt is gone, and Chase Utley is the one who took him out.
Let’s be perfectly clear, the voters have spoken on several occasions during this bracket about their love of Utley, having him win over Dick Allen and his double-play partner Jimmy Rollins before taking on Schmidt. Online, Schmidt had more votes than Utley, but in our live events at Liberty Place and the Franklin Institute last week where people could vote in person, Utley won handily. Perhaps those online voted with their heads, while those in person chose to vote with their hearts. So! The best third baseman in history is out, and the face of the 2008-era Phillies is still alive.
And still that’s not even the biggest surprise of the tournament thus far.
Vote now in the semifinal round 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 original write-up.
Outfielders No. 1 Richie Ashburn vs Infielders No. 2 Chase Utley
The Phillies have had some great outfielders in their history, but none has been more beloved than Whitey.
As the memory of Richie Ashburn the player fades, the Phillies have made certain his legacy never will. Just walking past his statue on the vibrant alleyway that stretches across the outfield of Citizens Bank Park, Ashburn is as much a part of the Phillies franchise for the current generation of fans as he was leading the Whiz Kids in the 1950s or covering games with Harry Kalas in the booth for some mostly lean years before he passed.
Whitey advanced with 90 percent of the vote over Lenny Dykstra in the first round and 85.1 percent over Pat Burrell in round two. In the Elite 8, Ashburn beat out fellow Hall of Famer Chuck Klein with 72.9 percent of the vote. Ashburn won two batting titles during his tenure in Philly, playing some of the best centerfield in the majors at the time. Along with Del Ennis and Robin Roberts, Ashburn helped lead the 1950 Phillies to the World Series and is the most recognizable name of that generation of Phillies players.
Utley may be the same for this generation.
Utley beat Schmidt by two votes, and even that seems like it wasn’t close enough. He earned 83 percent of the vote over Dick Allen in the first round and, in what was billed as the most fascinating vote of Round 2, he beat out Jimmy Rollins earning a significant 55.9 percent of the vote. Somehow he took down Schmidt in the quarterfinals, earning the right to represent the infielders in the Final Four.
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. Yet Utley endeared himself to the Phillies faithful not just with his numbers, but with the way he played the game. It’s no surprise people in Philadelphia still love him the way they do. It is a significant surprise, though, that he beat Schmidt in a vote, especially with Utley gone and Schmidt back in the TV booth for the team.
Starting Pitchers Region No. 1 Steve Carlton vs Catchers & Relievers No. 5 Carlos Ruiz
Steve Carlton is surely the best Phillies player at any position, and he is certainly the best player left in this contest. He won in the first round with 97.3 percent and beat out Cole Hamels in the second round—lefty vs. lefty—with 78.8 percent of the vote. In the quarterfinals he won over Robin Roberts, the team’s second-best pitcher ever, with 73.2 percent of the vote. It wasn’t even close, and it shouldn’t be this round either.
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. He did begin his career in St. Louis for seven seasons and bounced around at the end of his career rather than retiring, so he wasn’t a Phillie his entire career. Still, his best years were here and some of the franchise’s best seasons were with him atop the rotation.
After he retired, Carlton was something of a recluse, not participating in many team-organized activities over the years. He has been more involved of late, but it stands to reason his oft-chilly relationship with the fans might hurt him when put up with a fan favorite.
Chooch, it seems, is carrying that fan favorite mantle. All the way to the Final Four.
Carlos Ruiz was installed as No. 5 seed in this region, as we constructed this bracket half of catchers and half of relievers. The catchers took the 1, 4, 5 and 8 spots while relievers took 2,3,6 and 7, thereby guaranteeing the Elite 8 would feature one catcher and one reliever.
We never thought this catcher would get that far, nor would he beat any of the relievers. This is, to say the least, a shocker.
Chooch defeated Darren Daulton to advance to the quarterfinals with 54.3 percent of the vote; the closest vote of that round, but still a big surprise at any point in the competition. He upset Bob Boone in the first round with 71.7 percent of the vote. In the Elite 8, he upset Tug McGraw to advance to the Final Four.
Like the Schmidt-Utley contest, Ruiz was slightly behind McGraw with the online vote, but passed him on paper ballots at our live events last week. It stands to reason that those who voted Utley over Schmidt likely tabbed Chooch as well, as he narrowly beat Tugger, winning by just two votes.
Ruiz has been a mainstay with the Phillies for years. He 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. While he has taken a back seat on this year’s team, he has served a vital role in the franchise for a decade, Adderall suspension notwithstanding.
Vote in the Final Four now and let us know if the 2008 team has THAT much hold over who might be the Ultimate Phillie.