In the spirit of creating brackets and busting brackets, let’s take a look at the “ultimate Phillies team” bracket of all-time greats to play the game in a Philadelphia uniform.
I took what is ranked as the top 19 players in Phillies history and put them head to head, eliminating them one at a time until the top dog remains. In the process, a few Cinderellas may emerge, as always.
Over the course of the next few weeks, the bracket will be completed until the winner is decided. Though, all the players selected are notable and can make their case for the top spot, in this contest, seeding was based on fan rankings on Ranker.
This week, let’s look at the “match off” contests.
Pat Burrell vs John Kruk
16 Pat Burrell, OF (2000-2008):
Pat Burrell was a career Phillie, donning red pinstripes for nine of 12 years in Major League Baseball, until his retirement in 2011. Before Mickey Moniak last year, the last first overall pick by the Phillies was in the 1998 First Year Player draft when they selected Burrell from the University of Miami (FL).
Since then, he’s had a terrific career, blasting 292 home runs and earning 976 RBI’s, en route to a World Series ring. Dubbed “Pat the Bat” for his prowess at the plate, the outfielder is a two-time World Series Champion including in 2008 which brought the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Philadelphia after a 28-year drought. Burrell may not be the star that everyone remembers 30 years from now; however, his role with the Phillies was crucial in building a dynasty.
17 John Kruk, 1B (1989-1994):
Acquired from the Padres in 1989, John Kruk played five of his best years in Philadelphia, netting the only three all star game appearances of his career during that span. Kruk may be best known for his showmanship, specifically during the 1993 Midsummer Classic in which he faced Randy Johnson and overreacted the errant throw that sailed over his head, playing up that Johnson was “too wild” for baseball.
“The Krukker” was never a power hitter or speedster, hitting for average over anything else. A career .300 hitter, Kruk was instrumental in the 1993 season that resulted in a World Series loss. He hit .298/.431/.469 that postseason. In his career Kruk played 10 years, hitting exactly 100 home runs, and retiring in-game standing on first after a single at Camden Yards. Kruk returned to the City of Brotherly Love this year as part of the broadcast crew replacing hitting coach Matt Stairs.
WINNER: I’m advancing Burrell in this matchup. It’s hard to overlook Pat’s numbers as a Phillie, considering his prime years were in Phillies red. Other than the bulky batting average, John Kruk’s memorable moments may be more outside the game than within it.
Darren Daulton vs Greg Luzinski
15 Darren Daulton, C (1983-1997):
Make no mistake, Darren “Dutch” Daulton is a fan favorite among the Philly faithful. The three-time all star spent one year outside of the Phillies after injuries forced a trade to the Florida (Miami) Marlins, which earned him a World Series title before promptly retiring.
Dutch’s career was mired by injuries with four seasons of over 130 games played, and inconsistent play. Daulton’s best came in 1992-94 in which he was a force in the starting lineup, hitting .270/.380/.480, knocking in almost half of the career 588 RBI’s, and a .990 fielding percentage. 1992 was arguably the best, resulting in National League Silver Slugger honors for the then-30-year-old catcher, and finishing as the league’s RBI leader.
18 Greg Luzinski, OF (1970-1980):
Greg Luzinski also came to Philadelphia via the draft, in 1968 as the 11th overall selection, ultimately garnering a World Series ring with the 1980 club. “The Bull,” as known in Philadelphia, struck fear into opposing pitchers as a slugger who hit for average, despite striking out almost 1,500 times in his career. Luzinski is known for his bat rather than defensive efforts, having a career .276 batting average with 307 home runs and 1,128 RBI’s. His abilities lead to four all star selections and the National League lead in many statistical categories.
The Bull is a Philadelphia mainstay, opening Citizens Bank Park’s must-try “Bull’s Barbeque,” staying active with the fan base. He entrenched himself in Philadelphia by leaving his mark as a champion, taking his roots to Florida, but keeping close ties with the city he once represented.
WINNER: Darren Daulton and Luzinski are both favorites among Phillies fans, but what it comes down to with this one is the numbers and effect on the city. I’m going with Greg Luzinski here for the upset. He was critical in getting the World Series to Philly, and made his roots in Philadelphia once he was taken in the draft, never looking back. The fans appreciate that.
Brad Lidge vs Tug McGraw
14 Brad Lidge, RP (2008-2011):
Brad Lidge earned the nickname “light’s out” because he was exactly that for much of his career. Coming to Philly via Houston, Lidge became the go-to arm out of the bullpen for skipper Charlie Manuel during their championship season. In that 2008 World Series run, Lidge was unhittable, going a historic 41 for 41 in save opportunities, and seven for seven in the postseason, including the final strikeout to clinch the title.
The following years were stricken with injuries, as pitching was visibly taking a toll on the 33-year old. Nevertheless, Manuel continued to tab him the closer until he could no more. 2008 proved to be the most memorable one, and fan’s relish in the moment to this day, hailing Lidge as the “hero” for the club that yearned another world title.
19 Tug McGraw, RP (1975-1984):
Another closer to clinch the World Series for Philadelphia, Tug McGraw was a reliable bullpen arm for years. McGraw’s most iconic moment may be bringing the city its first ever World Series title, 11 years after he did the same to the New York Mets. His efforts earned him two all star appearances, two world series rings, and culminating in spots on the Mets and Phillies Hall of Fames.
McGraw is arguably remembered not for his on-field gig, but for coining NL East rival NY Mets’ rally cry, “Ya gotta believe!” and for the image of his celebration following the final strikeout in 1980. Following his career, he lived a quiet life until his death in 2004. Tug is not to be forgotten though, his son Tim McGraw carries on his legacy through music and videography.
WINNER: In the battle of the closers, it’s quite a toss-up as each has a case, but because of Lidge’s later years were riddled with injuries and inconsistencies, this one goes to the late Tug McGraw. He not only brought the Phillies their first ever title as one of the best, but was putting up the numbers to back it up.