Last week, we took a look at the initial matchups that saw Pat Burrell, Greg Luzinski, and Tug McGraw advance into the main bracket. Let’s break down the eight matchups that will decide the “Elite 8,” as they say.
Pat Burrell vs Mike Schmidt
16 Pat Burrell, OF (2000-2008):
Defeating John Kruk slightly, Burrell now has the honor of facing Mike Schmidt, one of the best hitters ever. Burrell’s nine-year tenure with the club featured 42 home runs against the rival NY Mets, showing a penchant for rattling the boys in blue and orange, earning him the “Met Killer” name. We can agree Pat Burrell was never the best clubhouse guy, or fan-friendly player, but he produced. Ultimately, that production made Burrell a Philadelphia “hero” of sorts.
1 Mike Schmidt, 3B (1972-1989):
17 years in Philadelphia, Michael Jack Schmidt, arguably the best third baseman to ever play Major League Baseball, is widely considered the top Phillie in its 134-year history. Regardless of his unusual batting stance, he was able to become a menace at the plate. A member of the coveted 500 home run club, Schmidt finished his career with 548 bombs, placing him in 16th place on the all time home run leaders list. Along with his batting abilities, Schmidt had hordes of other awards: a 10-time gold glover at third base, 12-time all star, three time MVP, a World Series MVP, and six time silver slugger award winner, jersey retirement as a Phillie. Without a doubt, Mike Schmidt is a player of a century, having earned his spot in Cooperstown’s National Baseball Hall of Fame with a 96.5% first ballot vote.
WINNER: There is a reason Mike Schmidt is still regarded as one of the best to play the game almost 30 years since retirement. Schmidt is without a doubt the winner here, having put up historic numbers and still being involved with the franchise. Only adding to his case is being the face of the 1980 championship team.
Pete Rose vs Jim Thome
8 Pete Rose, 1B (1979-1983):
If this was a list of the best Hall of Fame members from the Phillies, obviously, Pete Rose, MLB’s hits king, would be left off due to his ineligibility for betting while manager for the Cincinnati Reds. Since this simply is the best Phillies players, he is included, because he was exactly that. Rose came to the Phillies via free agency, signing what was then the highest player contract. Only with the Phillies for four seasons, Rose transitioned from third to first on arrival due to the established Mike Schmidt at third. Rose’s numbers back up the talk of a guaranteed- Hall of Famer, but it doesn’t come without controversy. He’s not a 3,000 hit club member, but one of two in the 4,000 hit club. Rose is the MLB hits leader, three-time world champion, and 17-time all star; however, it’s been reported that Rose’s bats were corked during the record hunt, which he has vehemently denied. If not for the sketchy history and betting past, there is little question as to if Rose is Cooperstown bound.
9 Jim Thome (2003-2005, 2012):
Jim Thome arrived in Philadelphia via free agency from Cleveland believing the Phillies were contenders in the NL. Not much of a defensive threat, he thrived in his first season, instantly becoming a fan favorite for his menacing power, notching 47 home runs- one below the franchise single season record set by Schmidt in 1980. 2004 was much of the same, also bringing him the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for exemplifying “Gehrig’s character and integrity on and off the field.” That would be all to his success, as the subsequent season saw him battle injuries and lose playing time to Ryan Howard’s arrival, who instantly took off. He would soon waive a no-trade clause, agreeing to be traded to the south side of Chicago, the White Sox. Thome would return in the twilight of his career to hit 100 home runs as a Phillie, the fourth player to do so with three different teams, but would see limited action.
WINNER: Pete Rose. Aside from the controversy, Rose is the best hitter in all of baseball, and that can’t be forgotten. His hits record just may hold for years to come, as no active player is within striking distance to him. Looking at strictly his playing days, it can’t be overlooked that Rose was one of the greatest in MLB, moving him into the next round.
Jimmy Rollins vs Jim Bunning
4 Jimmy Rollins, SS (2000-2014):
Jimmy Rollins has been a staple in this city, serving as a key cog in the middle of the infield for 14 years after being drafted by the club in 1996. As far as memories go, J-Roll has the fans reminiscing on the past for his service, on and off the field. Rollins ranks in the top three all time in seven key offensive statistical categories, leading in hits, doubles, and at bats. Arguably the best shortstop in Philadelphia history, Rollins is a player that will be remembered for a long time, record holder or not. Defensively, he holds a career .983 fielding percentage, and has four Rawlings Gold Gloves, three all star selections, and an MVP to his name. Oh, and who can forget another member of that 2008 World Series core that won two straight pennants?
13 Jim Bunning, P (1964-1967, 1970-1971):
Jim Bunning joins an elite group of pitchers who has multiple no hitters, the one with the Phillies on Father’s Day 1964 being a perfect game. The three-time league strikeout king and nine-time all star has earned the ultimate honor of joining the hall, but also having his number 14 retired, never to be worn again in Phillies pinstripes. Following baseball, Bunning turned to politics, serving as a two-term Kentucky Senator from 1999 to 2011.
WINNER: Jimmy Rollins. Bunning’s contributions to the club were mighty, however, it’s hard to beat out one of the grittiest, longest tenured, world champions the city has ever seen. Rollins’s legacy is more than just pop-ups as a leadoff hitter, but one that built the dynasty that went five straight years as NL East champion.
Chase Utley vs Dick Allen
5 Chase Utley, 2B (2003-2015):
Chase Utley has consistently been one of the best all-around players for the Phillies. He may not hit the most home runs, or swipe the most bags, but he can get it done from everywhere. A favorite for him flair and charm, Utley was certainly “the man” around town, as the late Harry Kalas said. With six all star selections and four gold gloves, his case goes beyond being a fan favorite. He got it done when the Phillies needed him, coming in clutch on both sides of the field.
12 Dick Allen, 1B/3B (1963-1969, 1975-1976):
A Pennsylvania native, Dick Allen is not the typical ballplayer, doubling as an R&B singer. His time in Philadelphia was not an easy one either, facing racial harassment as the local team’s first African American player. Nevertheless, his rookie year was one to remember, leading the league in runs, triples, extra base hits, and total bases on his way to the Rookie of the Year crown. Allen was prominent for his booming home runs that towered over ballparks.
WINNER: This one was close, because the comparison was between players in vastly different eras of the game. Each could have taken the round, yet I lean towards the modern-day guy in Chase Utley. I can’t say much about how Dick Allen would have fared in today’s game, which admittedly skews this selection. Utley has the numbers, proven success, and excelled at all facets of the game in his time here.
Steve Carlton vs Greg Luzinski
2 Steve Carlton, P (1972-1986):
Steve Carlton is, alongside Schmidt, the greatest Phillies ever. His stash of awards should dictate the success and talent Carlton had, if the career 3.22 ERA, 4,136 strikeouts, and 300+ win numbers don’t. He’s even got the pitcher’s gold glove to add to the pile of accolades. Phillies fans remember him for all he’s done, and for good reason. He was a machine on the mound, pitching his way to the top. The two-time world champion is up there on almost all lists.
18 Greg Luzinski, OF (1970-1980):
Luzinski made it past Darren Daulton, and now he gets the task of facing Steve Carlton. A slugger who struck fear into the opposing pitcher, the bull was a defensive liability. Without the potential for a long ball every at bat, he probably would be a bench bat. It was his two critical at-bats in the 1980 NLCS that won the Phillies their first pennant in 30 years.
WINNER: I’ll keep this short- Steve Carlton. Being compared to Mike Schmidt is a huge honor, and Carlton’s numbers back that statement up.
Larry Bowa vs Robin Roberts
7 Larry Bowa, SS (1970-1981):
Larry Bowa has been a mainstay in Philadelphia for years, returning as a bench coach in 2014 after an 11-year Phillies career. Bowa was a reliable bat for contact, but a force defensively, garnering two gold gloves and five all star bids in the infield tandem of Schmidt-Bowa-Rose. Larry Bowa hit .280 or better four times, reaching .305 in 1975. His NL fielding average of .980 is still a record that holds today, as the game turns more hitter friendly. After retiring from the game, he remained involved, turning to a managerial career, first with the San Diego Padres before returning to Philly.
10 Robin Roberts, P (1948-1961):
A Phillie who played in the Connie Mack/Shibe Park era, Robin Roberts was a part of the “Whiz Kids” who brought the first NL pennant in 35 years. Roberts was used heavily as a starter, contributing to five consecutive 20-plus win seasons and once pitching 28 straight complete games, a feat probably never to be seen in today’s game. Also, he was a dual threat, having helped himself with the bat on occasion. Roberts would go on to have his number retired by the Phillies, and make it to Cooperstown on the fourth ballot.
WINNER: Who knows if Robin Roberts would have been successful in today’s time, but I can only go off the statistics available, as little video or game coverage is available of him. Larry Bowa has records defensively, but his bat wasn’t anything overly spectacular. In this matchup, since someone must move on, I’ll go with Larry Bowa, by a flip of the coin.
Richie Ashburn vs Tug McGraw:
3 Richie Ashburn, OF (1948-1959):
Another member of the “Whiz Kids,” Richie Ashburn made a name for himself as a singles hitter, much like the modern-day Ben Revere, which preserved the batting average and on base percentage. Ashburn amassed over 2,500 hits, compared to just 29 home runs, on a lofty .309 average, making him a Phillies all star standout of that generation. His stardom is the reason why, since 1979, no red pinstripe has donned the number one.
19 Tug McGraw, P (1975-1984):
Tug McGraw was a great closer, but relief pitchers are hard to nominate as the best player of any franchise (unless you’re Mariano Rivera, then maybe, but still probably not). McGraw moved past Lidge due to staying on the field during his tenure, and showing steady numbers. His 180 saves aren’t spectacular, placing him 63rd all time, below Joakim Soria and Aroldis Chapman. Given the time period, the closer wasn’t a prominent position, but he did it well.
WINNER: Richie Ashburn, though a player of the ‘50s, takes this one. I just can’t justify sending a closer through, over a .300 hitter with 2,500 hits to his name. Closers are a tough draw, since they really haven’t been a position of need until the 20th century.
Ryan Howard vs Roy Halladay:
6 Ryan Howard, 1B (2004-2016):
We know him all too well: Ryan Howard was a Phillie up until last season, when his time was up. Though the latter years were hung up with injuries and slumps, Howard had a career to remember for fans. “The Big Piece” as referred to, holds many club records, even some of the ones he’d like to forget, like the most “Golden Sombrero” (four strikeout) games. He raced onto the scene in 2005, winning rookie of the year; Howard followed that up with an MVP and Hank Aaron award, cracking a franchise record 58 home runs in his sophomore season. In his career, he was a fearful cleanup batter, striking 15 grand slams and becoming the quickest player to 200 homers. Ryan was also notorious for this argument, that sent Roy Oswalt into the field in the 14th inning. In reality, his time should have come to an end following the 2009 world series loss, but basking in the glory days, Howard was signed to an extension and would hang around until father time kicked in. As the final batter in the 2011 playoffs, Howard grounded out, tearing his Achilles running to first. This would be the start to a whirlwind finale, unfortunately never regaining his MVP form.
11 Roy Halladay, P (2010-2013):
First thought, it’s a shame this man never won a world series title. Roy “Doc” Halladay was an ace of the glory days, when the Phillies attempted to return to the Fall Classic and clinch another title with the core group. Doc provided all he could right from his first start, hurling the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and the second ever postseason no-hitter, both in 2010. A two-time Cy Young award winner and eight-time all star, Halladay was a machine, entrusted to last long into games, saving the bullpen at times- maybe all too often. He quickly went on a decline in the last two years of his career, with trips to the disabled list and inconsistencies stopping him from performing his best. In 2013, Roy Halladay called it quits, citing lingering back problems and a want to more family time. He may have retired as a Toronto Blue Jay, nevertheless he is one of the best players the Phillies have acquired in recent memory.
WINNER: I had a tough time deciding this one, and really feel that they shouldn’t be matchup up so soon. Howard and Halladay both had hall of fame potential careers as a Phillie, one on each side of the place. The gripe with Howard, though, is how much weight is put on the quick downfall he had? How much weight should be put on the championship? This one wasn’t as obvious to me. Literally flipping a coin, the winner was Ryan Howard, and I was slightly giving him the edge.
Next week, it’s down to eight. Who will remain?
Photo credit to Barbara Moore via Flickr