There are eight remaining in the bracket of best Phillies players of all time, and today, we look to narrow down to the Final Four. Will anyone pull the upset as real life South Carolina has? Or, will the mainstays pull through like North Carolina?
1 Mike Schmidt vs 8 Pete Rose
Mike Schmidt was a pitcher’s worst nightmare during his glory days due to the pure pop in his bat. For all the accolades he’s acquired, Schmidt has been rewarded with a hero’s welcome, continuing to show his involvement and commitment to the Phillies organization that gave him the chance, giving back with “Sunday’s with Schmidt” in the broadcast booth. He is surely a once in a lifetime player, and very well could be the face of the franchise, even today.
As the active hits king, Pete Rose is undoubtedly on other lists than this that recognize the greatest players of the game. Rose was simply a student of the game, continually working to improve his already reliable swing during his four-year tenure in red pinstripes. It’s unfortunate Commissioner Rob Manfred won’t lift his ban from involvement in MLB, because he’d surely be in the hall and potentially one heck of a hitting coach.
After all is said and done, Mike Schmidt once again reigns supreme. You don’t need to have seen Mike play to understand his unwieldly talent, it’s all in the record books. Rose had a nice run to this point, but his jaded past, and short span as a Phillie make this a relatively easy decision.
4 Jimmy Rollins vs 5 Chase Utley
J-Roll has earned the city’s love as a competitor, fighter, winner, and champion. No shortstop in Phillies history compares to what Rollins has been able to do in his Phillies career. In an era where Derek Jeter receives all the praise for his talent, us Phillies recognize Rollins as just the same. He is leaving a lasting legacy that includes a long string of records, most notably as the hits leader for the club, surpassing the great Mike Schmidt. Being in the same company as Schmidt has got to warrant a consideration for the top player. Alas, the haters will say he is famous for swinging and popping up in key situations, but that is the nature of the game. Not everything goes your way. #11 should go to sit on Ashburn Alley sooner than later.
Wearing a black beanie and shades, Chase Utley once dropped an f-bomb on live television during the celebration tour of the 2008 World Series ring he had won days before. From then on, he became a household name in sports whom women and men alike admired. One shining moment came in 2009, when Utley’s shot off the center field wall at Citizen’s Bank Park resulted in an inside-the-park home run, showing his speed on the base paths. Utley always gave 110%, getting it done all over. Rollins and Utley were defensive mates up the middle for 11 years, topping off their careers with some of the best years in Phillies history, and his numbers show for that. Hall of Famer or not, Utley’s 26 should, like Rollins’ 11, never be worn again. They’ve earned that honor.
I’d like to call this a tie and move forward, but as they say, the show must go on. It’s tough to single either Rollins or Utley out as the “better” player, as each has made valuable and lasting contributions to the club. Reluctantly, and probably a little bit because of my own feelings, Jimmy Rollins will move on. Utley has done a lot very well, but Rollins has done a lot extremely well. You can’t overlook the record books when all is set. I can understand your arguments for Utley though, as this easily could be his.
2 Steve Carlton vs 7 Larry Bowa
Carlton is almost synonymous with Mike Schmidt in Philadelphia, not only because they were teammates; that’s just how good he was in a Phillies uniform. In a time before the Phillie Phanatic was around, Carlton was the most recognizable figure in the City of Brotherly Love. Steve Carlton’s pitching numbers are not an anomaly, he stymied hitters game after game, producing against some of the game’s best hitters. Cy Young would be proud of “lefty.” He did, after all, win his only four Cy Young awards as a member of the Phils.
Larry Bowa’s claim to fame is the defense he played, robbing opposing batters of hits through the middle. Batting statistics weren’t spectacular, other than reliable. Not to say he wasn’t a good hitter, just that he was more about getting on base than speed or power. His ability to simply get on base was crucial to the Phillies lineup, which at the time consisted of Schmidt and Rose, both more than capable of driving in runs.
Carlton and Bowa were both teammates on the 1980’s team that brought home a championship. Each were both largely rooted in Philadelphia, playing their best baseball with the Phillies. They were both worthy of the designation, but one thing separates them: their position. Through history, there are fewer world class pitchers than world class hitters, and Carlton is in that category, giving him the victory over Bowa. Lefty and Bowa complemented one another, and the arm won over.
3 Richie Ashburn vs 6 Ryan Howard
Richie Ashburn played ball back when the uniforms were made of wool, and consisted of basic typefaces because they couldn’t stitch complicated fonts. Nevertheless, Ashburn represented the letters he put on very well, spearheading the “Whiz Kids” movement to the postseason. The game was different, with more players hitting for high averages than power. The game has evolved, meaning his .309 average and 2,500 hits are difficult to compare to. In franchise history, Ashburn stands out as one of the initial superstars for the boys in red, lifting them to prominence.
The Big Piece was having a career to remember, until his steep decline the past five or so years. Still, Howard is the quickest player to 200 home runs, a feat that takes poise, consistency, and talent. Ryan’s prime came right when the Phillies needed him, lifting the Phillies to dynasty status with a core built from the draft. In the age where power can determine a player’s success, Howard excelled. The team, fan base and organization recognized his excellence with a final sendoff ceremony at season’s end last year. He’s paved the standard for Tommy Joseph and future first basemen in the organization to follow, leaving as a role model.
When it comes to selecting the best overall player in history, one has to consider all things, including the generation in which the player played. Richie Ashburn was a good player, but I can’t say he’d be argued as one of the greatest if he played in today’s era where elite hitters mix in power with their contact rate. Howard may not have left playing his best baseball; however, he was one of the kids who blossomed into a star through the Phillies minor league system, putting up solid numbers to back it up in an age where ace pitching was booming. Ryan Howard gets the vote here.
Now that the Final Four is set, we can crown the winner of the Phillies March Madness bracket. For this set, we’ll get right into it, because I’m sure you’ve read enough about each player’s personal accolades to this point.
Before declaring a winner, it should be noted that every player has a case for the best player in franchise history, and the selected “winner” is merely one view, not representative of every person.
1 Mike Schmidt vs 4 Jimmy Rollins
Mike Schmidt. Jimmy Rollins. You know these names very well, exemplifying the epitome of stardom in the Philadelphia organization.
Each can be debated as the best in their respective eras, and represent past and present today. Schmidt is tough to beat as the best ever, but Rollins has a case. If there’s anyone that’s in the same conversation as Schmidt, it’s J-Roll, who has claimed spots in the record books alongside him. Rollins overtook Schmidt as the sole leader in hits with 2,306, acknowledging his presence during his tenure. He was always a favorite to the fans, appreciated for his happy-go-lucky attitude, never settling for less than the best. Schmidt was just one of those players that comes around once in a decade, and that can’t be overlooked.
All that said- I can’t go with Jimmy Rollins over Mike Schmidt, no matter how much my heart says so. Schmidt will move into the championship match.
2 Steve Carlton vs 6 Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard was at one time regarded as the most feared first baseman, then he took a slide. Injuries began to ravage his numbers, his bat began slowing, but his power was still there. He became an all-or-nothing batter, and eventually, Tommy Joseph caught him, taking over as the starter. Let’s not forget Howard had a heck of a run as the best though, peaking at the right times during the dynasty’s run. Moreover, Steve Carlton was consistently an ace, notching 241 victories and 3,031 strikeouts in 499 starts, both being club records.
A hitter versus a pitcher, the stats are made on opposite sides of the plate, but one had a much better career stretch than the other. One was dominant, the other unfortunately fell victim to Father Time. If I’m being honest, this one is fairly easy for me- Steve Carlton will face his teammate in the finals.
1 Mike Schmidt vs 2 Steve Carlton
I’ve done enough of the writing, reading, and decision making, so now it’s up to you to decide. Vote on the Twitter poll to decide who is the best player in Philadelphia Phillies history.
Phillies fans across the nation appreciate the contributions from all these players, and those not. It’s not all about numbers, rather talent, teamwork, good baseball, and fan appreciation.
NOTE: Opinions may differ for all of you, myself included, and this was meant to be a fun look at the top rated players in history.
Photo by Wally Gobetz via Flickr