Which 2008 Phillies should make the team's Wall of Fame?
The induction of former Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal into the Phillies Wall of Fame this weekend raised some eyebrows among the Phillies fan base. After all, when you’re included in an elite group featuring the likes of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, and others, it’s a tough act to follow. While his enshrinement has been questionable to some, no catcher in Phillies’ history has more hits, home runs, or games caught than Lieberthal (including Bob Boone, who is third all-time in games caught in major league history!) Lieberthal was a more consistent catcher than Darren Daulton throughout his career, and spent more time in a Phillies uniform than John Kruk and Juan Samuel.
So why the mixed reaction in regards to Lieberthal’s induction? There are several, but I’ll just discuss a few right now. Perhaps more than any Phillie in the club’s long history, Lieberthal bridged the gap between the most popular Phillies team ever (making his debut in 1994 right year after the Phillies’ memorable 1993 World Series run) and arguably the best era in team history (ending his Phillies career in 2006).
That’s a tough spot to be in, considering some of those late 90’s teams were horrid at best, and while Lieberthal’s career numbers are a shade better than Daulton’s and his 13 years of team service might be longer than Kruk and Samuel’s, he was one of the faces on those frustrating Phillies teams who always just missed the playoffs after the 90’s ended and they became respectable. Also keep in mind that Daulton, Kruk and Samuel are beloved figures in this town who also played on Phillies World Series teams. (Daulton and Kruk on the ‘93 squad, and Samuel as a bench player on the ‘83 NL Champs who lost the World Series to Baltimore).
And speaking of World Series teams, three of Lieberthal’s former Phillies teammates and members of the 2008 World Championship team, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, also made an appearance during the ceremony Friday night. Their cameos during Lieberthal’s induction actually got me thinking: If a player like Lieberthal, who never played in the postseason but had longevity and respectable numbers, is a Phillies Wall of Famer, then what players on the ‘08 squad (who also possess both of the aforementioned attributes) should get the call to the wall?
Don’t worry. We’re not going through the whole team. I’ll toss around the shoe ins as well as some who might be on the bubble. Here they are:
The shoe ins
Ryan Howard- The best first baseman in team history, and his career isn’t over yet. A no-brainer when all is said and done, no matter what he does from this point.
Chase Utley- Although we’ve seen the best of what he has to offer, Utley is the best second baseman in team history, eclipsing Samuel in every offensive category for his Phillies career. Another no-brainer.
Jimmy Rollins- I’m a big Larry Bowa fan, but Bowa will probably tell you himself that Rollins is the Phillies’ best-ever shortstop (although not by much). With first-year manager Bowa showing Rollins the ropes in his rookie season of 2001, the two helped establish the mindset that losing would no longer be tolerated on the Philadelphia Phillies. And although Bowa’s passion cost him his job in 2004, Rollins took what he learned from him, declared the Phillies the “Team to Beat” in 2007, won an MVP award, went to two All-Star games, won a Silver Slugger Award, three Gold Gloves, and became just the second shortstop in Phillies history to raise a World Series trophy in 2008.
What is understood needn’t be discussed.
Cole Hamels- Regardless of whether he left via agency or not after 2012, I still think Hamels would have made the wall. Nonetheless, he’s here to stay, and at 28 years of age, Hamels (knock on wood) will now be able to further build his legacy in Phillies pinstripes. You could probably compare Hamels’ numbers to Wall of Famers Chris Short and Curt Simmons at this stage of his career. One thing Short did that Hamels hasn’t yet was win twenty-games (and came close again with 19 victories). However, neither Short (Phillies 1964 collapse) or Simmons (military service in 1950) pitched in the postseason during their Phillies career. On the flip side, Hamels’ 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP make him an automatic, and his career is most likely far from over.
On the bubble (or are they?):
Pat Burrell- Some people right now are probably calling me crazy. No, he wasn’t Mike Schmidt, and he didn’t have the career many projected him to have, but Burrell was an integral part of the Phillies ascension to from playoff contenders to eventual World Series Champions. Only three players in the history of the franchise (Schmidt, Ryan Howard, Del Ennis) have hit more home runs than Burrell. Two of the three (minus Howard) have a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame, as do the rest of the top eight home run hitters of the franchise (Chuck Klein, Greg Luzinski, Cy Williams, Dick Allen). To be fair, these were better all-around players than Burrell, but none of them rode out of town with a bulldog and some Clydesdales. Here’s another interesting note: if you induct Burrell, what do you do with Bobby Abreu?
Shane Victorino- It hasn’t even been seven years since Victorino played his first game for the Phillies, but his rise from questionable bench player to one of the game’s best center fielders during his time in Phillies pinstripes shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Flyin’ Hawaiian didn’t have the Hall of Fame pedigree of Richie Ashburn, the gracefulness of Garry Maddox, or the stolen bases of Billy Hamilton or Sherry Magee, but he had a flair for the dramatic. Victorino’s saving grace might be the postseason- where he had a bevy of clutch hits for the Phightins, while establishing several Phillies playoff records in his five appearances from 2007 to 2011. Two All-Star showings and three Gold Gloves don’t hurt either. This is a tough one.
Carlos Ruiz- There is an interesting dynamic here in regards to Phillies’ catchers who are currently on the Wall. You have Darren Daulton, who had two-three very solid seasons with the club mixed with some less than spectacular ones, there’s Mike Lieberthal, who has the best all-around numbers, and then there’s Bob Boone- who you would most likely compare Chooch to over Daulton or Lieberthal.
Ruiz, much like Boone, were unsung heroes on some of the best Phillies teams in club history. Ruiz and Boone delivered key hits down the stretch in the playoffs for their teams while staying rock-solid behind the plate. Moreover, both are the only catchers to ever greet a Phillies pitcher on the mound after a World Series-ending strikeout. Like Ruiz (except for his 2012 season), Boone wasn’t exceptional offensively, but was respected immensely by his pitching staff. As far as overall numbers are concerned, Chooch’s stats will most likely resemble Boone’s out of the other Wall of Fame catchers when his Phillies career ends. We’ll revisit this down the road.
Ryan Madson- It’s not the first name that jumps out at you, but Madson was the backbone of a Phillies bullpen that played a tremendous part in the team’s run of five consecutive NL east division titles from 2007 to 2011. Part of the “Bridge to Lidge” in 2008, Madson really came into his own, occasionally registering triple digits on the radar gun while developing one of the nastiest changeups we’ve seen in years.
While mostly used as a middle-inning/setup man for the majority of his eight seasons (he pitched just one game in 2003), Madson also turned into a respectable closer after taking over for an injured Brad Lidge in 2011. He holds the Phillies all-time record for most relief appearances (473) and trails only Robin Roberts (529) and Steve Carlton (499) in total games (491) pitched in a Phillies uniform. The only reason Madson might not make the wall is because you won’t find many middle relievers there. However, his longevity combined with his numbers and vital role on those Phillies teams may push him in.
Brad Lidge- If you want my opinion, Lidge should be on the wall for 2008 alone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, or Jim Konstanty would be a Phillies Wall of Famer for his MVP season in 1950. Nonetheless, Lidge’s body of work over the course of four seasons with the Phillies saw him save 100 games- good for fourth all-time in club history.
If Lidge remained healthy throughout his Phillies career, he would have surpassed Jose Mesa’s franchise saves record of 112. He trails Mitch Williams by just two saves (third with 102) and Steve Bedrosian (second with 103) by three. Simply put, if Lidge doesn’t go 48 for 48 in save opportunities in 2008, the Phillies don’t win the division let alone a World Series. His 3-11 record combined with health issues and inconsistencies might gather some detractors, but despite these drawbacks, how can you not put Brad Lidge on that wall?
What do you think?
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Contact Joe Vallee at firstname.lastname@example.org