Most people’s lives are like the history of the Philadelphia Phillies. Not all. Some lives are choked with triumph, I guess, and I guess other lives may seem to be so loaded with dramatic, wrenching failure as to be cursed. But if we are lucky enough to live a long life it’ll probably seem to most of us at the end as if there were long decades that went by without much happening at all beyond a slow, unstoppable accrual of losses. Who the hell were we all those years?
And on that note, I present for your perusal and discussion the ballot for the Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Franchise All-Stars. As with the last time I presented this derivative feature (for the real deal, see Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups), I’ll leave the ballot blank, in hopes of encouraging everyone to take a stab at filling out a lineup card.
Before checking out the Phillies’ all-time pitching and hitting leaders at baseball-reference.com, try coming up with a list off the top of your head. That’s what I did, and it’s what made me realize I know far less about most of Phillies history than I know about any other major league team. I can name a couple guys from the 1915 pennant winners (Pete Alexander, Granny Hamner [author update: as pointed out in the comments below, Granny Hamner, despite his old timey name, somehow escaped existing in the deadball era and was instead a member of the 1950 Whiz Kids]) and a couple guys from the 1950 pennant winners (Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts) and a couple guys from the 1964 team that collapsed in the pennant race (Johnny Callison, Richie Allen) and the rest of my knowledge about the Phillies is restricted to the team’s 1976–1980 golden age during my baseball-obsessed childhood, along with some vague recollections of players that came afterward, mostly those now suspiciously misshapen uglies from the 1993 pennant-winning team.
With the above thoughts about the vagaries of Phillies history in mind, Mike Schmidt stands out more than any other player would in a consideration of an all-time franchise all-star team. Interestingly enough, however, he may not have been considered the best third baseman in franchise history until he’d been around for a while. First he had to surpass the feats of his 1974 home run leader counterpart, Dick (aka Richie) Allen, who while playing third base for the Phillies mangled National League pitching for several years during the very difficult hitter’s era of the 1960s. Apparently Allen was not a good fielder, however, while Schmidt was the best in his league for many years, and anyway Schmidt stuck around long enough to lead the Phillies to their only World Series victory and to pass Allen, and everyone, on most of the Phillies career record lists. (But the ever-underrated Allen does hold a lead over Schmidt in adjusted OPS+ in games played with the Phillies, 153 to 147.)
The current edition of the Phillies, who took a 1–0 lead in the 2008 World Series last night, seem almost certain to fill out the other infield spots beside Schmidt on the franchise all-time all-star team before they’re done. Do they already deserve to be placed on the team? (Bonus infielder trivia: which now-retired Phillies shortstop once finished third in the MVP voting despite a .689 OPS?) And who’s your Phillies catcher? (Bonus catcher trivia: which two Phillies catchers represented the team the most times at the all-star game?) And which Phillies rightfielder (the one with the gun for an arm or the one who in some ways epitomized the hitters era of the early 1930s) ranks higher in Bill James’ rankings? And, most of all, is there a place for the Bull and Nails and One Nut?