When July 31 rolls around, we may be facing a landmark day in Phillies history, for numerous reasons. Whether the Phillies planned it this way or not, Pat Burrell will also happen to be inducted into the team's Wall of Fame that night.
It's entirely possible that the celebration of one of the franchise's former stars may also coincide with a trade of Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley or Ryan Howard on that very day. So is it possible that the evening of July 31 just turns into one gigantic celebration of the past decade, planned or not? Sure, but we might just have to wait a while to make all of that official, as it is.
Burrell's entry into the Wall of Fame will be the first recognition of a player from the Phillies' successful last decade or so of baseball. (It's a second overall recognition if you're going to count Charlie Manuel's induction last season.)
Now, from here, a question emerges. What is the true future of the Phillies' Wall of Fame? It is an entity that in the last three years has inducted Manuel, Curt Schilling and Mike Lieberthal, will induct Burrell this year, and will face a lot of question marks in the next few years.
Outside of Burrell, the other options for the 2015 ballot, in alphabetical order, were: Larry Christenson, Jim Fregosi, Gene Garber, Tony Gonzalez, Jim Konstanty, Fred Luderus, Ron Reed, Mike Ryan, Pinky Whitney, Jimmy Wilson and Rick Wise.
It's not exactly a stacked ballot. Sure, all of those names have contributed something positive to this franchise at some point, but does any name strike you as Wall of Fame worthy? Not really.
From the Phillies' website, the eligibility requirements are as follows:
Players with five or more years of service are eligible. Managers and coaches need four or more years of service. All candidates must be retired for three years before they can be eligible for the 12-man ballot. In addition to a player's statistical record, consideration is given to longevity, ability, contributions to the Phillies and baseball, character, plus special achievements.
So, the Phillies sort of broke the rule with Manuel already last season, though I suppose he was long "retired" from baseball. Will they consider breaking the rules again just to continue inducting players each season?
Cooperstown certainly doesn't make it a requirement to induct everyone every year. Players do miss out, though I suppose Cooperstown's voting system is a tad different than the Phillies' Wall of Fame, which features an online voting option. (There's a joke in here somewhere that Cooperstown might benefit from that.)
Jokes aside, the Phillies shouldn't act like there's a need to induct someone every year. At this point, things are beginning to feel forced. Manuel's entry was obvious, but the rules seemed bent. Schilling deserved it, and was the right decision. Lieberthal was one of the best catchers this organization has had, but his name certainly didn't scream "obvious choice."
Burrell's entrance this year is refreshing. In many ways, it seems like an ode to sabermetrically-minded fans who stuck with him through the good and the bad. The choice makes sense: .852 career OPS with the Phillies, 251 career homers in Philadelphia, World Series winner in 2008. It's the first name from the Phillies' golden era to be recognized.
There will come a time for many of these other names already mentioned as potential trade bait at this 2015 trade deadline: Hamels, Ruiz, Utley, Howard. There will be a day for Shane Victorino. For Jimmy Rollins. Bobby Abreu will probably have the first crack at this, seeing that he is the only one of these guys who has actually retired, but we'll have to wait a few years for that. Scott Rolen's case is another story for another day.
For now, there is a great opportunity to celebrate Burrell in this first go at recognizing a recent Phillies star. What would be troubling to watch over the next few years would be a parade of Phillies personnel into a Wall of Fame that would become sullied by inducting them.
If that means suspending the vote for the next few years, it's something that should be done. Cancel the vote, have the typical alumni activities on a certain weekend during the season, and move on to the next year. At the very least, have some sort of threshold that should be reached to have an inductee.
As of now, it does not appear that any certain percentage or number has to be reached for entry. The Phillies' website simply says that the fan vote is part of the process that leads to "a special Wall of Fame Selection Committee that chooses... the inductee." Having a forced requirement that there is an inductee ever year is less important than getting the right people in there.
Burrell's induction will feel rewarding, and will bring back certain memories of years gone by. Depending on who still remains from that 2008 roster come July 31, we may look out on the field and see some of the names that will join Burrell some day.
But if the current practice continues, the Phillies have just about run the well dry. In the grand scheme of things, this type of stuff might not matter to many people, but I can assure you of one thing. You won't see me at Wayne Gomes Night.