Every now on then, I like to have fun on Twitter.
I was watching some Phillies highlights from the glory years the other day and stumbled across this outstanding Jayson Werth highlight.
In this ordinary May game against the Dodgers in 2009, Jayson Werth stole four bases, with three of them on one trip around the diamond, including a straight steal of home. That led me to thinking a lot about Werth and just how good he was while he was here.
The dude could hit bombs. He could steal bases. He was one of the most intelligent players on the field and played terrific defense. When we think of those great Phillies teams from 2007-11, we almost always first think about Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, and for good reason. But Werth was not only an integral part of those teams, it’s hard to imagine they would have won as many games as they did without him.
That thought process led me to proclaim this on Twitter.
Jayson Werth is the most underrated Phillie of all time.— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) April 1, 2020
What followed was an interesting conversation, with a number of followers coming up with other great possibilities. So just who is the most underrated Phillie in team history? Let’s check out the contenders.
Werth hit .282/.380/.506 in four seasons with the Phillies, smashing 24, 36 and 27 HRs in the three seasons in which he was a full-time starter. He led the NL with 46 doubles in 2010 and finished 8th in the MVP vote, he stole 20, 20 and 13 bases in those three seasons, and was worth 3.0, 3.7, 4.5 and 4.5 WAR in those four seasons.
Werth was also a postseason performer. You may not realize it, but his 11 postseason home runs, three of them in the 2008 and ‘09 World Series, in four playoff appearances are the most in team history. He was a superstar without the superstar label. It’s just a shame he couldn’t have been on the team for longer.
Werth’s teammate spent more time with the Phillies, parts of eight seasons in which he hit .279/.345/.439, won two Gold Gloves and made two All Star teams. From 2007-11 he put up the following WAR seasons: 3.3, 4.4, 3.7, 3.0 and 5.5.
Like Werth, Victorino was money in the playoffs and authored two of the biggest home runs in team history.
He also had the two-run single in the first inning of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series that gave the Phillies a quick 2-0 lead before the rains came and caused the suspension of the game.
In my mind, Victorino is appreciated more for his accomplishments that Werth is, which is why I didn’t have him ahead of Werth.
What about the guy Victorino replaced? Bobby Abreu is a borderline Hall of Famer who probably won’t be voted in by the BBWAA at any point, but could be a Veteran’s Committee inductee in a few years.
Abreu is a controversial figure in team history. He always put up gaudy stats — such as his .303/.416/.513 slash line in nine seasons with the team. He hit a league-best 50 doubles in 2002, went to two All Star teams in 2004-05, played the full 162 games twice, and smoked 195 homers during his time in Philadelphia.
Yet, people remember him more for getting traded in the middle of the 2006 season, only to watch the team improve after he left with Victorino taking his spot.
Look, Abreu was a great player, Shane was simply a better fit for that team. And yes, Bobby is criminally underrated by many in the fanbase, but there is also a substantial number of fans who appreciate Bobby fully.
It’s criminal that Bake McBride isn’t on the Phillies Wall of Fame yet. The former outfielder was an integral part of the 1980 team that won it all and, in five seasons, hit .292/.335/.435 with the Phils. He finished 10th in the MVP vote in 1980, and put up a 3.4 WAR season in ‘77, which was the highest of his career.
He didn’t hit for much power but had speed to burn and was an outstanding defensive player. His clutch home run in Game 1 of the ‘80 World Series against the Royals, after the Phils had fallen behind 4-0 early, was the key to them getting off the mat and winning that game and their first ever world championship after 96 years of waiting.
I don’t think Phillies fans underrate Dick Allen as much anymore as virtually all fans of the team believe he should be in the Hall of Fame. He was a three-time All Star with the Phils and from 1963-69 he hit .300/.380/.554, with a 40 homer season and two 30+ homer seasons in there too. The people that have underrated Dick Allen are the baseball writers.
Allen was not a good defensive player and he struck out a lot, but he also had tremendous power and would be far more appreciated in today’s game than he was back in the 1960s. Here he is hitting a solo homer in the 1967 All Star Game as a Phillie. My goodness, that power.
Hayes was never able to live down the five-for-one trade that brought him to Philadelphia. He had only one All-Star season with the team and in nine years hit .272/.363/.427. Those are really nice numbers for a leadoff hitter, but unfortunately, Hayes didn’t bat leadoff very often. Instead, he was miscast as a middle-of-the-lineup guy, even though he only crossed the 20 homer threshold twice.
Hayes did author one of my favorite Phillies moments ever as a kid, when in a 1985 game against the Mets, hit a solo homer to lead off the game and then this grand slam later in the Phils’ 26-7 drubbing of New York.
If there is any player on this list who one could argue is more underrated than Werth, it’s Johnny Callison. And after going through the numbers, I think Callison may actually be more underrated.
Callison was a three-time All Star with the Phils, was the MVP runner-up in their ill-fated 1964 season when he hit .274/.316/.492 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs. He led the league in triples twice and, during his time with Philadelphia, had three separate six-win seasons and an eight-win season as well.
Callison also hit one of the biggest home runs in All Star Game history, back during a time when the mid-summer classic meant something.
And yet when we think of the greatest players in team history, Callison’s name rarely comes up.
At the end of the day, this is a subjective list, but a fun one to argue about. So, who do you think was the most underrated Phillie in team history?
Who is the most underrated Phillie in team history?
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On Episode 370 of Hittin’ Season, I discussed this and spoke with Brad Balukjian about his outstanding new book The Wax Pack, which you can get at waxpackbook.com. Also, 11 essential Phils classics that every fan should see.