Our friend Dave Shaw (@UKPhillies) recently posted a question that sparked some conversation within The Good Phight, and now we’d like to hear your opinions.
If you could choose ANY TWO former Phillies players (at their prime) to play for the Phils this year, who would they be? pic.twitter.com/OmKnxvDAqg— UK Phillies (@UKPhillies) January 25, 2023
The Good Phight group was unanimous on the first choice: Mike Schmidt
It’s a no-brainer. Not only is Schmidt one of the greatest Phillies of all time, he’s also one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen. It’s hard to even pin down his single best individual season, he was so good for so long. His accolades include 12 All Star appearances, 3 NL MVP awards (9 times top-10 in MVP voting), 10 Gold Gloves, and 6 Silver Sluggers. He was the NL home run leader 8 times and the NL RBI leader 4 times. In 1999 he was named to MLB’s All-Century Team, and in 1997 he was named to MLB’s All-Time Team. He holds franchise records in homers (548), RBI (1595), and walks (1507), and is second all-time in hits (2234). The choice to add him at his prime to this current roster is almost too easy.
The second choice was near-unanimous: Steve Carlton
Even in their worst seasons, the Phillies knew that every fifth game they had a chance to win because Steve Carlton was on the mound. In 1972, the Phillies won just 59 games. Carlton won 27 of them. He won 20+ games six times in his career (five with the Phillies), and won 4 Cy Young Awards, 1 Gold Glove, and a Triple Crown (1972). He was an All Star 10 times in his 24-year career, and finished in the top-15 in MVP voting six times.
With two obvious answers, the question morphed into this: If you remove Schmidt and Carlton from the discussion, who would you pick? Here are some of the top potential answers:
With 2 Cy Young Awards and 8 All-Star appearances, if Carlton is out of the picture, Halladay is clearly one of the best pitchers in franchise history, especially in his prime. Excluding his two CYA seasons, he also finished in the top 5 of voting an additional 5 seasons. From 2007 to 2011, he threw a total of 42 complete games, establishing himself as the era-standard for durability, consistency, and excellence.
Utley is the best second baseman in Phillies history, and at his prime he was arguably the best second baseman of his time. From 2005 to 2009, he put up 5 consecutive years of 7+ WAR, including 9.0 and 8.2 WAR in 2008 and 2009, respectively. He’s a 6-time All Star, and 4-time Silver Slugger winner.
Like Utley, Rollins is the best player in franchise history at his position. (At least, he’s top two.) Rollins would add multiple top-level threats between his glove, his bat, and his speed on the base paths. Not to mention, his “team to beat” statement, followed up by his MVP-winning 2007 season, was the spark that ignited one of the greatest eras in franchise history. Adding that spark to a team that’s already the reigning NL Champions is bound to ignite another flame.
In 2006, Ryan Howard set a franchise single-season home run record with 58. He finished in the top 5 in MVP voting for 4 consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2009, winning it in 2006. His prime (2005-2010) also consisted of three All Star selections, the 2005 Rookie of the Year award, and 251 homers.
It’s hard to look past any Hall of Fame pitcher, but especially when he played his best years in a Phillies uniform. Roberts was a 7-time All Star, 4-time MLB wins leader, and 2-time MLB strikeout leader. He finished in the top-25 in MVP voting for seven consecutive seasons between 1950 and 1956, including five top-10 finishes. In that same timeframe, he won 20+ games six times, including an astounding 28-7 record in 1952.
Other players who could be considered include: Dick Allen, Cliff Lee, Jim Bunning, Cole Hamels, Larry Bowa, Ed Delahanty, Jim Thome, Brad Lidge, Garry Maddox, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Richie Ashburn, Chuck Klein, John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Bob Boone, and Scott Rolen.
Part of the decision-making comes down to strategy. Do you choose the two best players available, regardless of position? Or do you look to improve the most where the current Phillies roster is weakest?
Rollins and Utley are without a doubt the most iconic middle-infield duo in Phillies history, and adding either (or both) of them would instantly improve the defense and shore up the top of the batting order. Lidge’s perfect 2008 season would solve any debate over the closer role. Prime Howard or Thome would probably hit 60+ homers as a DH, and would be especially dangerous considering the new ban on the shift. Any two of Halladay, Roberts, Hamels, or Lee added into a rotation that already has Wheeler and Nola would without a doubt give the Phillies one of the best rotations in baseball.
But while that’s probably the best group of players from the options, none of them solve the major defensive weakness in the outfield. For that, you’d have to add someone like Maddox, Victorino, or Werth.
Which is the more influential choice: Adding a Hall of Fame player like Halladay, Roberts or Rolen, or replacing Nick Castellanos with The Secretary of Defense?
With that in mind, now we want to know who you would you add to the current roster and why.