May 10, 2017
Within the span of 72 hours for the Phillies, one former hero was celebrated, another was vilified, and a third may have come to the realization that his career is coming to a close.
Carlos Ruiz returned to Philadelphia on Tuesday. A day earlier, Ryan Howard was released from his minor league contract by the Atlanta Braves. Two days earlier, on Sunday afternoon, Jayson Werth homered twice and had a field day with Phillies pitching at Citizens Bank Park (and received his always-warm reception from the Philadelphia faithful, too).
The confluence of three former Phillies making news this week got us thinking.
The 2017 season marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the greatest era in team history. A Phillies' core that included Ruiz, Howard and Werth won the first of five consecutive National League East division titles in 2007.
During that five-year run, a Who’s Who of some of the greatest players to put on red pinstripes called Citizens Bank Park home. The greatest shortstop in team history, the greatest second baseman, the greatest homegrown left-hander, and so on and so on.
But how would you construct a 25-man roster of the best players during that five-year run? Some choices are obviously pretty easy. Others, not so much.
I figured I’d give it a try. And remember, this is one man’s opinion. Feel free to disagree.
One note: to qualify for this 25-man roster, a player simply had to be playing during the 2007-11 era, so someone like Aaron Rowand (who played for the 2007 team) qualifies while Jonathan Papelbon (who arrived in 2012) does not.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Jayson Werth, RF
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Pat Burrell, LF
Shane Victorino, CF
Placido Polanco, 3B
Carlos Ruiz, C
Most of this was really easy, but I made a last-minute change here after looking into the numbers. Perhaps due to recency bias, it felt like Pat Burrell wasn't the best choice for left field.
Although he never lived up the billing of a No.1 overall pick (he never made an All-Star team) Burrell slashed .253/.383/.505 with 63 home runs in 312 games in 2007-08. Those numbers are better than Raul Ibanez’s first two seasons with the Phillies: .273/.348/.495 with 50 home runs. Ibanez’s final season with the Phillies (in 2011) just wasn’t very good.
Raul Ibanez, OF
Pedro Feliz, INF
Brian Schneider, C
Matt Stairs, OF/1B
Aaron Rowand, OF
The last-minute decision to flip Burrell in for Ibanez affected the composition of the bench. And while I could have simply flooded this bench with more starters/former All-Stars, I did want it to have a bit of a bench-feel (you know, guys who were actually reserves with the Phillies or at least at some point in their respective careers).
Ibanez is an easy choice since someone on the bench has to be a designated hitter for a World Series game in an American League ballpark. Slot Ibanez into that starting eight listed above and that’s a pretty prolific starting nine.
This bench clearly lacks a true utility infielder, but Pedro Feliz was a stalwart at third base and makes the roster for his glove work, which would be good enough to play shortstop in a pinch (if Rollins went down with an injury, I could call up Wilson Valdez from the Triple-A version of the all-time the 2007-11 team). Perhaps that’s cheating, but this is my roster. Back off!
You probably can’t go wrong with any backup catcher choice, but I opted for the best receiver among the bunch in Schneider. As for the last two spots, Stairs was an easy choice as baseball’s all-time leader in pinch-hit home runs (and this home run isn’t even included in that total). Stairs edged out Greg Dobbs because of that power.
With Burrell in the lineup, I needed another right-handed hitter on the bench. Rowand edges out Hunter Pence. Their respective numbers in 2007 (for Rowand) and 2011-12 (for Pence) were pretty similar, but Rowand gets the nod for defense, namely, the ability to play Gold Glove-caliber center field.
As with the composition of the starting lineup, this felt too easy. The first three names are obvious – remember when they all finished in the top 5 of the Cy Young Award voting in 2011? The last two perhaps weren’t as obvious, but, is there really a valid argument for someone else?
Pedro Martinez was only with the Phillies for a half season. But he pitched in the 2009 World Series. And he’s a Hall of Famer. There’s no way you leave a Hall of Fame off this roster.
It’s easy to forget how good Roy Oswalt was because his best run came when Roy Halladay, the best pitcher on the planet in 2010, was in the same rotation. But Oswalt went 7-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 12 starts after being acquired before the trade deadline (and had a 2.96 ERA overall in 36 games with the Phillies). He gets the edge over J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers, and Joe Blanton.
This wasn’t easy.
First, I cheated some by putting Happ in this group, as he could have just as easily been in the rotation. Happ (who was voted the Most Valuable Pitcher of the 2009 Phillies by the Philadelphia chapter of the BBWAA) went 14-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 47 games (31 starts) in Philadelphia. He can be the long man in this bullpen.
Madson, Romero, and Lidge are pretty obvious picks. The first two weren’t just critical pieces of the World Series teams but also were hugely important cogs in 2007, when the pitching staff was mostly a complete mess. What Lidge did in ’08 alone is enough to make this roster.The last three? I went Bastardo over Scott Eyre simply because the younger guy has the bigger arm (a 10.3 strikeout rate as Phillie, better than Eyre’s 8.1) even if the rest of their numbers are very similar. Similarly, Contreras in 2010-11 was better than fellow right-handers Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin in their respective Phillies’ careers. Myers was another last-minute edition, edging out the same two guys, simply because he had the closer experience, particularly as a closer in a pennant race.
Ok, so who did I omit? Let me know on Twitter.
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