April 13, 2017
In four months, the Phillies will bestow the franchise’s highest honor on baseball’s all-time hit king.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Pete Rose will be enshrined into to the Phillies Wall of Fame on August 12, as part of alumni weekend. Rose, who turns 76 on Friday, remains on baseball’s ineligible list for betting on baseball but is allowed to be honored by individual teams (he was enshrined into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame last season).
“I am very honored to be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame,” Rose said in a press release. “My baseball years in Philadelphia were amazing, not just because we won it all in 1980 and came close in 1983, but also because the fans welcomed me from day one.”
On August 11, fans that attend the first game of the series against the New York Mets will receive a Pete Rose Bobblehead figurine. Neat.
Judging from the very scientific data that is my Facebook likes from older members of my friends and family, the hit king’s induction into the Phillies Wall of Fame should be a … hit.
UPDATE FOUR MONTHS LATER: None of that is now happening, following Rose's latest ... transgressions ... and alumni weekend figures to be a somber one with the passing of three Wall of Famers in the last six months, Darren Daulton, Dallas Green, and Jim Bunning. On Saturday night, notable Wall of Famers (Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Jim Thome, Charlie Manuel) will take the field and a video, in memoriam tribute will play on Phanavision for the fallen former Phils.
But who is headed to the Phillies Wall of Fame next year, in August of 2018? And what about all of those 2008 guys, who gets a plaque out there in Ashburn Alley first, and when? It’s going to get awful crowded out there soon.
Here’s an educated guess of what’s to come in the next four years (emphasis on guess, as the Phillies control these things and it’s uncertain when players will be added to the official ballot):
Is it possible the Phillies would enshrine two players on one night? Why not (more on this later) and, really, you could separate them over two nights since it is alumni weekend and not alumni night (although the logistics of doing it on consecutive nights could be tough).
Here’s what we do know: although neither one of these guys were fan favorites (although they surely have plenty of fans throughout the Delaware Valley, if that makes sense) they are both obvious Phillies Wall of Famers. It wasn’t their fault they played in the era just before the greatest era in Phillies history, that their teammates weren’t Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, etc.
Rolen, who was on the Wall of Fame ballot this year, slashed .282/.373/.504, won four Gold Gloves, a National League Rookie of the Year trophy, and appeared in one All-Star Game in parts of seven seasons with the Phillies. In his five full seasons in a Phillies uniform, Rolen averaged 26 home runs and 95 RBI (while hitting in a lineup with the likes of Gregg Jefferies, Rico Brogna and Desi Relaford). According to baseball-reference.com, Rolen had a 32 WAR from 1996 to 2002 (seven seasons). For a frame of reference, recent Phillies Wall of Fame inductees John Kruk had a 17.9 WAR from 1989-1994 (six seasons) and Pat Burrell had a 16.7 WAR from 2000-08 (nine seasons).
Abreu, who will be Wall of Fame eligible for the first time in 2018, is one of the more obvious first-ballot Phillies Wall of Famers in recent memory. Yes, there is a large segment of fans baffled that he once won a Gold Glove since he ironically, wasn’t always a great defender at the Veterans Stadium right field wall. But that’s a silly thing, mostly. When you’re talking about Abreu in a Phillies uniform, you should probably be talking about this: he ranks second behind only Chuck Klein in team history with a .928 OPS. Abreu was known for being an on-base guy (his .416 OBP ranks fourth in club history) but he also had a .513 slugging percentage with the Phillies, which stacks up nicely with a trio of Phillies’ greats: Ryan Howard, .515; Rolen, .485; Chase Utley, .481. Abreu played in two more All-Star games than Burrell (zero All-Star appearances).
OK, this is where it gets tricky. There’s a certain two-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher who is also Wall of Fame eligible. Roy Halladay, in fact, should have probably been on the Phillies Wall of Fame ballot this year, as he was eligible according to the club rules (at least four years with the team, retired for three years). So we’re really making Halladay wait two years, eh? Well, they can just forget to put him on the ballot again if they want (again, they can do whatever they want with this thing).
Among the core of the 2008 World Champion Phillies, Victorino is the only one that holds the following distinction: he did not play in a major league game in 2016. Translation: according to those same club rules, he’s eligible to go onto the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2019 as long as he doesn’t return to a big league field this season. That’s unlikely to happen since he wasn’t with any team this spring (unlike, say, Jimmy Rollins, whose current earliest year of WOF eligibility would be 2020).
It’s possible my brain is misremembering this, but I’m fairly certain I had a conversation with someone at the ballpark once where they casually brushed away the idea of Shane Victorino as a Phillies Wall of Famer. Sure, he was never the best player on the team (although he did have the highest WAR among offensive Phillies players in 2011 when the team won a franchise-record 102 games).
But Victorino undoubtedly is a Wall of Famer; he had a better Phillies career than at least three Wall of Famers off the top of my head (and probably a few others, too): Burrell, Kruk, and Juan Samuel. Victorino had a 24.6 WAR from 2005 to 2012 (easily higher than all three of those players). He won three Gold Gloves in a Phillies uniform, played in two All-Star games, and obviously played an instrumental role in the 2008 postseason (yes the grand slam off CC Sabathia, but also the home run in Dodger Stadium that tied the game before Matt Stairs’ more memorable blast).
Special Bonus Extra Content: Those are four fancy words for "I forgot to write this in this space earlier." Victorino also compares favorably to the center fielder for the only other world championship team in Phillies history, Wall of Famer Garry Maddox. Maddox played four more years with the Phillies (12 to 8) than Victorino and won six more Gold Gloves than the Flyin' Hawaiian, but the '08 center fielder gets the edge in most offensive stats. Maddox slashed .284/.320/.409 with a 99 OPS+ in a Phillies uniform while Victorino slashed .279/.345/.439 with a 105 OPS+ while also hitting three more home runs with just 10 fewer stolen bases despite playing 341 fewer games in a Phillies uniform than Maddox, who also never appeared in an All-Star Game (like Burrell).
Again, this is tricky mostly because Halladay will probably be going into Cooperstown one of these summers, too. And if Rose wasn’t on the ballot this year, Halladay would have been the obvious Phillies Wall of Fame inductee this year. (Again, he was eligible but not on the ballot.)
Halladay is eligible for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. It would look weird if he was already in the Hall of Fame but not on the Wall of Fame, right? (Speaking of which, Hall of Famer Pat Gillick will probably have to get onto the Wall of Fame one of these years too, right?). Perhaps Halladay is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and gets into Cooperstown in 2019. He’d obviously be busy enough with the HOF tour requirements of that summer that getting him into Philly for a weekend could be a tough ask. So wait a year. (They’ve already waited on putting him on the ballot).
Halladay’s credentials are obvious. Sure, you can take the glass-is-half-empty viewpoint that the final two of his four years in Philadelphia were injury-plagued and pretty terrible. But those first two years? Halladay went 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, 17 complete games, five shutouts… oh and the Cy Young Award, a postseason no-hitter (one of only two in MLB history), and a perfect game.
We’re holding out hope that Rollins still finds a landing spot in the coming weeks, otherwise he would be first eligible for the Wall of Fame in 2020, and he is obviously getting a plaque out in Ashburn Alley as soon as the process allows as the franchise’s all-time hit king, a former National League MVP, the distinction of being the greatest shortstop in franchise history, and so on and so on.
It looked like Rollins’ career was over last June when he was released by the Chicago White Sox. But he did go to spring training with the San Francisco Giants this year and was among the final cuts in camp. It could very well be over for him, but that would just complicate putting this list together even further, so somebody, anybody, sign Rollins to come off your bench, please. If not, just edit this quickly and make 2020 Victorino and Rollins, and keep 2021 for Howard.
Howard, another former NL MVP in a Phillies uniform, signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves last week. Although there is no guarantee he makes it out of Triple-A in the coming month (Victorino signed a minor league deal with the Cubs last year but never played a game with the eventual world champs), we’re banking on Howard at least getting a look with the Braves at some point this season, which would mean he wouldn’t be WOF-eligible until 2021.
Am I cheating a bit here by putting two guys into the Wall of Fame in two different years? I don’t think so. There shouldn’t be any hard and fast rules that it has to be just one guy per year (just like you shouldn’t force it and have at least one guy inducted into the WOF every year, when there just isn’t an obvious, worthy candidate).
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Some final Wall of Fame notes:
• Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz could also become WOF eligible in 2021 if their playing careers end at the conclusion of the 2017 season. But, at least in the case of Utley, we’re not certain the 38-year-old is ready to call it a career, especially if he warms to his part-time role with the Dodgers this season.
• There are more than a couple of pre-World War I era Phillies alumni surely worthy of WOF candidacy, including Hall of Famers Nap Lajoie and Elmer Flick, and Norristown's own Roy Thomas. The case for Lajoie (pronounced "Lajaway," of course) becomes stronger when you include his remarkable 1901 season with the Philadelphia Athletics, and yes, Philadelphia Athletics players are also recognized by the Phillies (or at least they were until the Vet closed in 2003). And 1950 NL MVP Jim Konstanty probably deserves to at least get back on the ballot, too.
• Like Pat Gillick, Lenny Dykstra is a less obvious, slightly off-the-radar WOF candidate. Similar to former teammate and recent WOF inductee Curt Schilling, Dykstra obviously isn’t the warmest or cuddliest of Phillies alumni. But the dude slashed .289/.388/.422 in eight seasons with the Phillies, represented the team in three All-Star games and was the runner-up for the NL MVP in 1993, when he was also the best offensive player for the NL pennant winners. Two other members of that ’93 lineup are on the Wall of Fame and Dykstra should probably get on there at some point, too.
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