May 29, 2023
The face of the Phillies right now is Bryce Harper, without a doubt.
No matter what kind of star power the team brings in to try and capture a third World Series title, it will always be his team.
But we were curious. Looking back at the accomplishments (and lack thereof) from past Phillies teams, who was the face of the franchise in 1980, when Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt were two of the best players in baseball? Who was the face of the franchise back in 2016 when the Phillies sucked?
So we decided to go back through the history of the Phils and anoint one player as the face of the franchise for each year since 1950.
Essentially, this is a "Phillies most important and/or most popular player" belt. In order for someone new to take over the team, they have to exceed the prior holder of the title in popularity or in performance.
We'll also be doing the same for the Sixers, Flyers, and Eagles in the coming days before naming the face of Philly sports for each passing year on Friday.
It all begins with one of the best aces of all time: Robin Roberts.
We'll start back in 1950 with one of the best pitchers in Phillies history. Roberts, over this six-season span, made the All-Star team every single year and averaged 22 wins per year. During this stretch, he had six of the top 50 winningest seasons in franchise history.
Known by most as the namesake for Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park — and as the color commentator alongside Harry Kalas after his playing days — Ashburn was the top dog in Philly when Roberts had a down year in 1956. He is 11th in batting average and third in hits all-time for the Phillies.
Ashburn left for the Cubs in 1960, leaving behind a pretty terrible Phils club that went 59-95. Roberts stayed behind for two more down years in Philly before finishing his career in Baltimore, Houston, and then with Cubs.
Callison was the best of a pretty forgettable era in the post-Roberts and Ashburn days. He won the All-Star Game MVP in 1964.
He was in total a seven-time All-Star who's been idolized on the Phillies Wall of Fame, but he won his MVP award with the Chicago White Sox in 1972. The Phillies never made the playoffs with Allen in town.
Bunning was with the Phillies for six seasons and was a superstar in the mid-60s, playing alongside Allen. He left the team for four seasons (Dodgers and Pirates) before returning to finish his career in Philly in 1970 and 71. Those teams were god-awful and Bunning was 38 by the time he returned, but with such a terrible roster around him, he was the face of the franchise for those down seasons. In all, Bunning was 89-73 with a 2.93 ERA during two stints as a Phillie.
The Phillies were blessed to have both Carlton and Schmidt in town during the 1970s and 80s, and either of the two could have been given the face of the franchise status for this era — one that saw the Phils win their first World Series title in 1980. But Carlton was just overwhelmingly dominant, as you can see from his stats above. He will be unseated as the top dog at the Vet in 1981 though.
He's probably the best Phillie of all time and this was his prime, as the third baseman was in the MVP mix basically every season in the 1980s. Schmidt has the highest total WAR of any Phillie, across the most plate appearances of any Phillie, and produced the most homers, RBI, and runs scored of any Phillie.
Kruk was in his prime just before the '93 Phillies emerged and highlighted a team that was caught between eras.
Daulton was the heart of the Phillies run that nearly took them to a second World Series title in 1993. He handled a rough and tough pitching staff in the battery while also swinging one of the best bats in baseball in the early 1990s.
He was really the lone highlight for a team in the late 1990s that never won more than 77 games. He went on to more success and fame as a postseason legend with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox.
Abreu may have been underrated during his nine seasons in Philadelphia, but he was the most famous and popular player on the team at the turn of the century.
Thome's home run output these two seasons — 47 and 42 respectively — remain in the top 10 all-time for the Phillies as a franchise.
We are grouping this trio together because not only are does it include the most famous double-play triumvirate in team history, but they were all offensive catalysts for a stretch of competitive baseball no one reading this article will ever forget. Here's a look at their numbers from 2005-2009:
|HR, RBI per 162|| 31 HR, 109 RBI||44 HR, 127 RBI||21 HR, 77 RBI|
Utley was somehow never given an MVP trophy but Howard and Rollins each earned one. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Phillies fan in their 20s or 30s right now who doesn't have one of these three as their all-time favorite Phil.
Halladay had two of the best pitching seasons in Phillies history, anchoring the four-aces team and mowing down hitters nearly every night. He had a perfect game and postseason no-hitter in addition to his Cy Young win and runner-up.
Hamels, too, has a memorable no-hitter but it came later, before he was traded in 2015. He was a solid ace during the post-contending era, as the team struggled by holding on to its stars for far too long and did not fully commit to rebuilding until it was too late.
Look at the stats. Herrera was the best player on the Phillies for these two seasons. That's how bad it got.
Nola is the best homegrown prospect since Utley, Howard, and Rollins and came close to winning a Cy Young award in 2017. He was also a key piece of the 2022 Pennant-winning club.
Harper won an MVP and hit the maybe biggest home run in franchise history last postseason. He's a fan favorite not only because of his stellar play on the field, but the fact that he loves the city and embraces the culture here off of it. It's doubtful he'll lose the face of the franchise moniker anytime soon.
Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports