July 22, 2016
Last week, we debuted #PhillyRank and were completely upfront with the fact that the idea behind the rankings came from an ESPN feature called #NBARank, one that Rich Hofmann and I both thoroughly enjoyed.
The main difference between the two -- aside from the fact that our list focused on Philly-only athletes across all pro team sports -- is that ESPN's list examined players from every era, going all the back to the game's earliest days. And given the current state of basketball in Philly, that's probably a good thing, since the Sixers were well represented in that list.
When #NBARank came out in January, four former Sixers found themselves in the top 20 -- No. 18 Charles Barkley, No. 15 Moses Malone, No. 14 Julius Erving, and No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain. And five others -- No. 96 Bobby Jones, No. 91 Maurice Cheeks, No. 88 Billy Cunningham, No. 74 Dolph Schayes, No. 46 Allen Iverson -- cracked the top 100.
And that doesn't even count guys like Chris Webber (No. 66) and Dikembe Mutombo (No. 73), who made the list but only played a small percentage of their NBA career in Philly. Nor does it count Paul Arizin (No. 90), who played in Philly but not as part of the current Sixers franchise. He played for the Philadelphia Warriors team that moved to San Francisco in the early 1960s.
Needless to say, the city was well represented.
This week, ESPN decided to try the same thing with baseball and unveiled #MLBRank, their top 100 players of all time. And, as we found out after they unveiled the final 10 spots on Friday afternoon, the Phillies don't occupy as many spots as their #NBARank counterparts across Pattison Avenue. Given that the Phillies have more losses than any other organization in baseball history, while the Sixers have been one of the more successful NBA franchises (historically speaking), perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise.
Still, it's not a bad showing for the home team to this point. And when you include guys who played for the Philadelphia A's (which I did in this case), it's even better.
[NOTE: I didn't include guys like Joe Morgan, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pedro Martinez, and Tris Speaker, who played for the Phillies (and/or the A's) for only a season or two. While it would be nice to claim them as our own, that would be like the Indians claiming Steve Carlton.]
Here's a look at where they rank, according to ESPN:
• Played in Philly, but not for the Phillies. He was a member for the Philadelphia A's (1924-32, '40-41, '44) and also spent time with the White Sox ('33-35), Tigers ('36), Washington Senators ('37-38), Boston Bees ('39), Reds ('39), and Red Sox ('43)
From 1925 to 1934, Simmons was one of the game's all-time great hitters. In that decade he hit .359, averaged 200 hits and 128 RBIs per season, and only twice struck out more than 50 times in a season. Simmons took full advantage of his home field (Shibe Park), twice driving in 100 runs there. He's the only player to drive in 100 runs at home in two separate seasons. -- Mark Simon, Stats & Info
• Played for the Phillies from 1911-1917 and again in 1930, but won his title with the Cardinals in 1926.
Alexander played 20 seasons for three teams and has 373 career wins, tied with Christy Mathewson for third-most all time. He won 28 games as a rookie in 1911, the most by a rookie in the modern era. Alexander led the league in ERA five times between 1915 and 1920, all with sub-2.00 ERAs. -- Jacob Nitzberg, Stats & Info
• Played with the Phillies from 1992-2000, but won all three of his titles elsewhere, the first in Arizona and the other two in Boston.
Schilling made his mark in postseason play, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. He is one of two pitchers to throw a complete game in which he allowed one run or fewer in four consecutive playoff starts, which he did from 1993 to 2001. The other is Christy Mathewson, who did it for the Giants spanning 1905 to 1911. -- Simon
• Played for the Philadelphia A's (1906-14, '27-30) and Chicago White Sox ('15-26), but won three of his four titles -- and his MVP -- while playing in Philly.
Even despite a record 515 sacrifice hits, Collins still ranks 10th all time with 3,313 hits. Collins also ranks in the top 10 in stolen bases and was the only player in the first 90 seasons of the modern era to steal six bases in one game. -- Dan Braunstein, Stats & Info
• Played for the Phillies (1896-1900) and Philadelphia A's (1901-02, '15-16), where he won the Triple Crown, as well as the Cleveland Bronchos (1902) and Cleveland Naps (1903-14).
Lajoie was one of the game's great hitters over an extended period of time. He is one of six players to rank in the top five in batting average in two different decades (1900s and 1910s). The others are Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Tony Gwynn. -- Simon
• Played for the Philadelphia A's (1925-33), where he won a pair of World Series titles, as well as for the Boston Red Sox (1934-41)
The first 300-game winner to start his career in the live ball era, Grove was also the first pitcher to lead MLB in ERA three years in a row. He capped that run with 31 wins in 1931, tied for the most by any pitcher in the last 100 years. -- Dan Braunstein, ESPN Stats & Info
• Played for the Phillies from 1972-86, winning a World Series in 1980. Also spent time with the Cardinals (1965-71), Giants ('86), White Sox ('86), Indians ('87) and Twins ('87-88).
Nicknamed "Lefty," Carlton has the second-most wins (329) and strikeouts (4,126) among left-handed pitchers. He was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young awards, and is the last player to throw 300 innings in a season (304 in 1980). -- ESPN Stats & Information
• Played with the Phillies from 1979-83, but spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Reds (1963-78, '84-86). Also spent part of a year with the Montreal Expos ('84).
Rose is MLB's all-time leader in hits, games, plate appearances and at-bats. He won the 1963 NL Rookie of the Year and 1973 NL MVP, was a 17-time All-Star and three-time World Series winner, but what's often forgotten is that it was he and not Game 6 hero Carlton Fisk who was named MVP of the 1975 World Series. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Info
• Played for the Philadelphia A's (1925-35), where he won both of his championships, as well as the Red Sox ('36-42), Cubs ('42, '44). He finished his career with the Phillies ('45)
When Foxx hit his 500th home run in 1940, he became the second player ever to reach the mark, joining Babe Ruth. Only one player (Alex Rodriguez) has reached the mark at a younger age than Foxx, who was just shy of his 33rd birthday at No. 500. -- Braunstein
• Spent his entire career with the Philadelphia Phillies (1972-89).
A three-time NL MVP, Schmidt won more Gold Gloves as a third baseman (10) than he did home run titles as a hitter (8). At the time of his retirement, Schmidt had the most career home runs of any infielder in baseball history (548), and still ranks third all-time. He led the NL in home runs and RBIs in the same season four times, and his career WAR of 106.5 ranks fourth among position players with careers of fewer than 20 years (behind Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle). -- David Sabino, ESPN Stats & Info
So there you have it. There are tons of Phillies/A's on this list, but none better than No. 27. In my opinion, Schmidt should be higher. It's pretty much consensus that he's the best ever to play his position (even ESPN agrees with that), and there aren't many others on this list who can claim that. You also can't forget his 10 Gold Gloves; in six seasons -- and five straight from 1980-84 -- Schmidt won both the Silver Slugger Award and the Gold Glove for third base, meaning he was both the best offensive and the best defensive player at his position.
And in three of those seasons, he was voted as the best player (at any position) in the entire National League, making him one of just 10 players to win the award three or more times (since 1931, when the current MVP voting system began). Only one player (Barry Bonds, 7) has more MVPs than Schmidt.
ESPN's Jayson Stark seems to agree that Schmidt is undervalued on the master list, as he has the former Phillie ranked as the 10th best player ever.