Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Phillies' Wall of Fame: Schilling or bust

As one might expect for a franchise that has been somewhere between mediocre and bad for most of the last 130 years, the Phillies’ Wall of Fame is starting to see slim pickings.
Last year, Mike Lieberthal was chosen, and while he was a likeable guy who put up solid numbers for a catcher, many thought it was a joke as a Wall of Fame induction.
There are a dozen candidates this season available for fans to vote for on the Phillies’ web site (voting ends after March 20) to become this year’s honoree, but really, there’s only one.
The first question is, how did Schilling not make it last year over Lieberthal? There is a moderate chance that Schilling is going to make the actual Hall of Fame – you know, that place in Cooperstown – and with the way the Hall has been picking caps, there is a better-than-average chance that he goes in with a Phillies cap on.

So you have a guy who could very well go into Cooperstown as a Phillie who can’t get on the Wall of Fame?
We know Schilling is a bit offputting, and he clearly has poor business sense. And he went on to win World Series titles for other teams in grand fashion.
But he pitched his rear end off for the Phillies and was their main gun for many years when the team completely stunk.
If you’re still not sure Schilling is the choice, consider his competition.
Let’s start with the skippers, including Jim Fregosi, Danny Ozark and Harry Wright.
Fregosi is a moderately decent choice as the leader of the legendary “Macho Row” squad from 1993 (more on that bunch later), but he didn’t do much outside of that season. Still, he is easily a top three candidate among this dirty dozen.
Ozark had two really good teams that choked in the playoffs. When he was replaced, the Phillies finally won something. What are they going to show on “Danny Ozark Night?” Footage of Black Friday? No and no.
As for Wright, he managed in the 80s … the 1880s, that is. He made the Hall of Fame, likely for leading the Boston Red Stockings to five pennants in the 1870s. He managed the Phillies for 10 years, won no pennants and had a winning percentage of .529. Better get your tickets now for that ceremony.
Let’s take a look at Schilling’s fellow pitchers – Larry Christenson, Jim Konstanty, Ron Reed and Rick Wise.
Christenson went 83-71 with a 3.79 ERA in an 11-year career with the team, and he was good enough to start Game 4 of the 1980 World Series. In that game, he gave up four runs in one-third of an inning and got pulled. The Phillies eventually lost the game 5-3. You do the math there, but the bottom line is that Christenson is not Wall of Fame-worthy.
Reed pitched two scoreless innings in that same World Series, and he went 57-38 with a 3.06 ERA with the Phillies over eight years. Reed is basically a slightly richer man’s Jamie Moyer, who by the way will be eligible for this in 2016 and is arguably a better candidate.
Wise had a losing record as a Phillie but had two amazing days in 1971 – one where he threw a no-hitter and hit two homers, and another where he retired 32 consecutive batters. Both are noteworthy achievements, but his greatest feat was being traded for Steve Carlton. I am on the fence with Wise being worthy but leaning toward a no.
Konstanty was the MVP of the National League in 1950 when he won 16 games and saved 22 others for the Whiz Kids. He is probably my No. 2 choice behind Schilling even though the rest of his career was fairly average.
(Note: If you like SABR stats, try this. The combined WAR of those four pitchers with the Phillies is 34.8, while Schilling by himself had a score of 35.1.)
Then there are four position players – Greg Gross, Von Hayes, Fred Luderus and Pinky Whitney.
Luderus played well in the teens and had a nice season for the pennant-winning 1915 Phillies, and Whitney was a solid player in two stints with the team while they were terrible in the 1920s and 1930s. It is unlikely that many current fans have heard of either of them, however.
Gross was a terrific pinch hitter, logging 143 hits in that role, which is more than it sounds like, but that is not Wall of Fame stuff.
And Hayes? Who’s going to present him, the five guys the Phillies traded for him? Hayes had one decent year in 1986, and other than that, was just a face in the crowd for a terrible team. If he gets voted in, I feel like it will be something like the movie “Carrie” when they made the girl homecoming queen as a joke.
As anyone can see here, the long-moribund franchise is in a bind. They need guys who played five years with the team, distinguished themselves as productive and memorable Phillies, and are now retired for three years.
Oh, one other thing. They need guys who aren’t scoundrels in some way.
That immediately scratches strong candidates Pete Rose and Lenny Dykstra off the list. Both men would be viable Wall of Fame members if not for transgressions off the field.
Then you lose guys like Brad Lidge, Trillo and Jim Eisenreich (careers too short) and it leaves you wondering about the long-term viability of annual Wall of Fame inductions. Moyer and Jim Thome won’t be eligible until 2016, and it will be even longer before anyone from the current era is inducted.
The best-case scenario is that Schilling gets his due this year, Charlie Manuel goes in next year after he retires and maybe Konstanty or someone can be the bridge to the modern guys. Maybe Thome in 2016, Moyer in ’17 and by 2018, Jimmy Rollins will likely be good to go and we’re back on track from there.
Otherwise, I’ll see you at Pinky Whitney Day at the ballpark.

-          Matthew Osborne is the editor of The Trentonian. You can reach him at 609-989-7800, ext. 201, or Follow him on Twitter @trentonianozzy.

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