All Phillies…All the Time — J-Roll
The last time I undertook the task of trying to figure out the Phillies’ All-Time Team at each position was something like 18 years ago… I think it might have been early in 1993, while riding in Jim Hardy’s BMW M3 in the wilds of Central Pennsylvania. Since Central PA is both pretty wild, and a long way from anything remotely resembling civilization (and since Pete DeCoursey was doing the driving), I had a lot of time to ponder the team. Of course, there was no Baseball-Reference then, in fact, there wasn’t even an Internet. Fortunately, I did have a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia along to help out. (That, and DeCoursey knows so much about baseball that Bill James once referenced him in one of his books.)
The point of all this is, after long and careful thought, an inevitable conclusion was reached at that time regarding the shortstop position… as of 1993, and over the past 110 seasons preceding 1993, the Phillies had been largely deficient at short. That didn’t stop me from being a fan of Chico Fernandez and Joe Koppe as a kid, but it also didn’t mean that either one of them was much good. Fernandez had an OPS+ of 64 with the Phillies (although he did hit 20 home runs in 1962 for the Tigers), and Koppe’s was 74 (although he would later achieve some notoriety for posing with a glove on his right hand for a Topps baseball card.)
So, as of 1993, the Phillies all-time shortstop was either Dave Bancroft, or Larry Bowa, with only one other individual, Granny Hamner, worth mentioning. (In case you haven’t noticed the obvious pattern thus far… prior to the current team, the Phillies’ best players were almost all clustered in four time periods… the 1890s, just before World War 1, the Whiz Kids, and the late 70s/early 80s team.) Here’s what their relative worths with the Phillies look like…
In a word, not really all that much, although each does have something to offer beyond their raw stats. Bancroft did make the Hall of Fame, but not for his play with the Phillies… he actually got in for his time with the Giants, and for having as a teammate Frankie Frisch, who was also virtually running the Vets Committee at that time (the early ’70s). In other words, Bancroft is a Hall of Fame Mistake. Hamner had some power; he had as many as 21 home runs in a season, and had another year with 63 extra base hits, including 39 doubles and 11 triples… good power figures in the ’50s, when most shortstops outside of Pee Wee Reese hit like pee wees. He also was a three-time All-Star and finished sixth in the MVP voting in 1950. Bowa, although the worst hitter of the lot, had the longest career with the Phillies, and held down short for the 1975-1981 teams. He also had by far the most speed, and was the best fielder of the three, picking up two Gold Gloves. A five-time All-Star, he finished as high as third in the yearly MVP voting (in 1978).
Still, none of them was Jimmy Rollins, who is clearly the best shortstop, not only to play for the Phillies, but probably to play in Philadelphia for any extended period of time. (Connie Mack’s two dynasties were relatively weak at short… his best shortfielder was Eddie Joost in the late ’40s and early’ 50s. As to whether Joost was better than Rollins, that’s a discussion for another day.) In 10 seasons (and 14 games in 2000), Rollins has done thusly…
Despite the fact that he’s coming off an injury season, Rollins has; scored more runs than the longest-tenured of the other three, hit more doubles, triples and home runs than the power hitter, stolen more bases than the base stealer, almost matched on base average for the on base guy, has the highest batting average, and led the Phillies (and you better believe he’s a leader) to the greatest era in their history. And that’s without mentioning he also had by far the greatest single season by any shortstop in Philadelphia baseball history, being named MVP in 2007 for the following mind-boggling line…
That’s 88, 88, extra base hits. Among Phillies’ hitters, only Chuck Klein has had more in a season. Among shortstops, only A-Rod has had more in a season. And, he also set the major league record for seasonal at bats; and had league leading totals in runs and triples as well. And he won the Gold Glove (one of three… he’s also a better fielder than the best glove man among the other three.)
If Jimmy Rollins can bounce back from his leg injuries of 2010, and put up three or four more solid seasons, he becomes, unlike Dave Bancroft, a legitimate Hall of Famer.