Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Phillies Wall of Fame

The 2012 Phillies Wall of Fame Ballot was released today, and boy is it a doozy!  The esteemed candidates as reported by The Phillies Zone (

Larry Christenson, RHP
Jim Konstanty, RHP
Ron Reed, RHP
Curt Schilling, RHP
Rick Wise, RHP
Mike Lieberthal, C 
Jimmy Wilson, C
Pinky Whitney, 3B
Greg Gross, OF 
Von Hayes, OF
Mike Ryan, coach
Jim Fregosi, manager

I don't know about you guys, but when I see Greg Gross, the first thing I think is, Phillies Hall of Fame?  Shouldn't Cooperstown have already called this guy?  But in all seriousness, the fact that one player must be elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame every year is a bit absurd.  The Hall of Fame, with its legitimate class of candidates, doesn't merit that there must be a selection every year, so why do the Phillies?  Furthermore, though the teams recent success might make it seem otherwise, the Phillies are not the New York Yankees, where team after team was filled with legends.  This is the Phillies we're talking about!  But the system is the system, so unless every fan decides to abstain in protest, one of the members of the list will grace the Wall with the likes of Phillies legends Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning.... and Juan Samuel.  So who is deserving of the honor?  Let's briefly evaluate each candidate in the order they appear above:

1. Larry Christenson: Though he retired before the age of 30, Christenson was a career Phillie and member of both the 1980 championship team and the 1983 pennant winning team.  Though he spent virtually his entire career as a starting pitcher, his career totals are underwhelming.  He accumulated a whopping 83 wins (to 71 losses) with 781 strikeouts and a 3.79 ERA.  He won more than 13 games only once, a fluke 1977 season where he racked up an impressive 19-6 record despite an ERA over 4.00 with his win total surely coming from the fact that he played on one of the greatest teams in Phillies history.  By the time 1980 came around, he was much more Kyle Kendrick than Roy Halladay, posting a 5-1 record with an ERA just over 4.00 for the world champs.  Good pitcher?  Eh.  Average Pitcher?  Seems about right.  Wall of Famer?  I don't think so.  

2. Jim Konstanty: An oddity if there ever was one, Konstanty didn't pitch regularly in the big leagues until age 31 and retired before 40.  His career saw him walk more batters than he struck out in less than 1000 big league innings.  So why is he even on this list?  Well, for the 1950 Whiz Kids, Konstanty came out of the bullpen to win the league MVP with a 16-7 record, a 2.66 ERA, and 22 saves in 152 innings.  Boy have times changed.  Take away this season and Jim Konstanty becomes your generic major league relief pitcher.  Is one season enough to get you on the Wall of Fame?  Had that time won the title, I think he could make a better argument as the 1950 Brad Lidge, but in failing to go all the way, I don't see how Konstanty can merit a plaque.  

3. Ron Reed: Reed debuted in the majors as a 23 yr old with the Braves and didn't appear on the Phillies until 10 years later.  A member of the 1980 and 1983 teams, Reed put together a couple good seasons in the Phillies bullpen recording four full seasons with an ERA under 3.00.  Reed was unquestionably a solid reliever for some good Phillies teams.  Unfortunately for Reed, I wasn't aware that non-closing relievers deserved plaques in the Wall of Fame.  

4. Curt Schilling: Of all the candidates on this list, Schilling is the one candidate that has a legitimate chance at  being enshrined in Cooperstown.  A 6-time all-star and 3-time Cy Young Runner-Up.  Schill won 3 World Series rings and was a top-notch post-season performer with a career playoff record of 11-2 with an ERA of 2.23.  For his regular season career, Schill racked up an impressive 216-146 mark with a 3.46 ERA and over 3000 strikeouts.  Unfortunately for Schill's Wall of Fame chances, all 3 rings and many of the wins and strikeouts came after the Phillies dealt him to Arizona.  However, Schill was a key member of the 93 pennant winning squad and spent over 8 seasons in Phillies red.  Those 8 seasons included half of his career all-star appearances and back-to-back league leading 300 strikeout seasons.  He was unquestionably one of the premier pitchers in the NL during his years with the Phillies and is remembered fondly by most fans.  Though he forced his way out of town, it's hard to blame him considering some of the teams he had to pitch on in the mid to late 90s.  His Hall of Fame candidacy come predominantly from his years with the BoSox and D-Backs, but considering teammates Kruk and Daulton have already been enshrined for their few good Phillies years, it's hard to say Schill doesn't also belong on the Wall.   

5. Rike Wise: Wise is best remembered in this town for two things.  While a member of the Phillies, he threw a no-hitter and hit 2 homers in the same game and he was later traded to the Cardinals for Steve Carlton.  These two facts aside, Wise was a pretty good pitcher.  He racked up nearly 200 wins and made a couple of all-star games.  His seven year career with the Phillies was a bit up and down however with a couple good seasons and a couple mediocre ones.  Had he remained with the Phillies for a couple more seasons Wise would have made this a difficult decision, but he neither compiled enough raw numbers here nor had enough big seasons here to merit a wall election.  

6. Mike Lieberthal: In my mind, Lieby is the player that will cause the most debate among voters.  Lieby spent 13 years with the Phillies and an argument can be made that he was a better player than the two Wall-of-Famers who strapped on the mask before him - Bob Boone and Dutch Daulton.  Though his 13 year stretch nearly marked the entire post 1993 Phillies playoff drought, he was one of the few bright spots on some mediocre teams.  Lieby made 2 all-star teams and won a gold glove.  He had a .300, 30 homer season and another.300 season.  Though he had many seasons where he hit around .270 with 15 homers, one can't forget that these are solid numbers from a catcher.  Had Lieby played on some stronger teams, I think his election would be a near formality, but lacking the playoff appearances of a Bob Boone and the 93 glow and fan-favorite status of Daulton, it may be difficult for Lieby to crack the Wall.  

7. Jimmy Wilson: I have to say I've never heard of Jimmy Wilson.  Upon typing him into google, all the results are for a Miami Dophins CB.  Evidently, Wilson was a catcher who had a couple different stints with the Phils in the 20's and 30's.  He had a couple .300 seasons in 300 something and 200 something AB's in his first stint and made one all-star team in his second stint.  He had a career high of 6 homers as a 23 year old in 1924.  Apparently he was also a pretty good soccer player.  Can't really say more about Mr. Wilson. Doesn't seem Wall worthy to me.  

8. Pinky Whitney: The name at least sounds familiar, but like Jimmy Wilson above, I can't place Pinky Whitney.  Like Wilson, Whitney played for the Phillies in the 20s and 30s in two separate stints.  He had a .320+ BA season and two .340+ BA seasons as well as four 100 RBI seasons for the Phils.  Statistically, Whitney seems to be a player that should get some serious consideration.  However, I can't imagine any fan voting for him when a die-hard like me has never even heard of him.  Maybe a future Wall of Fame Veterans Committee will recognize his accomplishments.  

9. Greg Gross: To me, Gross might be the player least deserving of a spot on this list.  Currently the Phillies hitting coach and a member of the 1980 world champs, Gross's claim to fame is being one of the best pinch-hitters ever.  Like reliever Ron Reed though, I struggle to find a place for a great pinch-hitter on the Wall-of-Fame, especially considering his whopping 7 career homers and his Phillies career high of 245 at bats in a season.  Maybe if Gross wins a few rings as Phillies hitting coach his candidacy will be revisited.  

10. Von Hayes: Hayes is perhaps best known for being acquired by the Phillies in a 5 for 1 deal that included the Phillies shipping off future star Julio Franco.  Hayes wasn't a bad player, but he wasn't exactly a great one and he played for some awful Phillies teams.  Hayes's highlights include leading the league in runs and doubles in 1986 and two seasons where he hit 20+ homers with 100+ walks.  He made 1 all-star team. Had he had another couple big seasons, had better overall stats (.267, 143 career homers), or played for some winning teams, Hayes might have a case, but I think Hayes falls a bit short.  

11. Mike Ryan: Another familiar name, but someone I really haven't heard of.  Upon looking him up, it's a good thing his name specifies "coach" on the ballot because he was frankly an awful player with a career batting average below the mendoza line.  Ryan was a longtime coach and was a member of the 1980 and 1993 staffs.  In summary, Ryan is a poor-man's John Vukovich, and Vuk is already taking up a spot on the Wall.  Sorry Mike.  

12: Jim Fregosi: Had Fregosi spent some time here as a player, his name might already be enshrined on the Wall as he was a 6-time all-star for the Angels.  However, outside of his managing the 1993 Phillies to the pennant, I'm not sure that he accomplished anything great with the Phillies.  In his other 5 years managing the Phils, his teams never finished about 3rd in the division.  

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