Chase Utley isn’t ready to retire, according to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro. But Amaro has also gone on record as saying that Cesar Hernandez is now the Phillies’ best second baseman, and it’s clear that Maikel Franco has supplanted Utley as the Phils’ No. 3 hitter.
So, it appears Utley’s career with the Phillies is over, even if there is no official announcement. That means that when Utley returns from his latest injury, he’ll be relegated to an occasional start or occasional pinch-hit appearance. And that is a sad way for one of the best careers in Phillies history to end.
That also got us thinking about Utley and his place on the list of all-time Phillies greats, as well as where two of his long-time teammates, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, belong on that list. And they’re on our top 10 list, albeit at the tail end of it.
So, for better or worse, here’s our list of the 10 greatest Phillies players of all time, in reverse order.
10. Chase Utley. He was a force on offense during his prime and usually among the league leaders in hitting and doubles. But it was the way Utley played the game, as much as how well he played it, that endeared him to Phillies fans. Utley hustled on every play and was a smart baserunner and defender and he was a joy to watch – except for these last few years, which have been painful.
9. Ryan Howard. Like Utley, he’s now just a shell of his former self. But Howard was the big bopper for perhaps the best Phillies team in history, and his 349 home runs and 1,103 RBIs are second and third, respectively, on the team’s all-time lists. Howard’s mere presence in the lineup gave the Phillies a legitimate deep ball threat and also gave Utley good pitches to hit, and together they were one of the best one-two punches in Phillies history.
8. Jimmy Rollins. Utley gave the Phillies hustle and Howard gave them intimidation, but Rollins gave the Phillies what they needed most – swagger. Rollins was the emotional leader of the World Series champs on and off the field and he put together an impressive career in Philadelphia, which included a league MVP and a World Series title, and he left as the Phillies’ all-time leader in hits.
7. Dick Allen. Oh, what could have been. Allen had a great career and should be in the Hall of Fame, but Phillies fans will always wonder how good Allen could have been if he didn’t feud with teammates and fans, one reason he played for five teams in his career, including two stints with the Phils. But no slugger of his era was more feared by enemy pitchers than Allen, who had a career .290 average and hit 351 homers.
6. Ed Delahanty. He played for the Phillies when Grover Cleveland was president, so it was obviously a different era – and Delahanty was the best player of that era. The Hall of Famer played 13 seasons with the Phillies and finished with a career batting average of .348, including a league-leading .410 in 1899. However, Delahanty didn’t have a happy ending. He was thrown off a train in Buffalo, N.Y., for being drunk and disorderly and then he fell off a bridge and was swept to his death over Niagara Falls.
5. Chuck Klein. He finished his Hall-of-Fame career with a batting average of .326, including a league-leading .368 in 1933, when he also hit 28 home runs. That came one year after he was the National League MVP for hitting .348 with 38 homers. Klein led the NL in homers four times and finished first or second in RBIs four times, and not many players in baseball history have led their leagues in average and homers.
4. Robin Roberts. This former Blue Rock was known for his durability as much as his ability. Roberts was a seven-time All-Star who won 234 games and led the NL in victories for four straight seasons, 1952-55. Roberts also finished what he started – he pitched 305 complete games in his career and in a 10-year stretch from 1951-59 he averaged 24 complete games a season. To put that into perspective – the 2011 Phillies, with one of the best starting pitching staffs in history (including Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt) combined for a league-leading 18 complete games.
3. Richie Ashburn. This is somewhat of a sentimental pick, since so many of us grew up watching Ashburn play and/or listening to him on radio and television. But Ashburn is in the Hall of Fame because of what he did on the field, not what he did in the broadcasting booth. Ashburn had a career batting average of .311 with the Phillies, led the league (.350) in 1958 and was a six-time All-Star. Unfortunately, Ashburn played center field in the same era as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider and didn’t get the credit he deserved – but we know better.
2. Steve Carlton. He’s possibly the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history and without doubt the best pitcher, period, in Phillies history. Carlton won … games and four Cy Young Awards in his career and he was the ace of aces on a World Series team. He also put together one of the best seasons in baseball history, in 1972, his first season with the Phillies. Playing for a last-place team, Carlton won 27 games and had an ERA of 1.97 while striking out 310 batters and completing 30 of his 41 starts. Former Pirates slugger Willie Stargell once said that trying to hit Carlton’s slider was like trying to drink coffee with a fork.
1. Mike Schmidt. No surprise here. Not only is Schmidt the best player in Phillies history, he’s also the best third baseman in baseball history. The Hall of Famer and four-time National League MVP hit 548 non-juiced home runs and was the best player on what is perhaps the best Phillies team of all time. Plus Schmidt was a Gold Glove fielder and heady baserunner. And Schmidt, unlike Utley, knew when it was time to quit and he retired from baseball even though he was still a productive player.