Westcott: No easy task to choose top Phillies of all time

Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, right, talks with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley during spring training at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla. On a Phillies dream team, says Rich Westcott, Schmidt would play third base, Rollins would play shortstop and Utley would play second. (Digital First Media staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)
Chuck Klein of the Phillies, circa 1936

Throughout their history, in good times as well as bad, the Phillies have nearly always had at least a few good players in their lineup. Sometimes, the whole lineup has been good, as was the case in 1980 when every position player in the starting lineup was at one time a member of a National League All-Star team.

During their 131-year history, Phillies batters have led the National League in home runs 26 times, in batting average nine times, and in RBIs 22 times. Phils pitchers have been first in wins 17 times, in strikeouts 19 times, and in ERA nine times. Some 46 Gold Gloves have been awarded to Phillies players.

Although the awards were not given in baseball’s early years, Phillies players have won eight Most Valuable Player Awards, seven Cy Young Awards, and 10 Rookie of the Year Awards. They’ve also won MVP awards in five National League Championship Series and two World Series.

The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown features plaques of 32 players who at some time in their careers wore the uniform of the Phillies. Eleven of these players spent the bulk of their careers with the club. So what would an all-time Phillies team look like?

Making such a list is no easy chore, but one thing is certain. There are no weak spots in the lineup.

Left Field: Ed Delahanty (1888-89, 1891-1901) has the fourth highest career batting average in major league history (.346). With the Phillies, he hit over .400 three times, won one batting crown, two home run titles, and was first in RBIs three times. He once had 10 straight hits, including six in one game, and was the second major leaguer to hit four home runs in one game.

Center Field: Richie Ashburn (1948-59) was a two-time batting champion and a three-time league leader in hits. He had a career batting average of .308 with 2,574 hits, going over .300 nine times. One of baseball’s finest defensive center fielders, he set records by leading the National League in putouts nine times and four times making more than 500 putouts in one season.

Right Field: Chuck Klein (1928-33, 1936-39, 1940-44) led the league in home runs four times, in RBIs twice, and in hitting once. The only winner of a Triple Crown in Phillies history (in 1933), he had a .320 career batting average with 300 home runs. In 1930, he hit .386 with 40 homers and 170 RBI. A top fielder, he still holds the league record with 44 assists in one season.

First Base: Ryan Howard (2004-present) is second on the Phillies’ all-time list with 311 home runs. A two-time league home run champ and three-time RBI leader, he was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2006, a year when he hit .3l3 and led the circuit with 149 RBIs and a club record 58 home runs. He was a three-time All-Star. Currently, has a .271 career batting average.

Second Base: Chase Utley (2003-present) is a five-time National League All-Star with a career batting average of .287 with 1,410 hits. He both scored and drove in more than 100 runs in four straight years, only the third second baseman in MLB history to do that. .He’s appeared in more games (1,323) than any second baseman in Phillies history and is far ahead of anybody in most career hit-by-pitches.

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (2000-present) is one of only six National League shortstops ever to win a Most Valuable Player award. He ranks second on the Phillies’ all-time list in games, at-bats, extra base hits, doubles, and total bases, and third in hits, triples, and runs. Owner of a .269 career batting average, he’s hit home runs in double figures 10 times, including 30 in 2007 when he batted .296. He is a three-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner.

Third Base: – Mike Schmidt (1972-89) is arguably the best all-around third baseman in baseball history. He ranks 15th with 548 career home runs while leading the league eight times. A three-time MVP and a 12-time All-Star, he has 2,234 career hits, 1,595 RBI, driving in more than 100 in nine seasons, and 1,506 runs scored. Winner of 10 Gold Gloves, he holds the NL record for third basemen in games, assists, chances, and double plays. He hit .267 with a high of .316, and is the Phils’ all-time leader in 11 offensive categories.

Catcher: Bob Boone (1972-81) appeared in 10 seasons with the Phillies and hit above .280 three times. He was named to three All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves. When he retired after 19 seasons, he held major league catching records for most games, chances, putouts, and seasons playing more than 100 games (15). An outstanding handler of pitchers and owner of a strong throwing arm, he has the best career fielding percentage of the Phils’ top backstops.

Starting RHP: Robin Roberts (1948-61) won 20 or more games in six straight years, one of only three National League pitchers ever to do that. His 28-7 mark in 1952 ranks as one of the Phillies’ best of all-time. He started a record five All-Star games. Overall, he won 286 games and ranks second on the Phillies’ all-time list with 234. He led the league in starts six straight years, and in complete games and innings pitched each five times in a row. He pitched in more than 300 innings six years in a row. He once completed 28 straight games.

Starting LHP: Steve Carlton (1972-86) won four Cy Young Awards enroute to a career in which he won 329 games, including a club record 241 with the Phillies. A 10-time All-Star selection, he led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts each five times, once hurling 346.1 innings and striking out 310 batters while compiling a 27-10 record for a team that won only 59 games. That season, he posted 15 straight victories. During a 24-year career,15 of them with the Phils, he struck out 4,136 batters, which ranks fourth on the all-time major league list.

Relief Pitcher: Tug McGraw (1975-84) finished more games (313) than any reliever in Phillies history while ranking second in wins (49), innings (708), and relief appearances (460). He recorded 94 saves in 10 seasons with the Phils and 180 overall during a 19-year career and 824 games in the majors. His most noteworthy appearance came in the sixth game of the 1980 World Series when he struck out Willie Wilson to clinch the Phillies’ first World Series victory.

Honorable Mention

Outfielders: Billy Hamilton, Sam Thompson, Elmer Flick, Gavvy Cravath, Sherry Magee, Roy Thomas, Cy Williams, Johnny Moore, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Johnny Callison, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Gary Matthews, Bobby Abreu, Shane Victorino.

First Base: Fred Luderus, Lefty O’Doul, Don Hurst, Dolph Camilli, Pete Rose, John Kruk, Jim Thome.

Second Base: Nap Lajoie, Tony Taylor, Dave Cash, Manny Trillo, Juan Samuel.

Shortstop: Dick Bartell, Granny Hamner, Larry Bowa.

Third Base: Pinky Whitney, Willie Jones, Dick Allen, Scott Rolen.

Catcher: Jack Clements, Jimmie Wilson, Andy Seminick, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal, Carlos Ruiz.

Starting Pitchers: Charlie Ferguson, Charlie Buffinton, Jack Taylor, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Curt Simmons, Chris Short, Jim Bunning, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels.

Relief Pitchers: Jim Konstanty, Dick Farrell, Jack Baldschun, Ron Reed, Al Holland, Steve Bedrosian, Brad Lidge.