Should they win their second consecutive World Series, I’d say absolutely yes. Certainly the only team in the modern era to rival these Phils would be the Broad Street Bullies, who won consecutive Stanley Cups in the early to mid-seventies. Who else would even be on the list? The Steve Van Buren-era Eagles? Pro football was not even close to a dominant sport at the time. Maybe Connie Mack’s 1920′s-early ’30′s Philadelphia Athletics, who counted Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, and Al Simmons amongst their members? The Yanks of that era were even more dominant than they were. Maybe the one-year wonder Sixers with Wilt, Luke Jackson, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham, Hal Greer and Wally Jones? For one year, maybe Philly’s best ever, but it was for only one year.
No, this team has arguably eclipsed them all, even my beloved 1980 champs. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins have already established themselves as the greatest first baseman, second baseman and shortstop respectively in Phils’ history. All will arguably have good shots at the Hall of Fame, with Utley a virtual lock if he just continues on his career path. The only thing that could keep Howard out would be the relative brevity of his career, as he didn’t make his major league debut until he was 26. But a few more peak years coupled with his post-season success could well remedy that. You will recall that the ’80 champs had late-in-his-career Pete Rose at first, the slick-fielding Manny Trillo at second, and nail-spitting Larry Bowa at short. I loved them all, but none of them could take over a game offensively like their three 2008-09 counterparts. And Rollins, with his unreal range, is even a better fielding shortstop than Bowa, and that’s saying something. Granted, Pedro Feliz is no Michael Jack Schmidt, but he’s well above average defensively and significantly improved his offensive output this year.
There is simply no comparison between the outfields of the 1980 champs and this team. Jayson Werth is a clutch-hitting machine and a Gold Glove caliber rightfielder, while Bake McBride, who I loved, was league-average. Both Garry Maddox (still my fave all-time Phillie) and Shane Victorino earned Gold Gloves in center, but Victorino’s offensive skills far outpaced Garry’s. You can make a case for the Bull, Greg Luzinski, in left over Burrell or Ibanez. I’d take Greg over Burrell but not Ibanez, as Raul is not a defensive liability out there, which Luzinski was.
Slight edge to Bob Boone over Carlos Ruiz, but don’t forget that ace pitcher Steve Carlton needed his own designated catcher, and it wasn’t Boone.
Pitching staffs are quite comparable. Carlton, of course was an upper tier Hall of Famer, but the 2008-09 Phils also have an ace at the front of the rotation, Hamels (2008), Cliff Lee (2009), and this year’s Hamels, Happ, Blanton and Martinez are every bit the rotation equals of Ruthven, Christenson, and Walk. I think that last year’s bullpen was the best the Phillies have ever had, with Romero, Madson, and Lidge shutting teams down from the 7th on. The Lidge of 2008 was at least equal to the Tugger of 1980.
And I will take Charlie Manuel over any manager in Phils’ history. Dallas Green was a one-trick pony, lighting a fire under the collective butts of a perennially underachieving bunch. While Phils’ fans will forever owe Dallas a debt of gratitude for bringing that catharsis to our town, does anyone think that Dallas could have handled J-Roll’s prolonged slump and Brad Lidge’s problems with the patience of Charlie? Didn’t think so. And Charlie’s experience as one of the majors’ best hitting coaches has helped players like Feliz and Ruiz improve into genuine offensive contributors to this team.
Finally, you simply can’t overstate the clutch nature of this team. A second WS championship will lock this team in as Philly’s best ever. For now, they’re in the mix, thumbs slightly pointing upwards.