Chris Johnson takes a look at the people most responsible for the Phillies run of NL East titles.
#10 Pat Burrell – When Burrell joined the big league club in 2000 the team was in the midst of some of their darkest days. Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu and Curt Schilling were the leaders by on-field performance only. The trio of all stars dragged their negative attitudes around the clubhouse and onto the field day after day, season after season. Schilling was sent to Arizona in 2000 and Rolen to St. Louis in 2002. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, younger players started to join the team in Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Burrell could have joined the ranks of Rolen, Schilling and Abreu in criticizing management and punching his own ticket out of town. Instead, he helped bring new life to the franchise, ultimately resulting in the 2008 Championship.
#9 The New York Mets – In the mid-2000s the New York Mets quickly ascended to the top of the NL East. They went all the way to the NLCS in 2006 and with 17 games remaining in 2007, they led the NL East by 7.5 games. Again, in 2008, the NL East title was theirs to lose, holding a 3.5 game lead late in September. Without the Mets collapsing late in these two seasons the Phillies don’t make the playoffs, and don’t win the 2008 World Series. Yes, the Phillies were quickly swept out of the 2007 playoffs, but the experience of a late September run and getting some postseason games under their belts were huge factors in their ’08 title.
#8 Jim Thome – If I knew Spike (editor’s note: not true. I wouldn’t even have Burrell on this list anyway) wasn’t going to move him back anyway, Thome would be much higher on my list. Thome was the figurehead for the new era in Philadelphia Phillies baseball. With his signing in 2003 Phillies management announced to the city that they were through being ‘small market’ and were ready to make a significant run towards the top of the standings. Thome was a name, hit home runs and was a ‘blue-collar’, Philadelphia type hard worker.
#7 Ed Wade – No jokes here, please. You all think Ed Wade is the worst GM in baseball history, and you’re all wrong. It’s true that he didn’t make the greatest trades of all time or look like a baseball guy, but there were other responsibilities that partially went unnoticed. With Wade at the helm, the Phillies drafted, among others, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Brett Myers. Wade was also the man responsible for hiring Charlie Manuel. I’d be remiss to exclude Wade’s later moves which helped the Phillies maintain their NL East dominance, trading them Brad Lidge, Eric Bruntlett (he’s got a ring), Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. Without Ed Wade, the Phillies don’t win 5 straight divisions.
#6 The New York Yankees – Say what you want about the Yankees outspending every other team as the reason they’ve won championships in the past 15 years. Today, the Phillies are very much like the Yankees in terms of how their dominant teams were built. Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettite = Rollins, Hamels, Howard, Utley. The Core 4 of the Yankees are not far and away better than the Phillies Core 4. All 8 of those guys were homegrown talent which played major roles in their teams’ success. Knoblauch, ARod, Clemens, Sabathia = Halladay, Lee, Pence, Polanco. Once your core is built the next step in building your team has to be signing free agents. Yes, it always angered me when the Yankees signed everyone under the sun because they had the money to spend, but no more complaining from me now that players would prefer to wear red pinstripes to blue.
#5 Ruben Amaro Jr. – Amaro didn’t build the 2008 championship team, but he’s ensured that the Phillies will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Amaro can’t sit still. Cliff Lee alone wasn’t good enough. Roy Halladay alone wasn’t good enough. Halladay and Roy Oswalt weren’t enough. Halladay, Oswalt, Lee and Placido Polanco weren’t good enough. And only time will tell if Halladay, Oswalt, Lee, Polanco and Hunter Pence are good enough. Oh yea, this is with that core group as mentioned above also in the fold here. As savvy a businessman as they come, Amaro keeps everything quiet and works quickly to ensure he gets what he wants. Bravo, Amaro. Not only for building the most recent edition of this juggernaut, but for doing it in style.
#4 Pat Gillick – Amaro learned his moves from his predecessor; Hawaiian shirt wearing, World Series winning Pat Gillick. Gillick made many moves after taking the reins of the Phillies franchise. Gillick signed Jayson Werth, JC Romero, Pedro Feliz and traded for Brad Lidge and Jamie Moyer. These names aren’t as flashy as Halladay, Oswalt, Lee and Pence, but they were the right pieces to get the Phillies their World Series title.
#3 You, the fans – Nationally, Philadelphia fans are known as rude, obnoxious and boo-birds. Personally, I don’t care what national writers and reporters think. I’m at the games. I feel the energy. I see everyone standing at any point in the game where a momentum shift is necessary. Third inning, tie game, 2 on, Chooch up – THE FANS STAND UP. Fifth inning, down 1, Utley on first, Howard up – THE FANS STAND UP. Mid September, 10 game lead in the standings, magic number of 1, winners of 4 straight NL East titles, a World Series title and another NL pennant – THE FANS STAND UP ALL GAME. Phillies fans pack the stadium day after day, year after year. Phillies fans travel to each and every road game, no matter if it’s a 2 hour drive to New York or a 6 hour flight to San Diego. TV and radio ratings have never been higher. You can’t walk down the street any day of the year and not see Phillies tshirts, hats or jackets. 200some straight sellouts have provided the Phillies ownership to allow Amaro to spend year after year on the greatest players in the game.
#2 Charlie Manuel – Terry Francona was too nice. Larry Bowa was too mean. Uncle Charlie is the answer. He’s a players manager who knows when to yell and bench players. He feels the game and bases every move he makes on instinct. He’s loyal, and sometimes too loyal. But he’s the best manager in the game right now. Just this season alone, he’s won many games with Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and Ben Francisco playing prominent roles. He surrounds himself with other baseball people on the field, hiring former major league managers Davy Lopes, Sam Perlozzo, Jimy Williams and Juan Samuel.
#1 The Players – You can’t win as many games and titles as these Phillies have without great players. And the players that have been here for it all, including the down years, are the core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels. Before the season started @ZooWithRoy wrote about the 2011 Phillies starting rotation as Ninja Turtles. Well, here’s Howard, Utley, Rollins and Hamels as the Turtles:
Howard : Leonardo – The posterboy. Howard is always in the forefront, whether it be for his stature or his mile long home runs.
Utley : Donatello – Strong, silent and the real leader of the team. Utley doesn’t show his leadership by gloating, but by his work ethic on the field and his leadership in the clubhouse.
Rollins : Michelangelo – Rollins is just going to put it out there. The Phillies are great. They’re the ‘team to beat.’ He wears shades with the best of them and no one really cares if he gets the team into a little bit of trouble. He’s Jimmy and it’s the only way he knows how to be.
Hamels : Raphael – Cole doesn’t care what you think of him anymore. He’s an outcast in this group of everyday players. He’ll do his own thing, yet step up in the biggest of moments. After the 2008 World Series, Cole did a 5 month media tour, taking him away from his training and conditioning. Coming out of the gates slow in 2009, Cole buckled down, stopped complaining and was again part of the dominant foursome.
Chris Johnson is the promotions director for 94WIP, and co-host of What’s The Word on Phillies 24/7. Follow him on Twitter @chrisjohnsonjr.