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All-Vet Team Has Some Tough Choices For Fans

As part of the celebration of the final season at Veterans Stadium, the Phillies are taking votes for the All-Veterans Stadium team of Phillies. Some of the positions are easy and don't need much thought. Some of the others though are a little tougher and generate some debate. Be sure to take part in the debate on the <a href="http://insiders3.ezboard.com/fphiladelphiaphilliesfrm1">Philly Town Message Board</a>.

This is the 33rd and final season for the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. While the Phils have had some lean years, their tenure at the Vet featured by far the most successful run in team history, including seven postseason appearances, three of the team's five pennants and the only world championship in 120 years of baseball.

In selecting the All-Time Veterans Stadium team - which you can do on the Phillies web site - some choices are ridiculously easy, like Mike Schmidt at third base and Steve Carlton as the team's left-handed starter. Some of the decisions at the other positions are pretty tough. Here are my choices, which are sure to inspire some debate and disagreement:

Catcher: Bob Boone, Ozzie Virgil, Bo Diaz, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal

This is a pretty tough position, as the Phillies have had pretty good catchers for most of their stay at the Vet. Bo Diaz had a terrific year for the Phillies in 1982, but played little more than two full seasons. Ozzie Virgil made the All-Star team in 1985, but he, too, had just two full years as a starter. Mike Lieberthal has had a good career as well, but basically, this position comes down to a representative from the 1980 team and one from the 1993 team.

They are two radically different players. Bob Boone was a defensive stalwart, one of the best catchers in baseball history. He won two Gold Gloves with the Phillies, and easily could have won more had Johnny Bench not won so many on reputation toward the end of his career. Boone also had some good years with the stick, hitting between .271 and .286 for four straight years, with good on-base percentages and moderate power. He hit .412 in the 1980 World Series.

Darren Daulton suffered through many injuries early in his career, and it looked for a while that he might be a career disappointment. The Phillies were widely ridiculed for giving him a big contract after the 1990 season, in which he hit just .196, but they got a good return on their investment. Daulton responded with a terrific all-around year in 1992, making the All-Star team and hitting .270 with 27 homers. He finished among the league leaders in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and he led the league with 109 RBIs, one of the few catchers to ever do so. He proved it wasn't a fluke by posting similar numbers the next year, hitting .257-24-105 with 111 walks as the Phillies coasted to the NL East division title. He was on pace for an even bigger year in 1994, but he got hurt and the strike came. His career as a Phillies starting catcher last only six seasons, some of them injury plagued, but he was one of the best players in the league for a short period, and was the leader of the team known as Daulton's Gang.

Daulton gets my vote.

First base: Some of the candidates here are pretty weak. Dick Allen, who had many monstrous seasons with the Phillies and other teams during his stormy career, returned to the Phillies near the end and was a part-time player in 1975-76. Richie Hebner was a productive player who had two good seasons for the Phils, helping them to division titles in 1977 and 1978. Rico Brogna was a great guy, and a nice, solid player for the Phillies, hitting 20 homers a year and driving in some runs while playing superlative defense.

But again, it comes down to two guys who played on pennant winners.

The Phillies made the biggest free-agent signing in their history prior to Jim Thome when they signed Pete Rose after the 1978 season. The Phillies had won three straight division titles, but they couldn't get into the World Series. Rose was the piece that put them over the top. He had great statistical seasons in 1979 and 1981, hitting .331 and .325, but it was the 1980 season that most fans here will remember him by. He hit just .282, low for him, but he had 12 game-winning hits. His hustle and drive sparked the team, and who could forget how he emphatically spiked the ball at first at the end of each inning, or how he miraculously caught a foul ball that popped out of Bob Boone's glove late in Game 6 of the 1980 World Series?

John Kruk was a funny-looking guy, an overweight slob with a strange batting stance and not much power for a first baseman of his era. He was best-known for his oddball humor, but he was a terrific player, slashing hits to the opposite field. He was an on-base machine, posting a .430 OBP in 1993.

Kruk may have the better stats, overall, but really, the choice here has to be Rose. Most members of the 1980 team credit Rose for making them into winners, and it was Rose who convinced Mike Schmidt that he was the best player in the league and helped lift him into baseball's upper echelon.

Second base: Denny Doyle, Dave Cash, Manny Trillo, Juan Samuel, Mickey Morandini

This is not the Phillies' strongest position. Denny Doyle was a 26-year-old rookie when the Phillies opened the Vet in 1971, and was a starter for four years. That's the extent of his credentials. Mickey Morandini was a fine player, a solid second baseman, but not an impact player.

Dave Cash was a fan favorite, and had two terrific years, with over 200 hits in 1974 and 1975, but left the Phillies as a free agent after the '76 season.

Manny Trillo won three Gold Gloves with the Phillies and set a record for most consecutive errorless games by a second baseman. He had a terrific year in 1980, hitting .292 with 41 extra-base hits and superlative defense. He was the MVP of the 1980 NLCS against Houston, hitting .381. He was traded in the 5-for-1 Von Hayes deal after the 1982 season.

Joe Morgan took over for Trillo in 1983, but he was just keeping the spot warm for Juan Samuel. Samuel was a brilliant talent, with unbelievable speed and tremendous power for a middle infielder. He stole 72 bases as a rookie and led the league in triples twice. In 1987, he batted .272 with 60 walks, 28 homers, 37 doubles, 15 triples and 35 stolen bases. Unfortunately, Sammy had holes in his game: His strike zone judgment was very poor, and he never had a good on-base percentage. His defense at second base was quite poor, eventually forcing a switch to the outfield when it became apparent that he wasn't going to improve. He, too, was traded in a blockbuster deal, going to the Mets for Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell.

Trillo is the winner here. He was the best combination of offense and defense, and if I had the chance to bring back any of these players in their prime, he'd be my choice.

Third base: Don Money, Mike Schmidt, Charlie Hayes, Dave Hollins, Scott Rolen

Obviously, it's not even worth discussing this one. Michael Jack Schmidt is the greatest third baseman in major league history, and the best player in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies. He did everything imaginable on the baseball field, except hit for a high average, although he did hit over .280 six times. Bill James once said "True, he didn't hit .320, but if he did, he would have been the best player ever."

To recount some of his accomplishments: Schmidt led the NL in home runs a record eight times. He won three MVPs, tied for a record until Barry Bonds came along. He could have won more, as he was in the top 10 in the voting nine times. He had good speed, and was a terrific baserunner. He won 10 Gold Gloves and was the MVP of the 1980 World Series.

Left field: Greg Luzinski, Gary Matthews, Pete Incaviglia, Gregg Jefferies, Pat Burrell

Gary Matthews was a solid performer in three years for the Phillies, and won the NLCS MVP in 1983 against the Dodgers. Pete Incaviglia had a huge year as a platoon player in 1993. Gregg Jefferies was one of the worst free agent signings in team history. Pat Burrell, of course, is the current Phillies left fielder. Although he had a big year with the bat in 2002, he's struggling to get past the Mendoza mark this year.

The easy winner here, of course, is Greg Luzinski. He's second to Schmidt in most offensive categories since the Phillies moved to Veterans Stadium. Luzinski and Schmidt formed one of the most feared 3-4 combinations in history, as the duo combined for 394 home runs from 1975 to 1980. Luzinski batted .300 or better three times in that period, and he finished second in the MVP race in 1975 and 1977.

After he retired from baseball, "The Bull" thrilled fans with his annual "Bull Blast" home run derby.

Center field: Willie Montanez, Garry Maddox, Milt Thompson, Lenny Dykstra, Doug Glanville

From the time of Slidin' Billy Hamilton, the Phillies have featured many fine center fielders. The best was Richie Ashburn, the team's leadoff hitter for the 1950s and, of course, a broadcaster for many years. "Whitey" is, without a doubt, the most beloved player in team history.

Since moving to the Vet, the Phillies have had two outstanding performers in center field. Garry Lee Maddox was a classy guy, a Vietnam vet and one of the most brilliant center fielders in history. He didn't race to make diving catches, he glided effortlessly to the ball and made seemingly surefire doubles and triples into easy outs. As Bill Conlin (or was it Ralph Kiner) said, "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by Maddox."

Maddox was a dangerous hitter, batting .330 in 1976 with a career average of .285. He had good power (for that time), generally hitting 11-14 homers and driving in around 70 runs. He had terrific speed, stealing over 20 bases five times for the Phillies.

However, the honor here has to go to Lenny Dykstra. "Nails" was a spark plug, a great leadoff hitter. He was the Pete Reiser of his time, constantly injured because of his all-out style of play, but a great player nonetheless. When he was on the Mets, he was an enemy player Phillies fans loved to hate. When he became a Phillie, he became a fan favorite.

Lenny had a spectacular season in 1990, his first full year with the Phillies. Batting .400 early in the season, he finished at .325 with 33 stolen bases and 106 runs scored. In 1993, he had possibly the greatest year ever for a National League leadoff hitter, hitting .305 with 129 walks and a remarkable 143 runs scored. He capped that off with a blistering postseason performance, hitting a memorable game-winning homer in Game 5 of the NLCS off Mark Wohlers, then batting .348 with 4 homers against the Blue Jays in the World Series.

Right field: Lots of competition here. The Phillies have lacked the big-time bomber in right field, like a Manny Ramirez or Vlad Guerrero, but have had plenty of production nonetheless. Bake McBride had the town's second-biggest 'fro (behind Dr. J) in the 1970s, and he was a staple on a team that won three division titles in four years. Acquired from St. Louis in the middle of the 1977 season, "Shake and Bake" made a big impact immediately, hitting .339 with 11 homers and 27 stolen bases in little more than half a season after the trade. In the World Championship year of 1980, McBride finished first among batting average qualifiers on the team with a .309 average, and second with 91 RBIs.

Von Hayes, of course, was the "1" in the 5-for-1 trade with Cleveland that sent Manny Trillo and Julio Franco to the Indians. With Julio Franco still playing, it's clear that the Phillies lost big time on the trade. Because of that, Hayes was never able to live up to expectations, but he was a productive player in his nine seasons with the team. He had decent home run power, hitting 21 homers in 1987 and 26 in 1989. He hit as high as .305 (with 19 homers and 98 RBIs) in 1986, and he had a good eye (100 walks twice) and stole some bases.

Glenn Wilson, known as "Glennbo," was a fan favorite. Possessing a powerful right arm, Wilson recorded 60 baserunner kills in four season with the Phillies. He had a career year when he drove in 102 runs for the Phillies in 1985.

Jim Eisenreich was part of a productive platoon in right field along with Wes Chamberlain in the team's 1993 pennant run. Best known for overcoming Tourette's syndrome, Eisenreich hit .300 every year with the Phillies, including .361 in 1996.

My choice here, though, is Bobby Abreu. Abreu's best quality is that he is good at several aspects of the game. He hits for average, he has good power, draws many walks and steals bases. He's one of the more underrated hitters in the game, having put up an OPS of at least 900 in every season with the Phillies.

Right-handed starter: Larry Christenson, Jim Lonborg, Dick Ruthven, John Denny, Curt Schilling

Of note, John Denny won the 1983 Cy Young award, going 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA after being acquired in one of several deals the Phillies made with the Indian in the early 1980s.

Curt Schilling is a clear and easy winner here. Among the five, Schilling is first in wins, second in ERA and he has more than twice as many strikeouts as any of the others. The Phillies acquired Schilling in a deal with the Astros for Jason Grimsley, and Schilling immediately emerged as an ace when pitching coach Johnny Podres and manager Jim Fregosi put him into the rotation. Schilling won 14 games with a 2.35 ERA in 1992, and won 16 games in 1993. Schilling was the MVP of the 1993 NLCS, and pitched a shutout against the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the World Series. Schilling led the league in strikeouts in 1997, breaking Steve Carlton's 25-year record for Ks in a season with 319. He led the league again in 1998, with 300.

Left-handed starter: Steve Carlton, Shane Rawley, Terry Mulholland, Danny Jackson, Randy Wolf

Steve Carlton, again, is an easy choice. He won more games with the Phillies than the other four combined, although hopefully Randy Wolf will make his way to 200 wins or so.

"Lefty" was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He had perhaps the most amazing season for any pitcher when he won 27 games with a very bad Phillies team that won only 59 in 1972. He won his first of four Cy Young awards that year. Carlton ranks second among left-handers in with 329 wins, and he's second in strikeouts to only Nolan Ryan.

Relief pitcher: Tug McGraw, Al Holland, Steve Bedrosian, Mitch Williams, Jose Mesa

Although Steve Bedrosian won a Cy Young award in 1987, Tug McGraw is the winner here. Tug formed a tremendous bullpen along with Ron Reed and Gene Garber in the late 1970s, and he emerged as the team's ace fireman in 1980. He posted a 1.46 ERA that year, with 20 saves, and, of course, gave the Phillies fans' their finest moment when he struck out Willie Wilson for the final out of the 1980 World Series.


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