Raising Questions

Whose number should be retired by the Phillies?

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Welcome a new contributor to Phillies Nation, Brendan Sample. He writes this piece about the current Phillies’ policy with retired numbers, and how it may have to change with the upcoming retirements of recent notables.

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As the longest tenured single-name franchise in baseball, the Phillies have had thousands of players make an appearance in some capacity, with some of them ranking among the best to ever play the game. Despite over 130 years of existence, however, one thing that the team is lacking in, compared to other historic franchises, is retired numbers.

The Phillies have retired the numbers of just five players during their history: Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32) and Robin Roberts (36). (Chuck Klein and Grover Cleveland Alexander are retired, but without numbers, while Jackie Robinson’s 42 is retired throughout all of Major League Baseball.) Given the amount of time the team has been around for, retiring only five numbers seems like a small amount, but it is ultimately, at least to a degree, by design.

Though it’s never been made official, the Phillies have an unwritten policy to only retire the numbers of players who are voted into the Hall of Fame, which is the case for the five players who have been honored. Combined with the fact that the Phils also have the most losses of any team in baseball history, the policy has led to a distinct lack of players who would end up being the last to wear their uniform number.

With all this in mind, the question must be asked: Should the Phillies change their policy and consider retiring the numbers of players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame? This isn’t to say that the team should strive for as many retired numbers as a franchise like the Yankees, but the question becomes more relevant when considering the players that will likely be retiring in the coming years.

Of all the key members of the Phillies’ playoff run from 2007-2011, the one who easily deserves the most consideration for having his number retired is Jimmy Rollins. During the course of his 15 years with the team, J-Roll established himself as not only the greatest shortstop in franchise history, but also became the Phils’ all-time hit king with 2,306 overall. Add to that already impressive resume his four Gold Gloves, 453 stolen bases, an MVP award in 2007 and of course winning a World Series in 2008, and you have the profile of a man who was the face of the franchise for nearly his entire career.

While he certainly wasn’t perfect, Rollins still meant a great deal to the Phillies franchise and to the city as a whole, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Assuming he never plays another game, Rollins will ultimately fall short in some categories of what is typically considered to be HOF-worthy. He failed to eclipse 2,500 hits overall, 250 home runs, 1,000 RBI or a .450 slugging percentage, among other statistics.

By sabermetrics, his career WAR of 46 is about 20 points lower than the average HOF shortstop, which Baseball Reference calculates at 66.7.

At best, Hall voters will likely see Rollins as a borderline player, which could be enough to keep him on the ballot for several years, but probably not enough to get him the 75 percent needed for official election. When it comes to the matter of getting his No. 11 retired by the Phillies, however, that simply shouldn’t matter. Though he might not have been one of the all-time greats in the eyes of baseball history, the thought of another Phillies player wearing his number is almost unfathomable given everything he did for the team.

So while J-Roll seems like the most obvious choice to have his number retired, what about other players from that same period? This is where it gets trickier, as I would argue that there might not be any other players who should have their number retired alongside Rollins, though I’m definitely on the fence about it.

Chase Utley would certainly be the next closest, but while there is no doubt that he is beloved in Philadelphia, I’m not totally convinced that his legacy is quite as comparable. He falls short of Rollins in many categories and doesn’t have the distinction of being a Phillies all-time leader in anything aside from hits by pitches, but does also surpass him in significant stats like home runs, RBI and average. Combined with the fact that his WAR of 65.4 is also notably higher, and his case becomes much more convincing.

Though there can be much debate over which Phillies deserve to have their numbers retired or not, the fact remains that the debate won’t even exist under the team’s current policy. It’s perhaps unlikely that Rollins or Utley will ever make the Hall, and it would be a true shame to see players from one of the greatest periods in franchise history stand no chance at having their numbers retired. If the Phils want to properly honor their modern legacy, a change must be made.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Jay W.

    January 9, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    I am on board for Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Hamels.

  2. betasigmadeltahag

    January 9, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    I like that only HOFers numbers are retired. It makes them special amongst all other ML teams. If you decide to retire non hall of famers, you have to add Howard on that list and Cole. Those two were greatly responsible for there run to the WS. And if they choose to eliminate the HOF mandate, and you retire any of them you would almost have to retire all of them, and go back to the great late 70’s early 80’s teams and look at Bull and maybe even Maddox in a list of possible numbers to retire

  3. Ken Bland

    January 9, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    This discussion of non HOF numbers that are possibly worth retiring starts with one name, and one name only as a foremost consideration. Richard “Crash” Allen. To think that names such as Utley, Howard, Rollins and Hamels would precede Allen makes me think Seth Wickersham is expressing the idea. Does that mean Allen’s 15 should be retired? Not necessarily.

    That group of recent Phils mentioned does give the topic at least some credibility, even if that list erroneously bypasses Allen, but no matter where a line of demarcation is drawn, you still have names that will creep into the discussion, a la Bull and Maddox above. If they can gain entry into this topic, it’s for damned sure that I could throw Callison and Chris Short out there, and check in as reasonable. Del Ennis would credibly highlight other possibilities from the before my time group.

    It’s a pretty good policy in “place” written, or not, as is. Separation has a way of honoring greatness that is often minimized in the world.

    • schmenkman

      January 9, 2018 at 4:27 pm

      Not to reduce this to just stats, but at some point the players’ numbers do have to be considered and compared. The links below rank hitters and pitchers by the WAR they produced just with the Phillies:

      Hitters: https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/gf6Ot
      Pitchers: https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/JbtVR

      I would advocate for Utley, Rollins, and Hamels, in that order of priority, and no one else.

    • schmenkman

      January 10, 2018 at 9:21 am

      Not to reduce this to just stats, but at some point the players’ numbers do have to be considered and compared. WAR isn’t the end-all, but it does provide a quick measure of total contributions. Below are the leaders in WAR produced just with the Phillies, from baseball reference:

      Hitters:
      1)Schmidt 106.5, 2)Utley 61.5, 3)Delahanty 60.9, 4)Ashburn 57.4, 5)Magee 47.8, 6)Abreu 47.0, 7)Rollins 46.1, 8)Callison 39.4, 9)Roy Thomas 36.5, 10)Hamilton 36.4, 11)Allen 35.4, 12)Klein 34.9

      Pitchers:
      1)Roberts 69.7, 2)Carlton 64.6, 3)Alexander 60.3, 4)Hamels 43.1, 5)Schilling 36.8

      I am ok with waiting and only retiring numbers of Hall of Famers, at least for now. If that policy were to change and the field opened up, given their roles the 2008 championship and the 2007-11 run, I would advocate for Utley, Rollins, and Hamels, in that order of priority, and no one else.

    • Mark Carfagno

      January 16, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      You are 100 % correct Ken. Dick Allen’s number should be retired. What he went through as the Phillies first African American Superstar who was not liked by the fans or the media. The fiasco the Phillies created by sending him Little Rock , Arkansas. The death threats to both him and his family, the vandalizing of his home and all of the other abuse heput up with in his career. In spite of AL of this he still played at an Optimum Level .

  4. Anna M Travitz

    January 9, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    You should retire Darren DAULTON’S No. 10. He was the back bone of the Phillies and should be honored by doing so. The you also have Pat Burrells No. 5, talking about being able to count on himfor a home run when you needed it to win a game or even a base hit to bring in a runner.

  5. Anna M Travitz

    January 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    What I forgot to mention was that Paat Burrell’s heart was so much a Phillie that they made him an honerary PHILLIE FOR ONE DAY SO THAT HE COULD RETIRE FROM BASEBALL AS A pHILLIE.

  6. Scott Waz

    January 9, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    HOFs only. Ever. Unless tragedy prevents.

  7. David Tryson

    January 9, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    #45 Tug Mcgraw

  8. Dave

    January 9, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    If you have to ask the question and make arguments for someone, then you’ve already got your answer. It is almost disrespectful to those who are “no brainers” to relax the standards. We already have the wall of fame that includes players who were great but not superstars.

  9. OCP22

    January 10, 2018 at 11:43 am

    It’s a shame Utley and Howard couldn’t stay healthy… this is why I was never upset with Jimmy not sprinting to first on routine plays. Baseball is such a grind… it might not hurt you in that moment but exerting that extra force takes its toll over time. Jimmy stayed healthy and he’s got the best chance of enshrinement. I think Utley gets in one way or another… Howard probably doesn’t, even though he was just as important to our success as any of them. I don’t know how you deal with number retirement… if you stick to the “only HOF’ers” rule, then I think we will see Rollins and Utley and I’m fine with that. Give them all a spot on the WOF.

  10. Bill Worth

    January 10, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    here are the players that played for the phils in the hall. Most played the biggest part of of their career with other teams… exceptions are Billy Hamilton and Ed Delahanty and also thought Cy Williams was in the hall… grandpop talked about these players…. but the phils are not going to have ceremonies for players that left the game over 110 years ago, even though they should.

    PLAYERS YEARS PLAYED WITH PHILLIES
    Sparky Anderson 1959
    Rich Ashburn 1948-59
    Dave Bancroft 1915-20
    Dan Brouthers 1896
    Roger Connor 1892
    Ed Delahanty 1888-89; 1891-1901
    Hugh Duffy * 1904-06
    Johnny Evers 1917
    Elmer Flick 1898-1902
    Jimmie Foxx 1945
    Billy Hamilton 1890-95
    Hughie Jennings 1901-02
    Chuck Klein 1928-33; 1936-44
    Nap Lajoie 1896-1900
    Tommy McCarthy 1886-87
    Joe Morgan 1983
    Tony Perez 1983
    Ryne Sandberg 1981
    Mike Schmidt 1972-89
    Casey Stengel 1920-21
    Sam Thompson 1889-98
    Lloyd Waner 1942
    Hack Wilson 1934
    PITCHERS YEARS PLAYED WITH PHILLIES
    Grover Alexander 1911-17
    Chief Bender 1916-17
    Jim Bunning 1964-67; 1970-71
    Steve Carlton 1972-86
    Ferguson Jenkins 1965-66
    Tim Keefe 1891-93
    Pedro Martinez 2009
    Kid Nichols 1905-06
    Eppa Rixey 1912-17; 1919-20
    Robin Roberts 1948-61

    MANAGERS YEARS WITH PHILLIES
    Bucky Harris 1943
    Harry Wright 1884-93

    FORD C. FRICK AWARD* YEAR RECEIVED
    By Saam 1990
    Harry Kalas 2002

  11. Jeff Orbach

    January 16, 2018 at 9:03 am

    I think the Phillies should do something the Toronto Maple Leafs do. They have a category called “honoured numbers” in which they don’t retire the jersey but just hang the jersey from the rafters. Maybe we could continue to only retire the numbers of HOF members, but have honored numbers for those that don’t quite make the HOF.

  12. Mike Fassano

    January 16, 2018 at 9:28 am

    It’s called the Wall of Fame.

    • Jeff Orbach

      January 17, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Wall of Fame has no numbers attached

  13. Mark A. Carfagno

    January 16, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    The Phillies should retire Dick Allen’s number 15. Why, because Dick Allen was Philadelphia’s Jackie Robinson. The racism that Dick Allen faced was second to none. He was the Phillies first African American Superstar , yet he wasn’t accepted by most of the fans and the media. In spite of it all Allen still played at an extremely high or Hall of Fame Level. Retiring his number would first show the African American Community that the Dick Allen was a special person and secondly it would enhance his chances for the Hall of Fame. In 2014 Dick Allen missed the Hall of Fame by just ONE VOTE on the Veteran’s Committee Golden Era ballot. That election was controversial because a voter who was going to vote for Dick Allen was replaced at the last minute by someone who did not vote for him.

    • Jeff Orbach

      January 17, 2018 at 9:26 am

      Agreed-

  14. Anthony Cerone

    January 18, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Tim,
    Nice writeup but just for the record, Ashburn #1 was retired in 1979, way before he made the hall of fame in 1995.

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