Each week, Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly will answer reader questions as part of the Phillies Nation Mailbag. Questions can be submitted by tweeting at @PhilliesNation, @TimKellySports or e-mailing your question to TSK@TimKellyMedia.com. Let’s get to this week’s question.
Who will be the next person to wear a Phillies cap in the Hall of Fame? – James in Ambler
Tuesday, a Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Famer is likely to get into the Hall of Fame for the second consecutive year. In 2018, Jim Thome was elected on his first year of eligibility. It appears the late Roy Halladay will follow suit in 2019.
But like Thome, who went in as a Cleveland Indian, Halladay almost certainly won’t don a Phillies cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Halladay spent 12 of his 16 major league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, and said in 2016 that if he was ever elected to the Hall of Fame, he wanted to go in as a Blue Jay.
So it’s a fair question to ask who will be the next player elected to the Hall of Fame as a Phillie. It could come as soon as next year. It may not come for decades. That leaves quite a bit of a grey area.
Though Curt Schilling probably won’t be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019, he’s polling at 72.1 percent at the time of publication. If Schilling comes anywhere near 72.1 percent for his final vote total, it would represent a very strong seventh year on the ballot. 75 percent or more would allow him to gain induction, but considering he received 51.2 percent of the vote in 2018, any results that start with a six would lead you to think Schilling is trending towards eventually getting in.
Of course, even if Schilling gets in, there’s no guarantee it would be as a Phillie. He’s one of the rare players that made enough of an impact on three different franchises that he could go in as any of those three teams.
Schilling spent eight-and-a-half seasons with the Phillies, the most of any team. But despite winning the 1993 NLCS MVP, the Phillies made the playoffs just once during Schilling’s tenure in Philadelphia. In fact, the Phillies magical 1993 season was the only time that the club posted a winning season while Schilling was on the team. So despite Schilling having been worth 16.5 fWAR between 1997 and 1998, it’s fair to wonder if nationally he’s remembered as a Phillie. Heck, locally he may not even be remembered as a Phillie first.
Schilling spent just three-and-a-half seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but 2001-2002 may have been the peak two-year stretch of his career. In 2001, Schilling won co-MVP of the World Series with Hall of Famer Randy Johnson after the Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees in one of the most classic World Series ever played. In 2002, Schilling went 23-7 with a 3.23 ERA, 2.40 FIP and 9.3 fWAR. Only Johnson finished ahead of him in National League Cy Young Award voting.
And if neither of those stops were enough, Schilling spent the final four seasons of his career in Boston. Prior to his arrival, the Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years. The Red Sox would break “The Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, Schilling’s first season with the team, with his bloody sock game in Game 6 of the ALCS serving as one of the most memorable postseason moments this century. The Red Sox would win a second title in 2007, Schilling’s final major league season.
So Schilling could be the next player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Phillie. He also could be the next Diamondback or Red Sox to go into the Hall of Fame. And again, it’s still not a certainty that he will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame.
If not Schilling, who else has a chance in the near future to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Phillie?
Scott Rolen was a seven-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award and tops the average Hall of Fame third baseman in bWAR, JAWS and WAR7. As I wrote for SportsRadio 94 WIP in November, Rolen deserves to be a Hall of Famer. But for whatever reason – perhaps because his peak came during the Steroid Era – he’s one of those players that history doesn’t properly appreciate. Perhaps someday the grassroots energy that’s behind Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker currently will get behind Rolen, but of public ballots, he’s received under 25 percent of the vote. And that’s actually up from the 10.2 percent that he received in his first year on the ballot.
Even if Rolen were to be elected, he probably would go into the Hall of Fame as a St. Louis Cardinal. Like Schilling, Rolen spent the largest chunk of his career (parts of seven seasons) with the Phillies. He won the 1997 Rookie of the Year with the Phillies, but the club’s lack of team success ultimately led to him pushing his way out of Philadelphia in what became a very ugly process. He was traded to the Cardinals in July of 2002, and despite his relationship with Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa also ending on less-than-ideal terms, Rolen was a key member of the 2006 World Series Champion Cardinals.
Bobby Abreu is certainly remembered as a Phillie and may be the early favorite to be the club’s 2019 Wall of Fame inductee. He’ll become eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2020. His case is probably worth a closer examination than you may think – he tops recent inductee Vladimir Guerrero in bWAR, WAR7 and JAWS. Still, Abreu, despite winning a Gold Glove Award in 2005, finished his career with -62 defensive runs saved (and defensive runs saved wasn’t even tracked until 2002). And while Guerrero was one of the more beloved players of his era, Abreu probably falls into the Rolen category in terms of not being as appreciated as he should. And unlike Abreu, Rolen is one of the greatest fielders of all-time at his position.
Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies all-time hits leader, will become eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot in 2022. He won the 2007 National League MVP, was a three-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove Award winner. The Phillies also had tremendous team success during Rollins’ time with the club, winning five National League East titles, two National League pennants and the 2008 World Series. His place among the Phillies all-time greats is solidified.
However, he’s going to face an uphill battle when he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame. Rollins falls significantly short of the bWAR, JAWS and WAR7 of the average Hall of Fame shortstop. Often, his case has been compared to Barry Larkin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Rollins does top Larkin in terms of hits, with both having won one National League MVP. But Larkin hit for a career batting average of .295, 31 points higher than Rollins. Meanwhile, Larkin trounces Larkin in career bWAR (70.4 to 46.3), WAR7 (43.3 to 32.4) and JAWS (56.9 to 39.3).
Rollins will almost certainly remain on the ballot for all 10 years, but the chances of him being the next person inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Phillie aren’t especially high.
And then there’s Rollins’ long-time double-play partner, Chase Utley.
Utley had one of the greatest peaks that a second baseman has ever had. For reference, his WAR7 is 49.3, which tops the 44.5 average WAR7 for a Hall of Fame second baseman. His 57.3 JAWS slightly tops the average JAWS of a Hall of Fame second baseman.
Unfortunately for Utley, knee injuries limited him to just 301 of a possible 486 games between 2010 and 2012, his age 31 through 33 seasons. When you couple that with Placido Polanco’s presence preventing Utley from playing over 100 games until his age-26 season, his counting numbers don’t scream Hall of Famer. For example, he finished his career with 1,885 hits. The list of players in the Hall of Fame with less than 2,000 hits is very small, and even that list includes players that spent portions of their careers in the Negro leagues.
At the same time, Utley had one of the greatest peaks for a second baseman ever. He’ll become eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2024 and he figures to remain on the ballot all 10 years. Hall of Fame voters Danny Knobler and Jerry Crasnick cast doubt on whether Utley will ultimately get in when they joined me on Mound Visit on SportsRadio 94 WIP late in 2018, but both expect Utley’s case to be debated for the better part of a decade.
Frankly, it’s not impossible that the next person to wear a Phillies cap in the Hall of Fame isn’t yet on the Phillies. Scott Boras is selling teams on Bryce Harper being a future Hall of Famer, and he’s probably right. Manny Machado – who, like Harper, is still only 26 – is in a similar position. While both have had quite a bit of early career success, if they sign in Philadelphia this offseason, they may be remembered as Phillies. And you know what that means if they are elected to the Hall of Fame.
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