Succeeding as a player of the Philadelphia Phillies isn't all that difficult. Some people may think it is. They'll point towards the rowdy fans and incredible expectations to win every season as reasons why playing in Philly could be difficult, but it's really not.
The players know what they have to do to succeed here. They have to play the game hard night in and night out. They have to put the team before themselves. Winning always helps the cause, but as long as you prove to the fans that winning is the ultimate goal, they'll love you forever. (Okay, nothing is forever, but definitely for a long time.)
Succeeding in Philadelphia looks like a challenge, but it's not that hard. If you do all of the things listed above, you'll be a fan-favorite in no time, and I assure you, it is much easier to play in this city as a fan-favorite.
It just goes to show that winning isn't everything. The Phillies were a bad team for a long time, but they managed to field some fan favorites regardless, and they all have that unique approach to the game in common.
Earlier this week, I posted a slideshow about the Phillies' all-time, 25-man roster.It was chocked full of the franchise's all-time greats, regardless of their status with the fans.
This one will be different. In this slideshow, statistics are irrelevant. It's the opinion that matters. For each position, we'll take a look at one of the Phillies' all-time fan-favorites and see how that roster compares.
Carlos Ruiz came into the season easily among the ranks of the organization's all-time fan-favorites. There's just something about the guy that you can find it easy to rally behind him. He's just that type of player.
But now that we're nearly midway through the 2012 season, Ruiz is raising the bar to an entirely different level.
The catcher's incredible, MVP-like campaign this season has given fans even more of a reason to love him. Now, he's not just the underrated, likeable catcher. He's a legitimate threat at the plate and a man that has picked up his club and carried them throughout the season.
A lot of players on that famous 1993 Phillies' club received a lot of consideration for this list, but not many of them made it. The reason for that is simple: Only one of them was John Kruk.
While a couple of other guys made the list for different reasons, no one on that club was quite like Kruk, the fun-loving, joke-cracking first baseman that proved to be the glue that kept the Phillies together.
His personality put him over with the fans, but it was his play on the field that made him a favorite. A contact-first hitter, Kruk helped the Phillies surprise the baseball world and challenge for a World Series title against the Toronto Blue Jays.
It was a great time for Phillies fans. Even though they didn't win, the fight was great.
You're kind of a no-brainer for a list like this when Phillies legend Harry Kalas affectionately calls you "The Man."
That's something that only Chase Utley can boast.
Utley won the hearts of Phillies fans after he belted his first hit as a Major League player over the wall in Veterans Stadium for a grand slam. That was only the beginning of the legend of Utley.
The second baseman carved a space for himself in this city's sports history by running over catchers, making plays that looked impossible suddenly seem more possible, and coming through in the clutch.
Jimmy Rollins is a unique player, given the context of this list.
There's no doubt that Phillies fans can get on a player at times, and they've certainly gotten all over Rollins in the past, whether it's not legging out a ground ball, showing up late, or whatever the case may be.
At the same time, however, there's just something about Rollins that makes him a fan-favorite. It's almost an involuntary reaction.
Of course, being a former MVP and a World Champion certainly doesn't hurt your resume in this city, and he'll always be a fan-favorite as a result.
Long before Jimmy Rollins could become that unique character, however, that role belonged to the greatest Phillie of all-time: Mike Schmidt.
There's no denying Schmidt's on-field success. The man is a former World Champion. He is the owner of three MVP awards, 10 Gold Gloves, and six Silver Sluggers. He is a 12-time All-Star.
Looking at his accomplishments, how can Schmidt be anything but a fan-favorite?
Of course, at least to Phillies' fans, it's always more than just what you can do on the field. There's also no doubt that Schmidt has always been the type of guy to have a few choice words about choice situations.
Regardless of what he has to say, Schmidt will always be a fan-favorite, well, just because he's Michael Jack Schmidt.
Greg Luzinski just looks like the kind of guy that should be a fan-favorite in Philadelphia.
The former left-fielder was a hulking presence at the plate. A mean looking free swinger with the ability to absolutely destroy a baseball and have absolutely no remorse about doing it. He could hurt a pitcher's feelings just by looking at him.
A World Series Champion in 1980, Luzinski sealed his place in Philly sports lore. In more recent years, he's kept in touch with fans. He's still closely tied to the organization, both through his famous barbecue at Citizens Bank Park and through other endeavors.
Hey, they didn't call the man "The Bull" for nothing.
Richie Ashburn is a man that needs no introduction in the city of Philadelphia.
His legacy in this city began on the field, where his contact-oriented approach and speed on the base paths made him one of the game's most exciting players to watch. The consistency of his game eventually earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
It was his love for this city off of the field that made him, undoubtedly, one of this city's all-time fan-favorites. When his playing career was finished, he returned to the organization to work as the broadcast partner of the legendary Harry Kalas.
Johnny Callison was the face of the Phillies' organization during a time when it wasn't exactly popular to be the face of the Phillies' organization.
After coming over from the Chicago White Sox in a trade, Callison was a member of that infmamous 1964 team that notoriously "pholded" out of first place.
The team would go in a downward spiral following "The Phold," but Callison's career would head in a different direction. He was extremely talented, known for his speed and great base-running. Callison was truly the kind of player that the fans could rally behind.
The relationship between Steve Carlton and the fans has always been an interesting one, pretty much in nearly the same mold as the one forged between the fans and Mike Schmidt.
There's no denying Carlton's talent. On the field, he was more than the best pitcher in the history of this organization, he was one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.
In his 24-year career, most of which was spent with the Phillies, Carlton took home an incredible four Cy Young Awards. He was named to the All-Star Game 10 times, and of course, was a World Champion in 1980.
It's those kind of accolades that create a fan-favorite in this city regardless of what you do or say off the field.
Robin Roberts was a starting pitcher built in the spirit of the city of Philadelphia.
It almost seems wrong to describe him as blandly as a "workhorse," but what baseball terminology describes him better? During a seven year stretch from 1950-56, no pitcher in baseball was better in that role.
Over that period of time, Roberts led the league in innings pitched five times, in in games started six times, in complete games five times, and in wins four times.
A seven-time All-Star, Roberts was an easy choice for the Hall of Fame and an even easier choice as a fan-favorite.
Roy Halladay is another pitcher that was built to succeed in Philadelphia. A mild-mannered but intense competitor who seems to do nothing other than win every time he takes the mound.
Even amidst the pressure of being traded for several top prospects, Halladay took to the mound in Philadelphia and lived up to the hype, and them some. In his first year with the Phillies, all he did was win a Cy Young Award, the second of his career.
Though 2012 hasn't been kind to Halladay, there's no doubt that he's a favorite amongst the fans and still one of the game's best pitchers.
Nothing gets a guy on the fans' "nice list" quite like being a local guy who succeeds at the MLB level, and Curt Simmons could certainly lay claim to that.
The story of his discovery by the Phillies is a fascinating one. The club was struggling mightily at the time and couldn't put fans in the seats. They organized a promotional event where the Phillies would take on local high school All-Stars.
On the mound for the students was Simmons, born and raised in the state of Pennsylvania.
Everyone attending the event expected a blowout, but that would not be the case. Simmons was every bit as good as the Phillies' starter and nearly won the game.
Simmons impressed the Phillies that day. He was pitching for them in the MLB that same year.
Cliff Lee is the fifth starter on this list because the fans are becoming a bit edgy. They want the man making the most money this season to pick up a win, and quick.
But I can assure that as soon as that happens, it will be rainbows and butterflies for Lee and the fans all over again.
I'm not sure there was a more anticipated return in the history of this organization than the moment that it became official that the Phillies had re-signed Lee. The fans were giddy for months, all the way from December until it became legitimate in April.
He's definitely a fan-favorite. The fans just expect more.
It's funny how some players just draw the fans' attention, and no player seemed to do that better than Steve Jeltz.
Who knows. Maybe it was the Jheri Curls. Maybe it was the way he approached the game with a little flare. (It certainly wasn't the .213 batting average or .586 OPS.)
Then again, Philadelphia has always been a city with a soft spot for the underdog, and Jeltz was certainly an underdog. He managed to stick around for seven seasons in Philadelphia before he was dealt to the Kansas City Royals for Jose de Jesus.
Talk about being the type of player that can relate to the Phillies fans, Shane Victorino edged out a number of all-time great Phillies to earn this spot. That's because he's nearly the perfect, Philly fan-favorite.
He's the underdog. Victorino was drafted in the Rule 5 Draft not once, but twice, before finally sticking with the Phillies, and that's after a good chunk of time spent on the bench.
Since then he's developed into one of the game's top center fielders, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner.
He's also got that spark that Phillies' fans love. He plays the game with passion and leaves it all on the field, and the fans won't ask for much more.
The only reason he's not starting in center field is because of some guy named Richie Ashburn.
Honorable Mentions: Bake McBride, Lenny Dykstra, Pat Burrell, Chuck Klein
In the last week alone, I've created two different "all-time" Phillies rosters, with different focal points of course. Darren Daulton has been the back-up catcher on both, which in some ways should and should not speak for his Phillies' tenure.
His inclusion on those lists should say that he wasn't just an all-time great for the Phillies. He was also a fan-favorite.
Daulton was the voice of the Phillies during their improbably run at the World Series in 1993 and the fans knew it. He was a mullet wearing, free-thinking spirit that could back up anything his club could say on the field.
How many times do we get to see a standing ovation for a man that was signed to be a pinch-hitter?
Okay, that doesn't tell the entire story, but it certainly is true of Jim Thome. The Phillies brought the lefty slugger back during the off-season, and even through his early struggles, the fans have supported Thome and it isn't hard to understand why: He chose Philadelphia.
They called, he answered, the fans love him.
But he was also the man who chose the Phillies back in 2003 after a successful career with the Cleveland Indians. He was the first big-name free agent to choose the Phillies in a long time. A lot of people will tell you that Thome put the club back on the map and it is hard to deny it.
Okay, so I'm cheating a bit.
Pete Rose wasn't technically a right-handed hitter. Technically, Rose was a switch-hitter. But switch-hitters hit right-handed, so I think we'll make an exception for one of the all-time greats.
It certainly wasn't easy to add Rose to this list either, and not because he was a switch-hitter. Is he really a fan-favorite?
During most of his playing days, sure. He was absolutely a fan-favorite. He didn't exactly leave Philadelphia quietly, but fans respected what he did on the field, knew that he helped them win their first World Series, and knew that they were watching one of the game's all-time greats—maybe one of the best hitters ever.
They were proud, and still are, to have him wear the uniform.
Mix in all of the incidents off the field following his retirement and you certainly have an interesting case as a "fan-favorite." I thought he was worthy of a slide.
Fans of the Phillies will always look kindly upon players who just go out and play the game, regardless of what they're asked to do, and no pitcher was more willing to do whatever it took to help the team win than former pitcher Chris Short.
The left-handed pitcher filled a number of roles for the Phillies, and he was quite good at all of them.
As a starter, Short won at least 17 games four different times, including a 20-win season in 1966. As a reliever, Short posted an ERA of just 3.16.
He was a valuable weapon. The Phillies knew it. The fans appreciated it.
I'm going to open this portion of the slide show with a caveat: Unless you were an all-time great, all-time favorite like Tug McGraw, it was incredibly hard to make this list as an undeniable "fan-favorite."
The reliever's role is just so volatile.
Take, for example, the Phillies' career of former closer Brad Lidge. After coming over to the Phillies in a trade with the Houston Astros prior to the 2008 season, expectations were high for Lidge and he certainly delivered.
Lidge pitched a perfect season for the Phillies, converting each and every one of his save opportunities into saves. There's no doubt that without Lidge, the Phillies may not have won the World Series.
The fans certainly knew that and he was an instantaneous fan-favorite.
The next three seasons weren't so kind to Lidge, however. His career was ransacked by injuries and inconsistency, and when his contract ended following the 2011 season, the Phillies wanted nothing to do with him, even though he'd eventually sign for just pennies on the dollar.
But the fans will always look back on Lidge's tenure with favor because he helped capture a championship.
That's what makes adding relievers to this list so difficult. Could we say the same about our honorable mention, Mitch Williams?
Honorable Mention: Mitch Williams
Steve Bedrosian's Phillies career didn't get off to the greatest of starts, but when it was all said and done, there were certainly plenty of highlights.
"Bedrock" had some big shoes to fill with the fans after the Phillies moved the likes of Pete Smith and Ozzie Virgil to acquire him, and after his first couple of save chances took a rocky path, he had to bring himself to pitch better.
The highlight, of course, was the 1987 season, when Bedrosian made his only All-Star team en route to winning the National League Cy Young Award as a reliever, leading the league in saves.
Al Holland was a mean looking guy.
He had grit. He attacked hitters. He had great facial hair.
Long story short, he was the perfect kind of reliever for the city of Philadelphia. He also pitched quite well after coming over to the club in a trade with the San Francisco Giants.
In his first season with the club, Holland helped the Phillies back to the World Series in 1983, and though they'd eventually lose that series to the Baltimore Orioles, Holland certainly showed that he had what it took to be the team's closer.
He'd finish sixth in the Cy Young voting that year—an award that would eventually go to teammate John Denny—and made his first and only All-Star Game in the following season.
Ryan Madson was the kind of underdog that the Phillies fans could rally behind.
He came through the organization as a starting pitcher with a good fastball and a big, looping curveball. Scouts wondered whether or not he'd be able to fool Major League hitters with it, and the answer was a resounding, "No."
Madson struggled mightily and was sent back to the minors, albeit briefly, thanks to the lack of Phillies' talent at the MLB level, where he quickly moved into the bullpen.
Once there, he had a sudden realization. Madson ditched the curveball and developed one of the game's best changeups—a pitch that absolutely fooled hitters when paired with his explosive fastball.
It's a combination that has worked historically well for relievers, and Madson was no different. He climbed the Phillies' bullpen later, becoming one of the best set-up men in franchise history before finally taking over as the club's closer.
After an excellent 2011 season, the fans wanted him to stay and it certainly looked like he would. But a deal between he and the Phillies fell through and in came Jonathan Papelbon.
Madson has not pitched this season after suffering ligament damage and undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Ron Reed was one of two men that signaled the end for the opposition. A duo that became instant fan-favorites in the city of Philadelphia.
Reed came over in a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals and the Phillies moved him right into the bullpen to better complement his repertoire.
It was a move that worked perfectly. Reed would become one of the game's best relievers, posting an ERA south of three in his first three seasons with the Phillies.
He would become Tug McGraw's set-up man, closing out a few games himself, and if a starter could go seven innings, the fans took comfort in knowing that the game was in the hands of Reed and McGraw.
And then there was Tug McGraw. A man that any Phillies' fan knew was at the back end of this list before they opened it.
McGraw was one of the club's all-time fan-favorites, and not just as a closer. He did everything right with this team. After coming over to the club in a deal with the New York Mets, the right-handed pitcher played with a chip on his shoulder.
When the club won the World Series in 1980 and he was on the mound to celebrate, he both figuratively and literally told the Mets to stick it.
He had the grit that you love to see in a closer. He was a wild man on the mound. He was a trendsetter, helping to develop the closer's role.
But as far as this list is concerned, he was definitely a fan-favorite.