The Philadelphia Phillies' All-Speedster Team
Sure, it's usually the massive home run hitters or elite starting pitchers that make the most money, but I think that most baseball fans would agree that the speedsters are the most exciting.
It's watching guys swipe two bags in a single inning, or bust it around second heading for a triple, or to take that even further, watching them attempt the so-called "most exciting play in baseball"—the inside-the-park home run—that forces our hearts to skip a beat.
The Philadelphia Phillies have had their fair share of speedsters throughout their history.
Observers of today's team have watched Jimmy Rollins set the table at the top of the Phillies' lineup for years. Shane Victorino was recently traded, but does the "Flyin' Hawaiian" have a spot on this list?
If speedsters truly are the most exciting players in the game, then you can consider this the most exciting all-time Phillies' roster of, well, all-time. It is dedicated to the base thieves, those with a proficiency for the triple, and some of the most explosive defenders of all-time.
Of course, there isn't always a place for a speedy player on an MLB roster, so this one will certainly be unique in its on way, and deserving of a special note:
*Note: While starting pitchers have certainly made a name for themselves on the base paths in the past and present, members of the bullpen have not. Obviously, there won't be a bullpen on this team. Well, not for pitchers anyway.
This club's "bullpen" will be more like a list of honorable mentions. A "bullpen" of pinch-runners, if you will, listed in order and noted.
So with that in mind, check out this unique, all-time, all-speed roster. If nothing else, they'd be fun to watch.
Catcher: Red Dooin
"Speedster" and "catcher" aren't two words that you normally hear used in the same sentence in the sport of baseball, but Red Dooin made it happen.
Dooin ditched the "bad knees" and "slow-footed" jokes and had himself a long career. He spent 13 seasons in the Phillies' organization and managed to swipe 132 bases and 29 triples.
He may not have had a spectacular career at this dish, but he made the most of his time on the base paths, especially for a catcher.
First Base: Kitty Bransfield
Nowadays, first baseman tend to be known more for their power than their speed, but that wasn't always the case. Just ask Kitty Bransfield.
Bransfield played first base throughout his seven year stint in Philadelphia, despite hitting just 11 home runs and posting an OPS of .649.
Of course, it was a different game back then. Bransfield made the most of his .269 batting average by utilizing his "speed" and base-running ability. He swiped 105 bases and also hit 34 triples.
I guess it would be too easy to say that he was as quick as a cat, right?
Second Base: Juan Samuel
When you mention Juan Samuel (as a player, of course) to most Phillies fans, the first word that comes to mind is "potential," normally followed by some form of, "My, what could have been."
Samuel had a ton of talent coming through the Phillies' system. He was regarded as a five-tool player and was seen as the next big thing for the Phillies for quite some time.
The real problem was that Samuel got to the MLB and just couldn't stop striking out. In four straight seasons from 1984-87, no player in baseball struck out more than the Phillies second baseman.
Of course, the tool that made him so exciting as a player was his speed. Samuel led the league in triples twice as a member of the Phillies and hit 71 over his seven-year stint with the club. He also swiped 249 bases and was caught just 78 times.
My, what could have been.
Third Base: Hans Lobert
Third base is another position on the diamond not known for being a speedy position throughout the history of baseball, but former Phillies third baseman Hans Lobert made the most out of his career by being proficient on the base paths.
Lobert spent just four seasons with the Phillies, but quickly climbed his way up the stolen bases leader-board.
Over that four-years span, Lobert stole 125 bags. He also collected 30 triples for the club.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins
When Jimmy Rollins arrived in the MLB in 2000, Phillies fans could see the future.
After years of rotting away at the bottom of the National League East, they had a player with the potential to turn the ship around on their doorstep, and he was a five-tool shortstop with spunk.
It didn't take long for Rollins to make an impact for the Phillies. He helped put the club back on the map after arriving and soon enough, had helped develop the team into a legitimate contender.
Make no mistake about it—Rollins at the top of the Phillies' order helped turn that offense into a force to be reckoned with. He had the ability to hit for average and power, but most importantly, teams wanted to keep him off the base paths.
That's what made him the Phillies' "spark plug." He made the team go.
Now in his 13th season as a member of the Phillies, Rollins is already amongst the franchise leaders in both triples and stolen bases with 105 and 390, respectively.
Under contract until at least 2014, those numbers have nowhere to go but up.
Left Field: Ed Delahanty
Ed Delahanty was a man of many mysteries, and isn't a statement limited to the game of baseball.
"Big Ed" spent a total of 13 seasons for the Phillies and during that span, it seems as though he could do just about anything he wanted to with a bat in his hands.
One of the franchise's best offensive players of all-time, it appears as though Delahanty was a good base-runner and had some speed to burn as well. The left fielder slugged 158 triples as a Phillie and swiped 411 bases—second most in franchise history.
Delahanty died in 1903 when he was swept over Niagra Falls. Legend has it that the former Phillies outfielder was drunk and threatening passengers with a straight razor, so the conductor of the train he was on kicked him off.
So naturally, Delahanty decided to attempt to walk home. The rest, as they say, is history.
Center Field: Billy Hamilton
There must be something about the name Billy Hamilton.
Of course, folks paying attention to today's game are familiar with Cincinnati Reds' prospect Billy Hamilton, who has already stolen a ridiculous 132 bases on the season through August 9. Talk about fun to watch.
Phillies fans are probably more familiar with a player by the same name in their history books: Hall of Fame outfielder Billy Hamilton.
"Sliding Billy" spent six seasons with the Phillies and, well, did a lot of sliding. Hamilton made a name for himself with blazing speed and excellent base-running.
In just six seasons he became the franchise's all-time leader in stolen bases with 510—a mark that stands to this day. He also collected 126 doubles and 51 triples in that relatively short amount of time.
Now that's fast.
Right Field: Bobby Abreu
In 2012, fans probably don't remember Bobby Abreu much for his speed, and most Phillies fans don't want to remember him at all. Once upon a time, however, the former right fielder was the most exciting player this organization had on its roster.
Abreu came to the Phillies after they fleeced the Tampa Bay Devil Rays by somehow talking them (maybe through hypnotism, but that's completely fabricated and unconfirmed) into swapping the Rule 5 pick for shortstop Kevin Stocker.
Hey, something has to go your way every once in a while, right?
Abreu would go on to develop into a legitimate five-tool player and All-Star for the Phillies, but the aspect of his game that seems to go unnoticed nowadays is his speed.
Of course, the outfielder lost a lot of that speed as he aged, but in his prime, ABreu was a good base-runner. He stole 254 bases in nine seasons as a Phillie and also hit 42 triples.
I'd go out on a limb and say that he was the greatest Phillies' right fielder of all-time.
Starting Pitcher: Ed Daily
Starting pitchers don't often get a chance to run the bases, so when they do, it's kind of comical. For example, every time that Cliff Lee manages to steal a base, I find it more funny than exciting.
Some pitchers, however, had a knack for stealing a base or two, mainly when the game was much less compartmentalized in the past.
The pitcher with the most stolen bases in the history of the Phillies' is none other than Ed Daily. He cheated a bit by logging at-bats as an outfielder as well, but I think we'll all be willing to let that slide.
Daily, who posted an ERA of 2.77 in three seasons for the Phillies, also stole 31 bases. Now that's versatile.
Back-Up Catcher: Gavvy Cravath
Gavvy Cravath was probably one of the most versatile offensive players in the history of the Phillies' organization, especially during his era, and that's what made him great.
First and foremost, Cravath was a catcher. It's a position that has, historically, demanded a higher output on the defensive side of the game than the offensive side, but Cravath did both.
Cravath spent nine seasons with the Phillies as a player and hit 117 home runs. Believe it or not, that was a lot for that time period, and only the beginning of what made him valuable.
He wasn't exactly the fastest man on the base paths, but Cravath had some speed to burn, well, for a catcher anyway. He hit 72 triples over those nine seasons an stole 80 bases. Not bad at all for a backstop.
Utility Infielder: Larry Bowa
It's hard to have a list like this and not include a man who made a name for himself by being a pest on the base paths, eventually resulting in the nickname of "Gnat."
That man, of course, is former Phillies shortstop (and manager) Larry Bowa.
Bowa just had the body of a speedster. He was short and thin and when he reached base, you knew it. He was never an above average player offensively, but he was the kind of guy who always made the most out of his chances.
He'd slap a bunt down either foul line and run like his pants were on fire for a base hit or dink and dunk his way to a single. That's the kind of player that Bowa was.
Of course, he also had no problem being aggressive once he reached base. He stole 288 bases over 12 seasons and collected 81 triples.
Fourth Outfielder: Sherry Magee
Sherry Magee is easily one of the most underrated players in the history of the Phillies franchise, and there's a simple reason for that: The man could do it all and still went practically unnoticed.
Magee spent 11 seasons with the Phillies, most of them in left field. He quietly posted an OPS of .818 and 75 home runs, but he was also electric on the bases.
Magee's 387 stolen bases with the Phillies are fourth most in franchise history behind three of the fastest men this organization has ever known: Billy Hamilton, Ed Delahanty, and Jimmy Rollins. Now that's good company.
Left-Handed Pinch Hitter: Roy Thomas
The Phillies' all-time top 10 for stolen bases is chocked full of outfielders and shortstops, but I had to find a way to get Roy Thomas on the lineup somewhere, so we'll call him the "left-handed pinch hitter." Of course, he was much, much more than that in his day.
Thomas, who sits ninth all-time on the Phillies' stolen bases leader-board, spent 11 seasons roaming the outfielder for the Phillies.
He was quick on the base paths, and that helped him hustle his way to 40 triples and 228 stolen bases as a member of the Phillies.
Right-Handed Pinch Hitter: Jim Fogarty
Jim Fogarty isn't a household name, and rightfully so. Not many guys who ended their careers in 1890 are.
However, judging by the numbers, Fogarty was a pretty good player and probably pretty recognizable in his own time. He joined the Philadelphia Quakers in 1884—just a year after they came into existence.
Fogarty, who spent six seasons with the club, was somewhat of a utility man, playing the outfield and both second and third base.
He was a player that made the most of his opportunities on the base paths. Fogarty currently sits fifth all-time in stolen bases for the Phillies with 289.
Starting Pitcher: Charlie Ferguson
Obviously, you can't have an MLB roster without pitchers, so if you're going to have a roster full of "speedsters," the next four players are guys that you'll want to have on your roster.
We've already covered the team's ace in Ed Daily, but Charlie Ferguson was a close second.
Ferguson, who was on a pace that would have him become one of the best pitchers in the history of the game, had a career that was cut tragically short when he passed away after his fourth season in 1887.
During those four seasons, however, Ferguson was remarkable. He won 99 games and stole 22 bases. They didn't even record steals in his first two seasons!
Starting Pitcher: Johnny Lush
Johnny Lush probably isn't a name that most casual baseball fans are familiar with.
A left-handed pitcher, Lush spent just four seasons with the Phillies from 1904-07. Over that span of time, he won 23 games and posted an ERA of 2.56. Those aren't exceptional numbers for that era, but they're certainly not bad either.
Of course, what Lush was able to do on the base paths was a bit more impressive. The pitcher hit .268 for the Phillies and stole 19 bases.
Starting Pitcher: Ben Sanders
Irrelevant side note: Players wore strange uniforms pre-1900. Now, onto the important stuff.
Ben Sanders spent just two seasons with the Quakers from 1888-89. That makes the numbers he was able to post in that short stretch all the more impressive.
Sanders won 19 games in each of his seasons with the Quakers and posted an ERA of 2.82. He also managed to hit .289 and steal 17 bases.
Now that's an all-around player.
Starting Pitcher: Al Orth
I couldn't find a picture of Al Orth that didn't look like it was clipped out of the comics sections of an ancient newspaper, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't a real pitcher!
Orth pitched for the Phillies for seven seasons from 1895-1901. Over that span of time, he was a pretty solid arm. He won an even 100 games for the club and posted an ERA of 3.49.
Of course, that's not what got him on this list.
Orth was a pretty good hitter. In fact, he was very good. He hit .294 with the Phillies and stole 15 bags. Not bad for a pitcher.
Pinch-Runner 1: Von Hayes
Von Hayes caught a tough break coming to Philadelphia.
The Phillies sent five players to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for him with the hope that he could become the next cornerstone of their franchise after Mike Schmidt, and those were overly optimistic expectations.
So he wound up having a solid career, but nowhere near the one that the Phillies hoped for.
One of the more underrated aspects of Hayes' game was his base-running, more so in the earlier portion of his career. He spent nine seasons with the Phillies and stole 202 bases while being caught just 77 times.
Pinch-Runner 2: Richie Ashburn
This list wouldn't be complete without Richie Ashburn.
A short and thin center fielder, Ashburn made a name for himself by hustling out every ball that he hit. The "noise" that he made when he ran eventually earned him the nickname of "Put Put" amongst his teammates.
Ashburn spent 12 seasons roaming the outfield for the Phillies, thrilling the crowd with an unbelievable effort night in and night out. He swiped 199 bags for the Phillies and legged out 97 triples.
Pinch-Runner 3: Sam Thompson
I'm not sure that it is even possible for a member of the Hall of Fame to be "underrated," but if ever there was a case, it would be for former Phillies outfielder Sam Thompson.
Thompson spent 10 years of his career with the Phillies. He hit .334 and posted an OPS of .897, but it was his speed that helped him take his game to a new level.
For a big man, Thompson could run. He stole 192 bases and his 107 triples are third most in Phillies history.
Pinch-Runner 4: Garry Maddox
Garry Maddox was one of the best center fielders for the Phillies in recent memory and there is no doubt that speed played a big part in his game.
Unlike some players, Maddox's game was definitely "defense first." His speed helped him cover a ton of ground in the outfield and earn the nickname of "The Secretary of Defense."
He was no slouch on the base paths or in the batter's box either, however. Maddox legged out 42 triples over 12 seasons with the Phillies and stole 189 bases.
Pinch-Runner 5: Shane Victorino
Finally, the "Flyin' Hawaiian" makes his appearance.
It wasn't easy for Shane Victorino to crack this list. Some of the Phillies' all-time greats, particularly in the organization's early history, made their name through speed and base running proficiency, so Victorino cracking this list serves as a testimony to his skill-set.
Victorino made a name for himself by utilizing his speed and playing with passion. He spent eight seasons with the Phillies before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, stealing 179 bases and legging out 63 triples.
Pinch-Runner 6: Lenny Dykstra
They called this guy "Nails" for a reason.
The Phillies acquired Lenny Dykstra when they sent another guy on this list, Juan Samuel, to the New York Mets and he was the perfect fit. Dykstra had the Philadelphia mentality when it came to sports and it showed through in his aggressive nature.
The guy was just tough as nails on the diamond, not afraid of anything, including taking a chance on the base paths. In eight seasons with the Phillies, Dykstra stole 169 bases.
Pinch-Runner 7: Tony Taylor
We'll close out the list with a speedster and fan-favorite, Tony Taylor.
The Philies acquired Taylor from the Chicago Cubs in 1960 and he would go on to spend a total of 15 seasons as a member of the Phillies, the majority of which was spent in a utility role.
That makes it even more interesting that Taylor was able to steal 169 bases for the Phillies and hit 63 triples. Any time that a guy like Taylor has more triples than home runs, you know he belongs on a list like this.
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