When the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they weren't the best team in the game. That's not a knock against a very good team. Just a fact.
So when people look back at the 2008 season and try and figure out why they won, some are inclined to chalk it up to luck, but it was much more than that, and it began long before the '08 season.
What the Phillies had that season was good chemistry. They had been building the core of the club for years and you would think that the '08 season was just a stepping stone, but it wasn't.
That team won the World Series because they knew how to play as a cohesive unit. Some of the best "clubhouse characters" in the game played on that team, from the enigmatic Jimmy Rollins to the silent leader Chase Utley.
In my personal opinion, it is immensely important to assemble a team that can mesh together. That's why I wanted to take a look at some of the best and beloved "teammates" in Phillies history—guys who other people wanted to play with.
Some of the results are surprising. Others you'd expect to see here. One thing is for certain—they'd make one hell of a team.
Jim Loborg wasn't a name that crossed my mind when I first started writing out this list, but there are always a bunch of great teammates that don't receive much media attention, so I'm sure there are a bunch of other great stories that I'm missing.
What made Lonborg great was his experience. When he joined the Phillies in 1973, he was just 31 years old and had already won a Cy Young Award as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
His isn't a name that is mentioned much nowadays, but Lonborg won 75 games with the Phillies in just seven seasons.
He may be an unorthodox choice for a list like this, but Jay Johnstone was an unorthodox kind of guy.
Early in his minor league career, he showed up to the ballpark wearing a diving suit to poke fun at manager Robin Roberts. That was just the beginning.
Johnstone was the Phillies' clubhouse joker. He was known for his..."unethical"... pranks that sometimes took things a step too far, but always kept the mood light.
Because I like to keep things PG around here, you'll have to look up some of those pranks on your own.
There are a lot of players from the 1993 Phillies on this list, and that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. They were one of the most cohesive units of baseball players that I've ever seen.
Among them was Mitch Williams, one of the most energetic closers to ever play the game. (OK, I just made that up, but it has to be close).
"Wild Thing" was the perfect fit for that ballclub. He was an eccentric reliever with no idea where his fastball was going once it left his hand, and when he was good this city loved him for it.
When he was bad? Not so much.
I almost left Cole Hamels off of this list because of that now-infamous 2009 World Series quote (which was blown out of both proportion and context anyway).
Then I came to my senses. Too often, players are excluded because of one example in a big body of work. Hamels has been nothing but an exemplary teammate for the Phillies both on and off the field.
On the field, he has developed into one of the game's best left-handed starting pitchers. Off the field, the charity named after him does some of the best work in the city of Philadelphia.
He deserves to be here, and I think his teammates would agree.
This is just a random observation, but Shane Victorino just seems like a fun-loving guy, and why not?
The fiery outfielder has no quit in him.
We're talking about a man who was drafted in the Rule V draft not once, but twice. He could have easily given up with a down-in-the-dumps kind of attitude, but instead, fought his way into an MLB lineup.
I'm sure that's part of what made it tough to trade him. Victorino was a good clubhouse guy who kept a positive attitude (unless you were doing something like, you know, purposefully throwing the ball at his head).
It's part of the reason that I'm not convinced we've seen the last of him as a member of the Phillies. He's a good teammate, and that matters.
When you think of players who fit the brand of baseball played by the Phillies, Aaron Rowand is easily one of the first players to come to mind, and that's saying something considering that his career in Philly lasted all of two seasons before he jumped ship.
But in that relatively small amount of time, Rowand became somewhat of a fan favorite for the way he approached the game.
What made him a great teammate?
Two memorable moments come to mind. First, he erased one of the most embarrassing quotes in the history of Philadelphia sports and of course, his nose-breaking, head-on collision with the center-field wall.
It's a shame that Ryan Madson and the Phillies couldn't get a deal hammered out last winter, because there are only a handful of players that should spend their entire career with a single club and Madson was one of them.
But when he was here, Madson was a riot. He was the clubhouse joker and an all-around good guy who really stepped up when it mattered most on the field, and you can never have enough guys like that on your club.
It will be interesting if the Phillies and Madson reunite this offseason. There is a mutual need and personally, I think this is a good fit.
If you want to take a quick course on dealing with adversity, I'd consult Ryan Howard.
Here's a guy who was not a first-round draft pick and did not have an obvious path to the MLB, but fought off the odds to develop into a legitimate, middle-of-the-lineup power hitter with both a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP in his trophy case.
Then came the fall. Howard made the final out of the last two postseasons and tore his Achilles tendon. He's been struggling back into form ever since.
But through it all, Howard has always had his eye on the future—not the past—and that's part of what helps to make him a great teammate, and the Philly fans know that.
In recent memory, how many players have been dealt a hand as crappy as Brad Lidge's and still walked away with a positive outlook as bright as his? I can't think of any.
The fact of the matter is that after his incredible 2008 season, Lidge's career with the Phillies spiraled downward. He had a terrible 2009 and couldn't stay healthy for a full season regardless of what he tried.
And yet, whenever the media needed someone to turn to for a good quote, they looked to Lidge. When young relievers needed a bit of help from an experienced arm, they turned to Lidge.
Those are qualities hard to find at the professional level. Lidge may not have had the greatest tenure in Philadelphia, but there is no denying that he was a great teammate.
Roy Halladay is the ultimate professional.
When his career had run its course as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, he left his fate in the hands of the front office instead of demanding a trade and wound up in Philadelphia, where he's been a perfect fit for the Phillies.
Again, that's because Halladay is the ultimate professional. He works harder than any pitcher I've ever heard of and knows that hard work and determination pays off in the long run.
Even if he can't pitch like the Halladay we're used to in 2013, the Phillies will be more than happy to have him. Why? Because he sets a good example for younger players who want to follow in his footsteps, and boy, are those good footsteps to follow.
What's not to love about Carlos Ruiz?
First and foremost, everyone loves an underdog story. Ruiz was signed as an amateur free agent for what is essentially chump change. Signed as a second baseman, the Phillies converted him into a catcher, where he thrived.
Now, Ruiz is one of the best defensive catchers in the game and has made significant strides offensively over the last couple of seasons. If that doesn't make him a beloved teammate, I have no idea what does.
But that's not even the end of Ruiz's story. Anyone who has seen him play the game knows that this is a man who lives for the sport of baseball, and that's what being a good teammate is about at its most rudimentary level.
Jimmy Rollins really should be higher on this list—maybe first overall.
This is just the kind of player that demands respect. He is a supremely talented shortstop that helped lead the Phillies to just their second World Series title in 2008. He is a favorite in the clubhouse and always seems to keep a positive outlook on the situation.
But I do often wonder how his approach rubs off on his teammates from time to time. For example, when Charlie Manuel had to bench him—again—for not hustling this season, what were his teammates thinking?
Regardless, Rollins is an excellent teammate.
Anyone familiar with today's version of the Phillies is probably familiar with Larry Andersen. Nowadays, he works as one of the Phillies' broadcasters on the radio along with Scott Franzke and Jim Jackson.
But back in the day, Andersen was a pretty good relief pitcher. In fact, he was the only man to pitch for both the 1983 and 1993 Phillies clubs that would become National League champions.
I would venture to argue that Andersen was known more for his candid approach to the game than his actual success on the field, however. He was a goof, and I say that with as much affection as possible. Andersen always loved a good joke and that's what made him a great teammate.
How do you set a good example for your teammates and earn their respect at the outset of a huge contract? Well, leaving millions of dollars on the table to join them is certainly a good start.
But even before that and certainly after, Lee always came across as a good teammate. The 2012 season is the perfect example. Here is a pitcher who couldn't buy a win (even with that huge deal) thanks to his teammates at times (looking at you, bullpen and offense) and still wouldn't criticize them.
That's the kind of leadership that a championship-caliber team needs.
Johnny Callison was the face of the Phillies for a decade during a time when it wasn't exactly popular to be the face of the Phillies, and that's something to be respected.
Callison joined the Phillies at the start of the 1960s and was supposed to be the cornerstone of a revitalization of the franchise.
Instead, he was the club's lone beacon of talent for a long time, and even when the Phillies found him a few talented guys to play with, there was no doubt that people wanted to see Callison play right field.
He was talented, smart and always smiling, and I'm sure that wasn't lost on his teammates.
Tug McGraw is a difficult character to define in one word, but if I was forced to do it, I think that "eccentric" is fair.
He fit in perfectly with the Phillies after coming over from the New York Mets. He solidified their bullpen and the clubhouse, and was a huge part of the reason they were able to capture their first World Series title in 1980.
He was a fun-loving, thigh-slapping quote machine in his prime and easily one of the greatest Phillies to ever step between the lines.
I'd be happy to play alongside of Steve Carlton's resumè, let alone the player himself.
Here we have a man who won 27 games in his first season as a member of the Phillies. He would go on to win the majority of what would eventually be more than 300 wins as a member of the Phillie—and it is no secret that the Phillies were good during the latter half of the 1970s (and of course, 1980) because he was atop their starting rotation.
Like fellow-great Mike Schmidt, Carlton wasn't always perceived in the greatest light. However, I'd be willing to bet that anyone who played with Carlton during his best days will only have fond recollections of their former teammate.
Mike Schmidt had a tendency to rub some people the wrong way with some of the things that he would say, but I'm willing to bet that if he was playing third base for your team, you'd be damn happy about it.
Granted, the Phillies are the only team that could answer that rhetorical statement with any certainty. Schmidt spent his entire 18-season career playing for them.
Now a member of the Hall of Fame, I'm sure any of his teammates will look back and appreciate playing the game with a man who excelled on both sides of the ball, slugged more than 500 home runs and is now enshrined in Cooperstown.
Everyone loves John Kruk. He's the type of guy who has to do something incredibly wrong to get you on his bad side.
Even as an analyst for ESPN, Kruk could bash the Phillies for 20 minutes and still have a strong contingent of supporters on his next trip to Citizens Bank Park, because one of the things that Kruk always did—and I imagine always will do—is keep it real.
During that storybook 1993 season, he was one of the first players to step out of line and call himself a "baseball player" when the popular thing to do was look good and be called a "professional athlete."
I never met the man in person, but I would love spend a few minutes with John Kruk because he just seems like a great guy, and I'm sure that's what made him a great teammate as well.
I've never played sports at anything close to a professional level, but I imagine that one way to get on the good side of your teammates is to win, and when Pete Rose was playing, all he did was win.
After dominating National League pitching as a member of Cincinnati's "Bid Red Machine," Rose was signed to, what was at the time, a big free-agent contract by the Phillies to teach them how to win.
The Phillies were coming off of three straight postseason losses and Rose was a World Champion. It was a natural fit that, after a small dip in the road (the Phillies missed the postseason altogether in 1979), paid dividends in 1980.
Rose was a hard-nosed, blue collar kind of guy that fight right into this city's style.
There isn't anything I could say to you that would do Richie Ashburn justice in one slide.
The man built a reputation for himself and you certainly don't need me to tell you what made him great. He was an excellent contact hitter and had one of the highest "baseball IQs" around.
More importantly, he was willing and able to share what made him great—like some of his world-class sliding techniques—and that helped make him a great leader.
What makes Chase Utley a great teammate? Probably the same thing that makes him the fan favorite of nine out of every 10 fans.
Philadelphia is a city with a high demand for sports and they want their athletes to play like every game is their last, and no player understands that more than Utley, who has been playing on two degenerating knees for the last couple of seasons.
He is relentless. He is aggressive. Utley would run into a freight truck if it were parked between home plate and third base, all because he wants to win. That's why the fans love him. That's why his teammates love him.
The Phillies were a very talented group of individuals during the 1993 season, but part of me wonders where that club would have been without Darren Daulton in the clubhouse.
And that isn't intended to narrow Daulton's career, especially with the Phillies, down to a single season. But the '93 season is when he truly made his mark as one of this organization's great leaders.
This was a rag-tag group of individuals that came together as a club, and there is no doubt that this man was the glue. It was Daulton who did things like face the media after a tough loss and keep guys in line after a big win.
The numbers may not say so (even though they were very good), but Daulton was the Phillies' MVP in '93, especially in hindsight.
If anyone in the game has the right to feel a little self-righteous, it has to be Jim Thome. Here we have a no-doubt-about-it, sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, a man with more than 600 career home runs and one of the sweetest swings in the game.
And yet, he has one of the best personalities around as well.
Part of the reason the Phillies were so keen on the idea of bringing Thome back last offseason was because of his leadership abilities. He is a great hitter, but a great teammate as well.
The Phillies knew that their offense had lost some steam over the last few seasons and thought that a Hall of Famer could provide a spark. Of course, that experiment didn't work.
But that's no fault of Thome's either. At the end of the day, I'm not even sure I would be able to find a handful of people who dislike Thome. It may not be possible.
Harry Kalas never played baseball professionally for the Phillies, but anyone with a passing knowledge of this organization knows that he was the most beloved teammate that anyone who did suit up ever had.
That's because he was just so approachable. He was a warm, fun-loving man with a passion for baseball and a respect for anyone that stepped between the lines.
That's what made Kalas both a great announcer and a great person, and it wasn't hard to understand why his loss was felt by so many individuals.