The Hall of Fame ballot is always a hot topic of discussion, but this year's ballot is going to burn down the house if the fire isn't contained. It's a ballot that could easily be the most memorable of all time, highlighted by two of the best hitters and pitchers, respectively, in history: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Of course, that brings up the actual hot-button issue. Should a player who has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, in this case, steroids, be in the Hall of Fame? That's a question for a different article, although it will have a long-lasting effect on this year's ballot.
But the question of whether a player belongs in the Hall of Fame got me to thinking: Throughout the history of the Philadelphia Phillies, which players would receive recognition, not for the Hall of Fame, but for that infamous "Hall of Very Good"?
It's a term that is tossed about lightly nowadays and has come to represent a designation for a player who put up very good numbers in his career, but just wasn't considered Hall of Fame-worthy.
For this slideshow, I'm going to name those players, but do so in a "Phillies-related" fashion, meaning that any player on this list must have spent a noteworthy portion of his "Hall of Very Good" career as a member of the Phillies.
Also, for any active player, I will give a brief prediction whether they could wind up in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.
So without any further ado, I present the Phillies' "Hall of Very Good."
*Wins Above Replacement statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Career WAR: 15.6
The Line: 96-92, 3.14 ERA, 180 SV
Initially, I wasn't going to include any relievers on this list, but I'm going to make an exception for Tug McGraw, who is widely considered the greatest Phillies closer of all time.
McGraw joined the Phillies prior to the 1975 season after a stint with the New York Mets that included a World Series title. The eccentric left-handed reliever was quite vocal about his intentions to do the same as a member of the Phillies, and he was successful in 1980.
When all was said and done, McGraw was known for his gritty personality and rubber arm, both of which made him a fan favorite in the blue-collar city of Philadelphia.
Career WAR: 22
The Line: .274 / .377 / .446, 150 HR
I almost left Mike Lieberthal off of this list all together, mainly because I had a difficult time deciding what constitutes a member of the Phillies "Hall of Very Good." Lieberthal, who was undoubtedly a very good catcher, doesn't have a shot at the Hall of Fame. Should he be considered here?
Ultimately, I obviously decided that the answer was yes, and here is why. Lieberthal played arguably the most demanding position on the diamond and was still one of the Phillies' best hitters.
From 1994-2006, Lieberthal was one of the club's biggest draws for a team that could barely sniff the postseason. He was a power-hitting catcher with a penchant for coming through in a big moment, though he did struggle with injuries and never won a major award outside of a controversial 1999 Gold Glove.
So does "Lieby" belong in the "Hall of Very Good?" I'm going to say yes, but this one was close.
Career WAR: 22.2
The Line: .271 / .364 / .551, 300 HR
Ryan Howard is an interesting name insofar that he has a lot of the accolades that voters take into consideration already lining his trophy case very early in his career, but does he have the numbers to support a Hall of Fame run?
My initial reaction here is that he is eventually going to fall short, unless he reaches that famous 500 home run plateau for sluggers. The thing about Howard is that he doesn't have a Hall of Fame kind of reputation.
Sure, he won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in back-to-back seasons. That will help his cause. But the last few years have not been kind to the fastest man to 250 home runs and he's also known, if somewhat unfairly, as a poor defender.
Howard is an easy pick for the "Hall of Very Good," but can he eventually wind up in the Hall of Fame?
Initial Reaction—Howard in the Hall?
Like I said above, my initial reaction is that he won't make it. He still has some work to do and he'll have to prove that he can stay healthy and productive.
Career WAR: 24.7
The Line: 83-71, 3.79 ERA
Perhaps one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the history of this organization, Larry Christenson built a name for himself by being something that clubs always value in a pitcher—consistently good.
He was never the flashy type—if you will exclude the fact that he was the only starting pitcher in franchise history to rock the infamous "Saturday Night Specials" uniform—but when Christenson took the mound, he gave the Phillies a chance to win.
And that may not be good enough for the Hall of Fame, but that's okay. Christenson never made an All-Star team or won a major award, but he finished his career with a record above .500, an ERA lower than four and an entire career (11 years) spent as a member of the Phillies.
Career WAR: 26
The Line: .245 / .357 / .427, 135 HR
Darren Daulton never had the numbers to support a run at Cooperstown, but for this "Hall of Very Good," he was an easy choice.
The lack of eye-popping statistics can be blamed on his position, in my opinion. Daulton had the grueling responsibility of playing catcher in an era where running over the backstop was still acceptable. Toss in all of the other demands the position required and you can understand his lengthy injury history and bad knees.
But even then, Daulton threw up some impressive numbers. He had a very good eye at the plate and showed impressive on-base skills, retiring with a career on-base percentage north of .350. He had good power for the position as well.
Yes, he was a three-time All-Star and a damn good player, but the thing that people will always remember about Daulton is his leadership ability. He was the glue that held the eccentric 1993 club together and was easily one of the best leaders in franchise history.
Career WAR: 27.4
The Line: 91-60, 3.34 ERA
Cole Hamels is a player that I think will eventually wind up in the Hall of Fame, that is, if he continues to follow the path he's been on thus far in his career.
Before the age of 28, Hamels has won more than 90 games. He's been to the World Series and won an NLCS and World Series MVP along the way. The fact of the matter here is that he is a more accomplished pitcher at this point in his career than most pitchers ever become.
But he has youth on his side as well. What's stopping Hamels from competing for several Cy Young trophies, or helping to lead the Phillies back to another World Series appearance? And that begs the question:
Initial Reaction—Hamels in the Hall?
I think that Hamels eventually makes it. He may not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but look at how Jack Morris has hung around on the ballot for all these years. If Hamels can add to his resume before all is said and done, he gets in, at least in my opinion.
Career WAR: 33.3
The Line: 135-132, 3.43 ERA
Chris Short is another one of this organization's most underrated pitchers, and while a record that settled near the .500 mark certainly kept him from receiving any significant Hall of Fame interest, he was an easy choice for the Phillies' "Hall of Very Good."
Short helped himself and the Phillies by being a versatile pitcher. Over several seasons, he was everything from one of the club's best starters to a very good reliever.
A two-time All-Star, Short may be most memorable for his role in the 1964 club's success and failure. Along with current Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, Short formed one of the most dynamic one-two punches in all of baseball at the time—perhaps too dynamic.
Then-manager Gene Mauch worked those guys so much that their arms all but gave up down the stretch run and the Phillies "pholded."
Career WAR: 37.5
The Line: .284 / .340 / .472, 288 HR
Del Ennis is widely regarded as the man who paved the way for future Phillies' "power hitters" as we know them today, because once upon a time, being able to do nothing more than hit home runs was not looked on in a positive light.
Ennis was one of the first Phillies to start a new trend in the power department. He was an impressive physical specimen with tremendous raw strength that struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was an all-around good hitter, either.
There was a time when Ennis, a three-time All-Star, was a mainstay in the voting for the National League's MVP Award, and that continued well into his career as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals as well.
Career WAR: 38.1
he Line: .276 / .363 / .478, 307 HR
Speaking of impressive physical specimens, you can't have a list like this without including one of the most feared hitters in the history of the Phillies franchise, Greg Luzinski.
You don't get a nickname like "The Bull" because you're a friendly looking guy, and Luzinski wasn't. He was 6-foot-1, 225 pounds and looked like a freight train running the basepaths once he was in motion.
Of course, it was the tremendous power that made him a household name. If The Bull got a hold of the ball, you knew it. It was either traveling very fast or very far—or both. That helped turn him into an integral part of the Phillies lineup through the 1980 championship season.
Career WAR: 38.2
The Line: .282 / .373 / .385, 38 HR
We move from one of the most popular names in Phillies history to one of the unsung heroes of this club's early years; from a man who hit loud home runs to a man who's nickname was "Silent John," John Titus.
Titus was a first baseman and a very good hitter who spent all but two seasons of his 11-season career as a member of the Phillies. With that being said, he played on some very bad teams in the early 1900s and was out of baseball by the time the Phils had put it all together in 1915.
Even still to this day, however, Titus is well regarded as one of the best first basemen in franchise history.
Career WAR: 39.9
The Line: .287 / .380 / .478, 119 HR
Before the home run ball became a popular attraction, the best hitters in the game were the ones who strung together high averages, but Gavvy Cravath was a powerful man who could hit the ball a long way, easily one of the best hitters of the 1910s.
He became a "power hitter" before such a thing really existed, and that is shown through his stranglehold on most of the traditional "power" statistics. In his career, Cravath led the league in runs, hits, home runs, RBI, walks, strikeouts, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases at least once, but multiple times.
Gavvy Cravath hasn't played since 1920 and is still 19th all-time on the Phillies' home run list. Talk about impressive.
Career WAR: 41.1
The Line: .292 / .365 / .470, 251 HR
There are a few names on this list that I'm surprised aren't already in the Hall of Fame, and you can count Cy Williams among them. Perhaps it was the lack of a major award, but that seems like a silly reason to leave a guy like this out of the Hall.
Look at it this way: Williams was in the MLB for 19 seasons, 13 of which were spent as a member of the Phillies. Up until 1929, he was the National League's all-time leader in home runs.
His pull-happy swing forced defenses to swing around to the right side of the field, a move that would later become known as the "Williams Shift" thanks to Ted Williams, but it was a trend first started by Cy.
He led the league in home runs four different times and to this day is one of the greatest hitters in the history of this franchise, and he did it all while playing a demanding defensive position in center field.
Career WAR: 41.3
The Line: .285 / .375 / .419, 81 HR
If there was a good old "character clause" to get into the Phillies' "Hall of Very Good," Lenny Dykstra obviously wouldn't be here, but if you'll appease me for just a moment, we'll only be talking about "The Dude's" baseball accomplishments on this slide.
And Dykstra was an accomplished baseball player, though, like many other players of the era, he is shrouded in the "steroids" veil. But there is no doubt that he was the guy that made the Phillies move during the 1990s.
Staying healthy was an issue for Dykstra, thanks in large part to his blue-collar style, but when he was on the field, he was fun to watch. A three-time All-Star, Dykstra had an incredible season in 1993 that nearly resulted in both an MVP Award and a World Series title.
Career WAR: 41.6
The Line: .264 / .334 / .441, 226 HR
Johnny Callison was the face of the Phillies franchise for the better part of a decade during the 1960s, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise to see him on this list. In what would eventually be one of the worst decades of Philadelphia baseball in the club's history, Callison was one of the lone bright spots.
People just loved to watch him play. He was a gifted athlete and a humble personality that drew fans to the ballpark, even if the team wasn't very good.
Early in his career, Callison was an extra-base machine with doubles power and a knack for turning it up a notch to secure third base. He was a three-time All-Star and easily one of the biggest fan favorites in the history of this club.
Career WAR: 48.8
The Line: .270 / .328 / .432, 193 HR
Does Jimmy Rollins have a shot at the Hall of Fame? That's an interesting debate. He already has plenty of trophies and accolades to his credit, but does he have the statistics to merit inclusion in Cooperstown in an age where advanced statistics are making the decision more challenging?
Not that Rollins has ever been the kind of player to make a decision like this easy. He has always gone the non-linear route, and while the bat has taken an interesting turn as of late, the defense has been top notch at a premium position since the moment he debuted.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Rollins is one of baseball's more valuable players, but does he have the numbers to warrant an induction into the Hall of Fame? Will the 2007 MVP Award sway some voters?
Initial Reaction—Rollins in the Hall?
A few weeks ago, I would have said no. In recent days, I think I've changed my mind, but I've always maintained that I would like to see what happens with Alan Trammell before making any final decision.
Rollins is a winner of multiple Gold Gloves, has made several All-Star appearances and won an MVP Award. That is an accomplished career for one of the best defensive shortstops in recent memory. Is it a Hall-worthy career?
I still can't bring myself to give a definitive yes or no.
Career WAR: 49.1
The Line: .290 / .413 / .333, 7 HR
Roy Thomas was an impressive baseball player and I'm not sure you will ever see another slash line quite like his. This was a player with almost no power. It took him 13 seasons to hit seven home runs, but boy, did he have an eye at the plate.
Thomas was easily one of the most patient hitters in the game's history. He led the league in walks an incredible seven times and didn't post an on-base percentage south of .400 until after his seventh season in the MLB.
He was also an elite defender in center field and a good base runner, which combined with his knack for reaching base, made him one of the best top-of-the-order hitters in history.
Career WAR: 53.8
The Line: .288 / .376 / .500, 199 HR
The 2013 season is going to be a huge one for Chase Utley. When you look at the dramatic ends of the spectrum, it is either his last season as a member of the Phillies or the continuation of what could be a Hall of Fame career. But hey, no pressure.
Utley, of course, enters the '13 season under contract for just one more year. A pair of chronically degenerating knees make his contract situation a sticky one for the Phillies, who will undoubtedly want to make sure he can play something close to a full season before negotiating a contract extension.
But it is hard to imagine a scenario where Utley walks in free agency because it would be a nightmare public relations situation. He is a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger and arguably the most beloved Phillie of all-time.
As The Terminator would so aptly say, he'll be back.
Initial Reaction—Utley in the Hall?
My initial first reaction here is still no, but a large reason as to why is his health. Can Utley still be an everyday player in the MLB, and can he do so for several more seasons? History tells us that he can't.
But if he can, there is no doubt that Utley can continue to build what once looked like a surefire Hall of Fame career. There is no doubt that he has been one of the greatest second basemen of the last decade and easily, one of the greatest Phillies of all-time.
Can he make it to Cooperstown? I'm still in a holding pattern.
Career WAR: 54.1
The Line: 204-189, 3.37 ERA
Al Orth was a unique pitcher for his time because in an era where starting pitchers were trying to confound and puzzle opposing hitters with big, looping curveballs, Orth just wouldn't throw one.
He was "attacking the strike zone" before it was popular, earning him the intriguing nickname of "The Curveless Wonder."
What makes the nickname even more intriguing is that Orth was successful without that curveball. He threw hard and excelled in that manner, for seven years as a member of the Phillies.
Orth would go on to win an even 100 games for the Phillies and his stellar .824 winning percentage during the 1899 season was the best in baseball.
Career WAR: 63
The Line: .292 / .396 / .477, 287 HR
For nine seasons, Bobby Abreu was an enigma to Phillies fans. He was a lucky player, all things considered, plucked out of the Rule 5 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays who, in turn, sent him to the Phillies in exchange for shortstop Kevin Stocker.
And over the course of those nine seasons in Philadelphia, Abreu became one of the greatest offensive players that this town has ever seen and one of the most frustrating personalities for Phillies fans to deal with.
So when he was traded during the 2006 season, it was with an air of relief. Fans thought that they had rid themselves of a "clubhouse cancer" when in reality, they were trading a man who's name is all over their club's all-time leader boards. Now, he'll never get the respect that he deserves from the Philly faithful.
That's perfectly fine. Abreu is a decorated MLB player anyhow. He is a former All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner and he made this list with ease. Now for the burning question:
Initial Reaction—Abreu in the Hall?
This is a tough one because Abreu's stats are great across the board. In his prime, we're talking about one of the game's most versatile hitters. He could hit for power and average and had one of the better approaches I've ever seen at the plate.
But in the long run, I think he just misses. He is the kind of guy that could linger on the ballot for a while.
Career WAR: 67.9
The Line: .292 / .378 / .534, 351 HR
When the Phillies signed Dick Allen out of high school in 1960, they expected to receive a player who had incredible potential, and they did. He had tremendous raw power and a lofty ceiling—one that could revitalize the franchise.
However, the Phillies also received one of the most polarizing players in the history of the game. Off-the-field incidents helped turn Allen's career, particularly in Philadelphia, into a running tabloid of sorts, perhaps unfairly.
The fans basically ran him out of town following the 1969 season—a nine-year stint with the Phillies that included a Rookie of the Year Award. A few seasons later, he was named the American League's MVP as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
For some people, Allen is a Hall of Famer. To go along with the hardware, Allen led the league in a bevvy of offensive statistics over the course of his career and was easily one of the most entertaining offensive players of his time.
But for now, he'll have to settle for being a member of the Phillies' "Hall of Very Good."
Career WAR: 72.2
The Line: 199-100, 3.31 ERA
Some people may believe that it is too soon for Roy Halladay to appear on a list like this, and that's perfectly fine. But Halladay has accomplished more in three seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies than most pitchers will in a lifetime.
Since joining the Phillies in 2010, Halladay has won 51 games. He's pitched a perfect game (on the road) and a no-hitter in the postseason, joining Don Larsen as the only other man in history to accomplish the feat. He's won a Cy Young Award.
It's hard to imagine a three-year span going any more smoothly for a pitcher of Halladay's caliber, and that includes a 2012 season that didn't exactly go according to plan. And that's just a three-year sample size. What's in store for Halladay's future?
Initial Reaction—Halladay in the Hall?
Most of the other names on this list are going to be debated for a long time by people with a ballot, but Roy Halladay shouldn't be one of them.
Along with the aforementioned accolades, let us not forget that Halladay also won a Cy Young as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays and has the good old "period of dominance" that some voters look for.
Unless something goes horrendously wrong in spring training, Halladay will win his 200th career game this season and I'm having trouble envisioning a scenario where he is left out of the Hall of Fame.
Career WAR: 73.2
The Line: .291 / .364 / .427, 83 HR
Sherry Magee must have went to some tremendous lengths to stay under the radar, because this man is easily one of the most underrated players in the history of the game.
A right-handed hitter, Magee was an early version of baseball's "five-tool player." He could hit for average and power, run, throw and defend. And he did so over the course of a long career—16 years—11 of which were spent playing left field and first base for the Phillies.
In 1910, Magee was one of the most dominant hitters in the game, leading all of baseball in runs, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases.
Career WAR: 75
The Line: .281 / .364 / .490, 316 HR
Man, is this going to be a fun conversation in the city of Philadelphia when Scott Rolen hits the ballot, or what?
By now, everyone knows the story between Rolen and the Phillies. The fans once viewed him as the second coming of Mike Schmidt, which was an unfair comparison from the start, but for what it's worth, Rolen played like one hell of a successor at third base.
The Phillies' young third baseman electrified what had become a dormant fanbase, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1997 and giving Phillies fans one of the deadliest emotions in all of sports—hope. Because as the years went by and Rolen was named to All-Star teams and picked up major awards like the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, the fans' hope just continued to grow.
But the Phillies were a terrible team, outside of Rolen, and there wasn't much hope from his perspective. He clashed with management and when the confrontation had finally reached a boiling point, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and made some disparaging comments on his way out the door, forever tainting his legacy in Philadelphia.
And that's unfair, because, with all of his flaws in mind, Rolen was the best third baseman this franchise has ever seen not named Mike Schmidt. He went on to win a World Series with the Cardinals, make seven All-Star appearances and collect eight Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. So now, let's get into the real debate.
Initial Reaction—Rolen in the Hall?
Another interesting debate, but I'm going to say yes. I think that Ron Santo's induction by the Veterans Committee is going to help Rolen's case quite a bit.
When it comes down to it, this is how I think of Scott Rolen: He is arguably the greatest two-way third baseman of his generation who hit more than 300 home runs, won a World Series and did so despite playing with potentially debilitating injuries well into his 30s.
Career WAR: 86.1
The Line: 216-146, 3.46 ERA
If you've been following along as members of the Baseball Writers Association of America post their Hall of Fame ballots online all offseason long, Curt Schilling is probably going to get into the Hall of Fame, if not this year, then next.
But I wanted to take a moment to talk about Schilling anyway. The Phillies, of course, were the launchpad of his career. They acquired him from the Houston Astros before the 1992 season, when the club had all but given up on him, and gave him a shot in the starting rotation.
Schilling quickly developed into a strikeout machine and the Phillies' ace, leading the club to a World Series in 1993—one that was ultimately dropped to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The rest of Schilling's Phillies career wasn't quite as joyous, which of course stemmed from the fact that the Phillies just couldn't (or wouldn't) build a team around him.
He asked for a trade in 2000 and the Phillies were fleeced by the Arizona Diamondbacks, where Schilling would win his first World Series title as part of a dynamic one-two punch alongside Randy Johnson.
Schilling's next stop was with the Boston Red Sox, where in four years he would win two World Series, including the infamous "bloody sock" saga.
Initial Reaction—Schilling in the Hall?
Listen. I've spent what feels like an eternity listening to guys make pitches for Jack Morris' Hall of Fame candidacy, the most common of which is the whole "big game pitcher" identity. By that train of thought, Schilling is a shoo-in, right?
He was one of the greatest strikeout pitchers of this generation, capturing three World Series titles for two different teams and nearly making it a fourth with a third team as a member of the Phillies early in his career.
The only question in my mind is, "What hat does he wear?"