Prior to the current run of sustained success in Philadelphia, putting together an all-time dream team for the Philadelphia Phillies would have likely resulted in a satire piece featuring luminaries such as Robert Person, Steve Jeltz and Rico Brogna.
Of course, times have changed. National League East titles, playoff appearances, NL MVPs, star acquisitions, a new ballpark and, of course, a World Series championship have all contributed to change the perception of the Phillies franchise.
Ironically, it's also why the fans are struggling in 2013 to come to grips with a window of opportunity that is closing. Not only are the memories of winning fresh, but the contributors from that group are still with the ballclub.
Here is my take on selecting the Philadelphia Phillies' All-Time Dream Team.
Carlos Ruiz (2006-present, 106 OPS+, 1x All-Star, 15.2 WAR): Chooch wasn't the first to come to mind, but his place on a World Series championship team, starting for the 2008 champs, and improving bat vaulted him above Darren Daulton and Mike Lieberthal. His 15.2 WAR lies below Daulton, but Ruiz has accomplished the feat in just over six big league seasons. It took Daulton well over a decade to give that kind of value to the organization.
Ryan Howard (2004-present, 135 OPS+, 3x All-Star, 2006 NL MVP, 18.1 WAR): While it's easy to be critical of an aging, declining Howard right now, don't forget the player he was when emerging from an overextended stay in the minors. From 2006-2009, Howard was one of, if not the, most feared hitters in the game.
Howard ranks second on the all-time Phillies franchise lists for slugging percentage and home runs. Anyone who cranks out nearly 200 home runs in four seasons, including 58 in 2006, deserves a spot on this team.
Chase Utley (2003-present, 126 OPS+, 5x All-Star, 55.2 WAR): During Howard's MVP season and home run barrage, Utley's Cooperstown-caliber play next to the Big Piece on the right side of the infield was lost in the national shuffle. In Philadelphia, they've always seemed to understand the privilege of watching Utley play.
Among the all-time Phillies ranks, Utley is fourth in WAR and a good bet to catch and pass Richie Ashburn for third sometime this summer. If his knees and hips hold up, Philadelphia will face an interesting dilemma in deciding on a contract offer for Utley next winter.
Mike Schmidt (1972-1989, 147 OPS+, 12x All-Star, 3x NL MVP, 106.5 WAR): Michael Jack Schmidt wasn't just the easy choice for greatest Phillies third baseman in history, he's arguably the greatest player to man the hot corner in the history of the game.
The 548 home runs and Gold Glove defense equals a player whom Baseball-Reference.com credits with more value than all but 25 players in the history of baseball. Among those with less career WAR than Schmidt: Randy Johnson, Joe Morgan, Cal Ripken and Albert Pujols.
Jimmy Rollins (2000-present, 97 OPS+, 3x All-Star, 2007 NL MVP, 42.0 WAR): As J-Roll continues to display exemplary durability and athletic ability through the years, his climb up Philadelphia's all-time lists are inevitable.
Most shortstops have declining range at age 34. Jimmy Rollins is not most shortstops.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 16, 2013
The greatest Phillies shortstop in history also will present baseball historians with a more difficult task when his career ends: voting yes or no to induction into Cooperstown. What once seemed like an easy debate, or, in other words, there wasn't a shot, now has become an interesting topic. Either way, his leadership, durability and all-around game will land him in the Phillies Hall of Fame.
Richie Ashburn (1948-1959, 111 OPS+, 4x All-Star, 57.2 WAR): The 1995 Hall of Fame inductee should need no introduction to Philadelphia faithful. Ashburn debuted and starred before his time, becoming one of the most disciplined hitters of the '50s on his way to four different seasons of .400-plus on-base percentage marks and two 100-plus walk seasons.
Despite power numbers that were pedestrian (29 career home runs), Ashburn's ability to get on base would make him one of the most sought after players in the game today. On this dream team, he's the natural choice to leadoff.
Chuck Klein (1928-1933, 1936-1938, 1939, 1940-1944; 139 OPS+, 2x All-Star, 34.9 WAR): Despite four separate stints in Philadelphia, Klein made his mark on the record books. While playing in an offensive era surely boosted his numbers, the five-year run between 1929-1933 (1.050 OPS, 1,982 total bases) are video-game numbers in a pre-video-game world.
Bobby Abreu has approximately 0 chance of making the HoF, but offensively his 2001-12 compares favorably to someone like Ichiro's 1st 12 yrs— Neil Paine (@Neil_Paine) April 16, 2013
Bobby Abreu (1998-2006, 139 OPS+, 2x All-Star, 47.0 WAR): Before you scoff at the notion of Bob Kelly Abreu as an all-time Phillie and member of this dream team, please drop the narrative that he was a "losing" player and the team won in the years after he left simply because he was traded to New York.
Instead, consider these facts: Abreu posted a .400-plus on-base percentage in eight out of his nine seasons in Philadelphia, posted six 20-20 campaigns and received MVP votes in more than half of his years with the club. Like it or not, the guy was a tremendous all-around talent.
1. Steve Carlton (1972-1986, 120 ERA+, 7x All-Star, 4x Cy Young winner, 64.6 WAR): It starts and ends with Lefty at the top of this dream team rotation. Of all the accomplishments in a Phillies uniform, Carlton's 1972 season stands out. Coming over in a lopsided, to put it mildly, trade for Rick Wise, Carlton's contract dispute in St. Louis turned out to be Philadelphia's big gain.
There have been many great individual pitching seasons in baseball history, but Carlton's 12.1 WAR in 1972 ranks among the greatest performances ever. Considering the team record of 59-97, Carlton's 27-10 record is eye-opening. If he was given better talent to pitch behind, it's not crazy to think Lefty could have won 35 games that season.
2. Robin Roberts (1948-1961, 114 ERA+, 7x All-Star, 69.7 WAR): While the philosophy behind voting for individual awards has changed over the years and decades, it's worth noting that Roberts placed in the Top 10 for NL MVP voting during five of his seasons in Philadelphia. Voters may not have been in tune with wins above replacement in the mid-'50s, but six straight years of 300-plus innings transcends advanced metrics and baseball research.
Since I was asked: Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Alan Trammell all belong in Hall of Fame. Soon.— Steve Berthiaume (@BertDbacks) January 9, 2013
3. Curt Schilling (1992-2000, 126 ERA+, 3x All-Star, 36.8 WAR): The results of the 2013 Hall of Fame voting aside, Schilling was one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, let alone the Philadelphia Phillies.
Of course, some in Philadelphia would argue that many of his best seasons came after leaving. That's true, but don't discount what he did while there. From 1992-1999, Schilling's eight full seasons in Philadelphia, he ranked 11th in ERA+, fifth in strikeouts, third in complete games and second in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
4. Cole Hamels (2006-present, 124 ERA+, 3x All-Star, 2008 World Series MVP, 28.7 WAR): Considering his relative youth and career on the horizon, let's focus on Hamels among every pitcher in baseball since debuting in 2006. Over that span, the lifetime Phil ranks sixth in strikeouts, 11th in IP, ninth in ERA+ and fourth in K/9. His dominance is only just beginning, folks.
5. Cliff Lee (2009, 2011-present; 142 ERA+, 1x All-Star, 15.3 WAR): Surprised? If you've truly watched Lee evolve into one of the most consistently dominant arms in the game, you shouldn't be. Throw out the W-L record of 2012. Instead, focus on what he brings to the mound each and every time: otherworldly strike-throwing ability.
In the history of baseball, Lee ranks sixth in career strikeout-to-walk ratio with a mark of 3.68. Ironically, Phillies history is littered throughout the top five. Curt Schilling is the best ever. Roy Halladay, who just missed out on this list, ranks fifth.
Brad Lidge (2008-2011, 113 ERA+, 1x All-Star, 1.7 WAR): When it comes to Brad Lidge, throw out the middle and the end. When assessing which relief pitcher in Phillies history belongs on their dream team, Lidge's perfect 2008 season, capped off by striking out Eric Hinkse to seal the World Series, is all the matters. Outside of Mariano Rivera, every closer is violate. Somehow, someway, Lidge found a way to channel his ability into one storybook season.
*Advanced stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.