Philadelphia Phillies: The 7 Smartest Players in Phillies History
Major League Baseball is filled with players who can throw and players who can hit. There are guys who have a quick bat or a good curve. But the very best players in the game rely on more than just their physical skills when they’re on the field.
These are the players that are always thinking whether on base, behind the plate or in the dugout. They are always one step ahead of the opposition and that step could be the difference between a win or a loss for their team.
These are players who can think the game as well as they can play it. So get out your notebooks for the 7 Smartest Players in Philadelphia Phillies history.
7. Jamie Moyer
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You have to be pretty smart to pitch in the big leagues well into your 40’s. Let's just say that it's unlikely Moyer was getting many outs with his overpowering 78 mph fastball. Later in his 24-year career, the ageless Moyer had to become a thinking man’s pitcher getting batters out by studying what they liked to hit and never giving it to them.
Moyer had a book on every hitter he faced and he did his homework well enough to be the oldest pitcher, at 47, to throw a shut-out in the majors. He’s also the only pitcher to have a shut-out in 4 decades, the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and 2010’s.
Add to that the fact that Moyer mentored Phillies current phenom Cole Hamels helping him learn how to not just pitch hard but to pitch smart. Hamels’ results this year (tied for the league lead in wins with 12) speak volumes for the wisdom of his teacher.
6. Bob Boone
It is no coincidence that many catchers become managers. From their crouch behind home plate, it is the catcher who calls every pitch and sees every play so it’s not surprising that so many of them become real students of the game. When their playing careers are over, it's a natural step for them to move into teaching the game as a manager.
Bob Boone was one of those catchers. When he was in the game it was like having another manager on the field. Boone was always in complete control behind the plate. His pitchers trusted him rarely questioning his calls. He was one of the top defensive catchers of his era winning 7 Gold Gloves.
When his playing days were over, Boone did go on to manage and he is currently using all of the baseball knowledge he has gathered over the years in his role as Assistant GM and VP of Player Development for the Washington Nationals.
5. Steve Carlton
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Steve Carlton was as intense a competitor as there is in all of sports. He was so focused on game day that he rarely spoke to his teammates and famously not the press. He was Roy Halladay before Roy Halladay.
Carlton had a rigorous work-out regimen before it was common for every team to have fitness and conditioning coaches. He analyzed every aspect of his game from his pre and post game work-outs to carefully plotting his approach to each batter in the opposing team’s line-up. Once on the mound he was in complete control; he knew what he wanted to do with every pitch.
Perhaps that explains his 10 All-Star game appearances, 4 Cy Young Awards, 329 wins and 4,136 strike-outs. Quite simply, Carlton was one of the greatest and smartest left-handed pitchers in baseball history. So it was no surprise when he was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot with 95.82 % of the vote.
4. Chase Utley
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Chase Utley only plays baseball one way--he gives it everything he has on every play. Both physically and mentally he is all in. Although not the fastest man on the field he has become a great base runner by making smart decisions on the base paths. Since 2006, he has never been caught stealing more than twice in a season and in 2009 he had 23 steals without being caught once. Watch him when he’s on second base check the outfielders to see where they’re playing so he can judge whether he can score from second on a single.
And he's improved his fielding tremendously through hard work and thinking a play ahead. He always knows what he wants to do with the ball if and when it comes his way. Perhaps the most famous example of Utley's fielding smarts came in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series where in a tie game Utley faked a throw to first base to bait the Tampa Bay Ray’s Jason Bartlett into trying to score from third. Bartlett took the bait, took off and was tagged out at the plate by a strong throw from Utley to catcher Carlos Ruiz. Quick thinking by Utley stopped the go-ahead run from scoring preserving the World Series Championship for the Phillies.
It is heady plays like this that led Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas to coin the oft-repeated phrase: “Chase Utley, you are the man.”
Yes he is, And a smart man at that.
3. Mike Schmidt
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One of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of baseball, Mike Schmidt was always known as a cerebral hitter. He analyzed his swing, his stance, his timing. In fact, there were those who felt Schmidt thought too much at the plate.
He studied every pitcher he would face and went to the plate looking for certain pitches on certain counts. And when he got what he was looking for, he hit it, and hit it hard. He found 548 pitches to hit out of the park in his Hall of Fame career.
Schmidt was a 12 time All Star and 10 time Gold Glove winner. He led the league in home runs eight times, and in RBI four times. He was League MVP three times and the MVP of the 1980 World Series. Schmidt is considered by many to be the best third baseman in the history of baseball.
And perhaps the smartest.
2. Grover Cleveland Alexander
Known as “Alexander the Great,” Grover Cleveland Alexander is considered by many to have been the smartest control pitcher baseball had ever seen. He was the third winningest pitcher in baseball history known equally for his combination of guts and smarts on the mound.
He led the Phillies to their first pennant in 1915 and he finished his career with 373 wins and 90 shutouts. Alexander won 20 games or more nine times 30 games or more three times.
To Alexander, pitching was a science to be studied. And with career numbers like that he must have been an excellent student. So good that when his career was complete, this student graduated to the Hall of Fame.
1. Pete Rose
Now Pete Rose may not have been a Philadelphia Phillie that long but his presence, his winning attitude and yes, his baseball smarts were the reason the Phillies finally won their first World Series Championship in 1980.
Pete Rose never gave away an at-bat. He was always working, always hustling, always thinking. Whether running out a ground ball or backing up a throw "Charlie Hustle" always knew where he should be on the field and he made sure he got there.
The most famous example? Phillies fans will never forget the sight of Bob Boone bobbling a sure foul ball out in the top of the 9th inning of the team’s title-clinching game against the Kansas City Royals. The Phillies had a 4-1 lead in the game with one out in the 9th and a 3-2 lead in the series. A win in game 6 and they would be World Champions.
The ball bounced away from Boone only to be caught by Rose who had “hustled” over from first to back up the play. The Phillies went on to win that game and the Championship, a win which would not have happened without the hustle, drive and pure baseball know-how of Pete Rose.