Murphy: A look at Ryan Howard's place among the top 10 Phillies

One of the subjects we’ll be talking about on Philly Sports Talk today (Comcast Sports Net, 5 p.m.) is Ryan Howard’s place amongst the all-time Phillies greats. This according to a text I received from show producer Dan Roche, which read, in part, “Is Ryan Howard a Top 10 all-time Phillie?”

My first reaction was, “He has to be, right?” But let’s talk it through.

I don’t think anybody will argue that somebody other than Mike Schmidt belongs at No. 1 all-time. He’s the franchise leader in plate appearances, home runs, and practically any other counting stat you can think of (runs, RBIs, etc.). For sanity’s sake, we’ll deal with pitchers and hitters separately, in case you were thinking about making a case for Steve Carlton or Robin Roberts.

Behind Schmidt, you have a number of contenders. Advanced metrics like offensive Wins Above Replacement put Richie Ashburn (49.5) and Chase Utley (47.3) directly behind Howard, who ranks a mere 21st at 22.3. But the question isn’t strictly about offensive production. It isn’t, is Ryan Howard a top-ten hitter? It’s, is Ryan Howard a top ten Phillies great. Greatness is an abstract term. Take Bobby Abreu. By virtually any metric, advanced or traditional, he’s a top ten hitter in franchise history. But did he ever reach the level of transcendence of Utley or Howard or Jimmy Rollins? It might not be entirely his fault. His teams never achieved anything, and his individual style of play was never the stuff of Wheaties boxes. Maybe a simpler way to say it is that we never identified Abreu with the Phillies the way we identify the stars from 2008 years. It’s a subjective argument, sure, but this is a subjective exercise. There was a time when the Phillies were the main draw in town, and Ryan Howard was the main draw on the Phillies. In a five-year stretch he won a rookie of the year, an MVP, and finished in the top five in MVP voting three other times. He hit 45+ home runs three times. He ranks second behind Schmidt on the all-time Phillies home runs and RBIs list.

Is he top 10?

Right now I have Schmidt, Richie Ashburn and Chase Utley as the top three position players. I have Dick Allen at No. 4, and then I think we arrive at some order of Howard, Rollins and Darren Daulton. It’s really hard to figure how to include guys who played in the first half of the 20th century, because the game was so different back then. If we limit our set of eligibles to post-integration, you have Del Ennis, Johnny Callison, Greg Luzinski and I suppose Larry Bowa worthy of consideration.

On the pitching side, we have Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton, and Cole Hamels.

How does this list look:

1. Mike Schmidt
2. Richie Ashburn
3. Chase Utley
4. Steve Carlton
5. Robin Roberts
6. Dick Allen
7. Ryan Howard
8. Jimmy Rollins
9. Darren Daulton
10. Cole Hamels

Have at it.