Inside the Phillies: Looking for an MVP? Try the entire team

Placido Polanco, Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrated after the final out of last night's win. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON - The MVP of the 2010 National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies is Brian Schneider.

Yes, the backup catcher is the team's most valuable prophet.

Shane Victorino confirmed it by telling a story Monday afternoon that dates back to the end of the Phillies' first road trip following the all-star break.

The Phillies opened that miserable trip by losing three out of four games to the Cubs in Chicago and the first three games of a four-game series in St. Louis.

"We were at such a low point and everybody was like, 'Oh my God, what's going on here?' " Victorino said before the Phillies wrapped up their fourth straight division title with an 8-0, rain-soaked victory over the Washington Nationals.

During that low point at Busch Stadium, Schneider sat in the visiting clubhouse and worked on some math. He figured out a way that everything could turn out OK for a team that was 48-46 and seven games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves at the time.

"There were 68 games to go and I had to come up with some numbers and I wanted the math to be as easy as possible," Schneider said as he was saturated with champagne and beer from teammates. "I just said '50-18.' "

Victorino thought his teammate was being overly ambitious.

"I remember saying, '50-18 - come on, bro?' We had just lost six out of seven, so that was a ridiculous number," Victorino said.

Turned out it was not so ridiculous after all.

Starting with a 1-0 victory that salvaged the final game of the series against the Cardinals, the Phillies have gone 46-17 in their last 63 games, turning a seven-game deficit into another division title. They may not get to 50-18, but only because they rendered the remainder of the regular season meaningless by also clinching the best record in the National League with Monday's victory. They will have home-field advantage in any postseason series they play.

"Schneider reminded me about that conversation a couple days ago," Victorino said. "That was weird. It gave me goosebumps."

Victorino's story surfaced Monday afternoon at the end of a conversation about the Phillies' true MVP during the franchise's unprecedented fourth straight run to the postseason. You could argue that Schneider is the only player on the roster who does not deserve that distinction, although all four of his home runs came during victories, including a walk-off shot against Cincinnati shortly before the all-star break.

What's different about the latest and greatest of manager Charlie Manuel's four straight division championship teams is that it's almost impossible to point to one man and say this team could not have done it without him.

If Victorino had to point to one man, he said it would be the guy who went out and clinched the division Monday night with his latest brilliant pitching performance.

"If there was one, it would be Roy Halladay," Victorino said. "What he has done across the board has been amazing. If you had to pick one guy from start to finish, he has been the most consistent guy. Through all the down times, he was still a positive. He should be 25-5 - and he would be if we scored runs for him."

A starting pitcher has not won the NL MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968, so Halladay probably won't get much support. On the other hand, he should have wrapped up the Cy Young Award with his penultimate start of the season against the Nationals, a two-hit shutout that included six strikeouts and no walks.

"He'll get my vote," Manuel said. "He's definitely going to get my vote if I've got one."

Halladay's 21 wins are the most in baseball and, as Victorino noted, he should have a lot more. But in recent weeks there has been debate about whether Halladay is the best choice to open the postseason.

It was a debate triggered by Roy Oswalt's amazing run since joining the Phillies and Cole Hamels' sensational second half. It is a debate that should have ended with Halladay's performance against the Nationals. He has earned the right to pitch against whatever opponent the Phillies face in the first round of the postseason.

If Victorino is correct and Halladay is the MVP, that still leaves an MVPP (most valuable position player) and it's impossible to name one.

Ryan Howard has held that distinction through most of this Phillies run of success and should be in the conversation again this season, but there are others equally deserving.

Rightfielder Jayson Werth, whose four RBIs accounted for half the Phillies' runs in the division clincher, belongs in the conversation, too. Placido Polanco proved to be a major upgrade over Pedro Feliz at third base. Victorino provided power and speed in a year when his batting average was down.

Wilson Valdez was fill-in player of the year, playing remarkably well during extended absences by second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

And then there is catcher Carlos Ruiz.

"You could make a legitimate argument for him [as MVP]," Victorino said. "He has been consistent the whole year."

Actually, Victorino has a better idea.

"To me, the team has been the MVP because we've had so many guys step up," Victorino said. "You look at teams that had injuries like us and where are they? They're nowhere to be found."

The Phillies, on the other hand, are back on top of the NL East and aiming for a second World Series title in three seasons.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or