With the immediate (and not-so-immediate) future of Cole Hamels so uncertain, we'd thought this would be a good time to look at where he might rank on one man's list of the most important players in Phillies history.
We will list out top 12 in order — Nos. 4 through 12 are below. We'll put up the top 3 at 4 p.m.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS IN PHILLIES HISTORY
4. STEVE CARLTON
Quick, name any other pitcher on the Phillies' 1980 starting rotation. Go ahead, we'll wait. Not exactly the 1969 Orioles is it? But Lefty's second-best season as a Phil (his Mona Lisa was the unhuman 1972 he unfurled), helped carry them into the postseason, where they won all four of his starts (they were 3-4 when he didn't take the mound). He managed five 20-win seasons in Philadelphia after coming here in a trade not everyone in town was excited about. His training methods were uncommon, but he established himself as the best left-handed pitcher of his time and put up numbers (3,031 strikeouts, 499 starts, 185 complete games) that no Phillies pitcher will ever match again.
5. RYAN HOWARD
Has struck fear in opposing pitchers and managers seemingly since before he made it to the major leagues. Phillies fans — notorious for the following of the clubs' minor-league teams — were clamoring for the Big Man to join the show ASAP. And once he did, he did not disappoint: Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, two home-run titles, three RBI titles, and he managed to play all 176 regular season and postseason games during the 2008 title campaign, the only Phillie to do so. He probably deserves to be higher on this list and will get there if he can muster even half of the magic he has provided the Phillies so far.
6. JIMMY ROLLINS
After four years of knocking on the postseason door, Rollins finally knocked it down in 2007, first with his mouth ("we're the team to beat") and then with his bat, as the MVP unfurled one of the greatest offensive seasons in Phillies history. Although his numbers dipped in the title year, he was still their catalyst: In the 2008 postseason, the Phils were 7-0 when he scored a run, 4-3 when he didn't.
7. BRAD LIDGE
You simply can't beat perfection, and that's what Lidge brought to the 2008 table — 48 saves on 48 save opportunities, including the playoffs. He didn't allow a run until his 18th appearance of the season (May 13). From Aug. 30 on, his ERA was 0.61 and the Phils went 14-1 when he pitched. We wish the rest of his time here had turned out a little better, but 48-for-48 gets you on this list.
8. TUG McGRAW
His ERA in 39 appearances (many of the two- and three-inning variety) after June 13 in the 1980 season was 0.60. The Phils were 27-12 in those games and needed every one of those wins to fend off the Montreal Expos. (For Generation Twitter, the Expos are what the Washington Nationals used to be.) He also kept the fanbase on the edge of their seats throughout the 1980 playoffs. His personality as a player puts him on this list as well as his performance; he had an excellent 10 years in this city in both respects.
9. DARREN DAULTON
The 1993 NL Champions were a one-season flash in the pan, but they were an oasis in the middle of a run of desert-bad years (the only winning season between 1987 and 2000). The veteran catcher kept (semi-) control of a clubhouse that was like none Philly had ever seen and managed to knock in 100-plus runs for the second consecutive year. He managed to catch 945 games over his 14 years in Philly.
10. DICKIE NOLES
Can one pitch get you on this list? Sure can. Consider that when Noles knocked down George Brett in Game 4 of the 1980 World Series, the Royals were hitting .320 (40-for-125) in the Series and had scored 19 runs in 31 innings. After Brett brushed himself off and got back into the box, KC managed just four runs in 22 2/3 innings and hit just .244 (20-for-82). That works for us.
11. RICHIE ASHBURN
When Ashburn joined the Phillies in 1948, they had enjoyed one winning season since 1918. He and Robin Roberts led the Whiz Kids into the 1950 World Series and made them fairly respectable for a few seasons. He was also the best player on some less-than-stellar late 1950s teams. Without his Whiteness, the Phils would have had one solid half-century-plus of bad baseball history to overcome. Carved himself out a nice, little post-playing career also.
12. JIM THOME
The free-agent signing of Thome did a lot of things, not the least of which was to help stimulate interest in a team moving from one Stadium (Veterans) to another (Citizens Bank Park). It also sent a message throughout baseball — and perhaps through their own organization and certainly to the fan base — that the Phils were finally serious about doing what had to be done to put a winning team on the (brand new) field. In his 2 1/2-year first stint with the Phils, they were 20 games over .500 when he started and just one game over .500 when he didn't.