Fans of a certain age (mine) cheered last week when the Phillies announced Pete Rose will finally be enshrined into the team’s Wall of Fame this summer. Say what you will about Rose’s gambling, lying and low character (true, true and true), he will always be an iconic figure in franchise history.
Rose, now 76, played just five seasons here. But he proved to be the missing piece the Phils needed to win the 1980 World Series. He drove his teammates to be better. He hit .326 in 25 postseason games wearing red pinstripes. He was beloved by fans.
This one’s not debatable. And that’s important. Because in recent years, the Phils seem to have abandoned border patrol on their Wall of Fame, allowing the entry standard to drop from all-time great to kinda good.
Mike Lieberthal permanently enshrined? I realize “Lieby” played 13 seasons here, but also know those years perfectly coincide with the Phils streak of missing the playoffs. That is not coincidence.
John Kruk? A valuable part of those 1993 World Series rascals, to be sure. A popular guy. Fine broadcaster. But if you start ranking every Phillie by career WAR, you’ll pass 49 others before you land on Kruk. Pat Burrell, a 2015 inductee, is another seven pegs below that in career value.
Beyond minimum playing-time standards, there is no hard-set logic determining who gets into these things (read: Dave Schultz in the Flyers Hall of Fame). For the Phils, it seems, the motivation in recent seasons has been honoring popular players who may jack up mid-summer attendance. Hello, Jim Thome.
Maybe that’s fine. Maybe having Burrell and Leiberthal share gold-leafed permanence with Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton only annoys me.
By my thinking, three criteria should play into this: Was the player an all-time franchise great? Was he an important cog on winning teams? Was he a fan favorite? Any player who doesn’t check two of those boxes probably shouldn’t be enshrined.
In the future, this won’t be a problem. Soon we’ll enjoy the parade of Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels (assuming those guys ever retire). Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino will have their day, and deserve it. Maybe Brad Lidge. Maybe Jayson Wer – oh, never mind.
But in the interim, Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu are probably on deck. Outstanding players, for sure, but two who played for lousy teams and sure didn’t connect with the fan base. That’ll be a festive weekend, listening to Rolen wax poetic about how he demanded a trade out of town.
Nothing cheapens Halls of Fame like an open-door policy. The Flyers, to their credit, discovered there were no more Bullies to honor after Schultz and skipped five years before the 2014 double-enshrinement of Eric Lindros and John Leclair.
The Phils should consider the same. Give it a rest after Rose. Stall a few seasons until the 2008 heroes are eligible. Honor the great, the impactful, the truly beloved. Otherwise, at this rate, we’ll soon be facing Pete Incaviglia Night.