The current Philadelphia Phillies' era was born when Larry Bowa was hired as manager. For the purposes of this specific list, I've chosen to include any person who has been connected to the team since that time.
With no further explanation necessary, here are my ten best Phillies:
Ten best #10: 'Bo'
Like him, hate him, love him, or loathe him, Larry Bowa was the perfect manager for a rebuilding Phillies' team in the early 2000s.
He drove Scott Rolen out of town, but he also pushed the right buttons that helped the franchise transition from the 1990s' malaise toward multiple playoff days. Not expected to contend for a number of years, 'Bo' led his team to a surprising second-place finish during his inaugural season in 2001.
Imagine if the major leagues were filled with people like Bowa. Regardless of contract amount or length, today's athletes would have no place sit but down.
Ten best #9: 'Chuck'
'Uncle Cholly' deserves to be on a list of the top 10 Phillies of this era. Yes, that's right and how dare anyone question this man's full role in everything that has happened since he took over.
No one who is rational believes that a manager is completely responsible for winning and losing, but everyone who knows baseball understands that the dugout boss counts. Offer any fair critique imaginable regarding Manuel's use of strategy, but never leave out his career win total, his World Series Championship ring, or his consecutive playoff appearance record.
Ten best #8: 'Gentleman Jim'
Descending upon Philadelphia, like a beardless Moses who came down from the mountain, this long-time Cleveland Indians' slugger set Phillies' fans hearts ablaze with hopes that their team was about to reach baseball's promised land.
The most exhilarating acquisition since Pete Rose exchanged his Cincinnati Reds' cap for a Phillies' lid, 'Gentleman Jim' launched 101 home run balls over the fences during his time in red pinstripes. Thome's return in 2012 also allowed a proper farewell tour to be held.
Ten best #7: 'Lights Out'
Brad Lidge only had that one great year from start to playoff finish. Actually 'perfect' would be the best descriptive adjective that describes his 2008 performance.
As all fans know, many elements come together during any championship season. When it came to the bullpen, Lidge turned the 'Lights Out' like no other stopper in team history. His indelible World Series' finale pitch to Tampa Bay Rays' pinch-hitter Eric Hinske rivals Tug McGraw's last offering to Kansas City Royals outfielder Willie Wilson. Say no more.
Ten best #6: 'Chooch'
Catching is the most intense position on a baseball team. Now consider how many Phillies' pitchers have always praised Ruiz for handling their games masterfully. Working in a challenging job, dealing with a wide variety of personalities, and earning accolades all the while.
In addition to many past clutch offensive playoff performances, 'Chooch' has improved his regular season batting skills to such an extent that his 2012 All-Star year came as no surprise to any long-time fan.
Because Ruiz has been in place, this Phillies' team has been among baseball's elite franchises.
Ten best #5: 'The Big Piece'
Mike Schmidt is the Phillies' all-time home run and RBI leader. Ryan Howard ranks second in home runs and sixth in RBI's.
Schmidt has a career .908 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage), which places him sixth in Phillies' history. Howard currently ranks fifth, with his .917 OPS mark.
Schmidt, who played for 18 seasons, is the greatest Phillies' player to have ever lived and was arguably the greatest defensive third baseman of all-time.
Howard is in his ninth major league season. If anyone ever says that he hasn't been a vital part of this current Phillies' era, or that he isn't one of the great power-hitters of his own era, simply reply with these three words. You are wrong.
Ten best #4: 'The Man'
One of the grittiest players to grace a Phillies' uniform since Rose, Utley's exuberance for his chosen profession can't be measured.
Pushing himself from an adequate fielder into someone who has .982 lifetime fielding percentage was no small task. While the 2005-2009 seasons are likely to remain at the height of Utley's offensive career exploits, his 2012 plate performance is offering some hope that a chronic knee condition won't cut his career short.
Harry Kalas said it best, when he verbally labeled number 26 as 'The Man' and so it will always be.
Ten best #3: 'Hollywood'
Cole Hamels is the best pitcher the Phillies have produced and then retained in decades. Plus, he's left-handed.
The fact that he won the 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player Awards when he was only 24-years-old says volumes about his heart. Garnering three All-Star selections, two Cy Young Award finishes within the top six ballot positions, and posting six consecutive years of double-digit win totals makes him a standout on this staff.
Because pitching is always a valuable commodity, I rank Hamels' stock highly.
Ten best #2: James Calvin Rollins
Most people knew that this man was special when they first saw him lay his glove on the ball in 2000. Since then, Rollins has become one of the best fielding shortstops of his generation (.983 fielding percentage). Now in his thirteenth Phillies' season, he also ranks highly in many of the team's all-time offensive categories.
He's been inconsistent at the plate, isn't an ideal leadoff hitter, and loses focus sometimes. But, I believe that he is the best positional player of this era. Because pitchers only play for portions of the season, that also makes 'J-Roll' the best Phillies' player of this era.
However, there's one person who I believe stands above all the men who have been mentioned thus far.
Ten best #1: Pat Gillick
A master puppeteer, who was hired to replace Wade as general manager in November 2005, Gillick is among the smartest hiring decisions in franchise history. Of course, this means that David Montgomery (General Partner, President, and CEO) deserves his own nod as well.
Building upon a solid farm system that his predecessor Ed Wade had developed, Gillick's moves directly led to that amazing two-part Game 5 World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rightly enshrined into the Hall of Fame last year, Gillick is the best Phillie of this era.
Honorable Mentions: Harry Kalas, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Ryan Madson, Placido Polanco, Jayson Werth, Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs (without his 2008 NLCS home run, do the Phillies get to the World Series?), Aaron Rowand, Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal, John Vukovich, and every hardcore Phillies' fan.
Lists of this nature naturally draw attention, create reaction, and cause debate. Like the game itself, that's part of the fun for those of us who love baseball and who don't believe that our own opinions reign supreme.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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