COMMENTARY | Of all the positions on the baseball field, it seems that right field has been the position the Philadelphia Phillies have struggled with securing most.
This issue goes beyond recent history. Looking back many years, they rarely have been able to find a long-term player to fill in at right field except for a handful of players.
Since 2000, the team has been primarily locked in with the same starters on the field.
The infield has consisted of Mike Lieberthal and Carlos Ruiz at catcher, Ryan Howard at first base, Chase Utley at second base, Jimmy Rollins at shortstop and a combination of David Bell and Placido Polanco at third base.
Left field was filled with Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez; center field covered by Shane Victorino after several years of searching for the right guy.
Jayson Werth had a brief but memorable stint as the team's right fielder, the most consistent since the departure of Bobby Abreu who has played more games in right field than any other player in Phillies history.
Prior to Abreu, only Jim Eisenreich in the early 1990s had secured a significant time in right field. However, during Eisenreich's time with the Phillies, he never reached 400 at-bats in a season. The team platooned Eisenreich in 1993 and the strike in 1994 that leaked into 1995 cut down on his opportunities even further.
Taking a trip further back into history, there was a consistent mix of different players primarily starting in right field.
Bake McBride was the primary starter in right field during the team's run in the late-1970s through early-1980s. A good player, McBride contributed 87 RBIs in the regular season for the 1980 team. Unfortunately, he was at the end of his playing career and was traded to the Cleveland Indians after five years of stellar baseball in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile ,during the 1970s when right field experienced several changes on a yearly basis, the rest of the roster remained consistent. Bob Boone and Tim McCarver were behind the plate for most games throughout the decade, mostly dependent on whether or not Steve Carlton opened the season. Second base had Manny Trillo, Dave Cash and Denny Doyle while Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa covered the left side of the infield. Greg Luzkinski and Gary Maddox were the ones sent out to left field and center field to start the game.
The only other position on the Phillies' roster to change nearly as much as right field was first base. Until Pete Rose joined the team, there was no true starter they could count on every year. Deron Johnson provided some power at the beginning of the decade, but was quickly faded out once his batting average dipped toward .200.
During the 1960s, the Phillies had one of their best right fielder of all-time, Johnny Callison. For all he did for the Phillies, Callison's legacy is forgotten by most. He was with the team all throughout the 1960s, including the infamous 1964 collapse.
In his ten years with the Phillies Callison hit 185 home runs. Two of those seasons he hit over 30 to go along with 100+ RBIs. Since the team has had few legendary right fielders, Callison automatically is in their top five.
Before Callison only one right fielder is worth mentioning. From 1928-1944 with a few stops in other cities, Chuck Klein played right field for the Phillies.
In parts of 15 seasons with the Phillies, Klein had 243 home runs in an era when few were putting up similar power numbers. From 1929-1933, he was frequently an MVP candidate, winning the award in 1932. Klein's overall numbers may be a bit weaker than Abreu's, but when taking into consideration the league averages and how they compared to other players, Klein is far and away better.
Free agency and frequent trades make it harder to keep a player at a position these days. Perhaps in the not too distant future the Phillies can once again find someone new to take over right field on a permanent basis like the few they have in the past.
Tim Boyle is a lifelong and loyal Philadelphia sports follower who enjoys writing about his favorite teams and discovering unique statistical facts.
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