October 28, 2009
There have been only 14 winning streaks in the 106-year history of the World Series and six of those repeat champions wore Yankee pinstripes. The only non-Yankee repeat champion of the past 30 years are the Toronto Blue Jays — the team that beat the Phillies in 1993.
These days, it seems like everyone is busy pondering how Philadelphia matches up to the Big Red Machine. Here on the Stew, we're taking a slightly different look: How do the Phillies match up to their old-time rivals, the 1992-93 Blue Jays?
They're actually fairly different teams. The Jays had much more turnover among their regulars, a more dominant regular season offense and worse pitching than the Phillies.
The Jays actually had a surprising amount of turnover for a team that was able to keep it together for two straight title runs. Among position players, only Devon White, Joe Carter, John Olerud, Pat Borders, Roberto Alomar logged significant playing time in both World Series. Among the pitchers, only starter Juan Guzman and relievers Duane Ward, Mike Timlin(notes), and Todd Stottlemyre did the same.
Those who played one but not both were arguably even bigger names — hitters like Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson, and Tony Fernandez and pitchers like David Cone, David Wells(notes), Jack Morris, Pat Hentgen, Al Leiter, and Jimmy Key. Woody Williams(notes), Shawn Green(notes) and Carlos Delgado(notes) were still too young and unproven to make it onto Toronto's 1993 World Series roster.
The 2009 Phillies have more continuity in the field, though they have featured an equally turbulent starting rotation. While the Jays turned over nearly half their defense, the Phillies just exchanged Pat Burrell(notes) for Raul Ibanez(notes) and kept their Jimmy Rollins(notes)-Shane Victorino-Chase Utley(notes)-Ryan Howard-Jayson Werth(notes)-Pedro Feliz-Carlos Ruiz(notes) lineup intact. But like the Jays, they've had a lot of turnover in the rotation. Last season's ace Cole Hamels(notes) is now a No. 3 starter, and Joe Blanton's(notes) fate in the rotation is uncertain at best. Brad Lidge(notes) has had a good postseason, but his regular season led to more than a few debates over whether he should be replaced.
Both teams were led by were clutch first basemen (John Olerud and Howard) and future Hall of Fame second basemen (Roberto Alomar and Utley). Both hail from cities relatively unused to World Series contention — 2008 was the Phillies' sixth World Series appearance in their franchise's history, and 1992 was the Jays' very first Series appearance since their creation in the 1977 expansion.
The Jays were a much more dominant offensive team in their time than the Phillies have been recently, but were much better at scoring runs than preventing them. The '92-'93 Jays finished second and third in baseball in runs scored (out of 26 and 28 teams, respectively), while the last two Phillies teams have been eighth and fourth out of 30. But while the Jays were 19th and 13th in runs allowed, the Phillies were 5th and 7th.
In other words, the Phillies haven't been as dominant offensively as they're assumed to be — but they're better at pitching and defense than they're generally given credit for.
Will all that be enough to beat the Yankees? We'll find out starting in tonight's Game 1, which brings us to the one lock-solid similarity between the Toronto and Philly camps:
Neither likes that team from New York very much.