The Philadelphia Phillies franchise has won exactly two World Series championships over the course of 137 seasons of play. Those two world titles came in 1980 and 2008.
As part of our season-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of that 1980 team championship, I am comparing those two great Phillies teams to see whether either can legitimately be considered as having been better than the other.
I got to enjoy each of those seasons, the first as an 18-year-old in October of 1980 and the next as a 46-year-old in October 2008. As a huge Phillies and baseball fan who has followed the club all the way back to 1971, I feel extremely qualified to hold an educated opinion on the subject.
The series began last week with a look at the starting pitching rotations and both bullpens. Those pieces can be found linked below. Once this evaluation series ends, I’ll do a final wrap-up piece in which I will give my opinion as to which – if either – of these two Phillies championship teams was the better all-around squad.
Unlike the 1993 pennant-winners under Jim Fregosi, neither the 1980 club under manager Dallas Green nor the 2008 club under skipper Charlie Manuel utilized much in the way of platoons. Both World Series champions enjoyed a steady everyday lineup filled with star-caliber position players. We’ll look at each of those positions individually over the next couple of weeks.
Now its time to continue examining whether either version can claim the title of greatest Philadelphia Phillies team of all-time with a look at their bench groups. The players are listed below with their bat handedness and total games played in parentheses, and shown in order of the number of games in which they made an appearance for their respective club.
Greg Gross (L/127) – Defense: 58 – LF, 26 – RF, 14 – CF, 1 – 1B; Offense: 182 Plate Appearances (50 PH/5 PR), .240/.346/.312 slash, 12 RBIs, 19 runs, 1 steal.
Del Unser (L/96) – Defense: 13 CF, 12 LF, 2 RF; Offense: 123 PA (49 PH/2 PR), .264/.320/.391 slash, 10 RBIs, 15 runs.
George Vukovich (L/78) – Defense: 15 RF, 13 LF; Offense: 64 PA (51 PH/3 PR), .224/.297/.276 slash, 8 RBI, 6 runs.
Keith Moreland (R/62) – Defense: 39 C, 4 3B, 2 RF; Offense: 171 PA (20 PH), .314/.341/.440 slash, 4 HR, 29 RBIs, 13 runs, 3 steals.
Ramon Aviles (R/51) – Defense: 29 SS, 15 2B; Offense: 115 PA ( PH/4 PR), .277/.336/.396 slash, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 12 runs.
John Vukovich (R/49) – Defense: 34 3B, 9 2B, 4 SS, 1 1B; Offense: 66 PA (4 PH/1 PR), .161/.197/.210 slash, 5 RBIs, 4 runs.
These seven primary bench players combined for 9 HR, 93 RBIs, 138 runs, and 37 steals.
OTHERS: Luis Aguayo (20 games/50 plate appearances) was a 21-year-old rookie IF who saw action in April/May and again in September. Bob Dernier (10 G/8 PA) was a 23-year-old September rookie OF call-up. Jay Loviglio (16 G/6 PA) was a 24-year-old September rookie call-up used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner. Tim McCarver (6 G/7 PA) was a 38-year-old in his 21st and final big-league season across four decades who signed as a free agent on September 1 to help provide bench depth and veteran experience. Don McCormack (24) appeared in two games and Ozzie Virgil Jr (23) in one as rookie catchers who provided September depth. Orlando Isales was a 20-year-old rookie who played in the only three MLB games of his career in the final month, including his only start on the day after the club clinched the NL East crown. None of these players made the postseason roster.
Greg Dobbs (S/128) – Defense: 52 3B, 4 RF, 3 LF, 2 1B; Offense: 240 PA (72 PH/2 DH), .301/.333/.491 slash, 9 HR, 40 RBIs, 30 runs, 3 steals.
Eric Bruntlett (R/120) – Defense: 35 SS, 29 LF, 27 3B, 7 RF, 5 2B, 2 1B; Offense: 238 PA (25 PH/18 PR), .217/.297/.297 slash, 2 HR, 15 RBIs, 37 runs, 9 steals.
Geoff Jenkins (L/115) – Defense: 90 RF; Offense: 322 PA (26 PH/2 PR/2 DH), .246/.301/.392 slash, 9 HR, 29 RBIs, 27 runs, 1 steal.
Chris Coste (R/98) – Defense: 78 C, 1 1B; Offense: 305 PA (23 PH/1 DH), .263/.325/.425 slash, 9 HR, 36 RBIs, 28 runs.
So Taguchi (R/88) – Defense: 38 LF, 11 RF, 1 CF; Offense: 103 PA (38 PH/22 PR), 9 RBIs, 18 runs, 3 steals.
These five primary bench players combined for 29 HR, 129 RBIs, 140 runs, and 16 steals.
OTHERS: Matt Stairs was a 40-year-old, 16-year big-league veteran obtained in an August 30 trade with Toronto who provided a power lefty bat to the bench group, and an unforgettable NLCS home run. Outfielder T.J. Bohn was a 28-year-old who had previously appeared in MLB in 2006 with Seattle and who saw action in 14 games between 4/20-6/1. Mike Cervenak was a 31-year-old rookie who had spent a decade in the minors, debuted with the Phillies for a game in mid-July, and then played in his only other nine career big-league games over August and September. Brad Harman and Greg Golson were each 22-year-old rookies. Golson received a September cup-of-coffee. Harman saw his only career big-league action over a half-dozen games in April and May. Andy Tracy (34), Chris Snelling (26), and Tadahito Iguchi (4) each appeared in just four games. Iguchi had been a pivotal pick-up in 2007, playing second base regularly for a month that summer while Chase Utley was out with a broken hand. Lou Marson was a 22-year-old catcher who saw his only action for his big-league debut in the regular season finale on September 28. The following July he would become part of a four-player package dealt to Cleveland in the Cliff Lee trade. Only Stairs made the postseason roster.
Things are not going well for the 1980 club here in the early evaluation. After giving the 2008 team a close nod for both the starting rotation and bullpen comparisons, the bench group of that 2008 championship team appears to be clearly better than their 1980 counter-parts.
Again, the key performers statistics:
Seven primary 1980 bench players – Gross, Smith, Unser, Moreland, Aviles, and the two Vukovich’s – combined for 9 HR, 93 RBIs, 138 runs, and 37 steals.
Five primary 2008 bench players – Dobbs, Bruntlett, Jenkins, Coste, Taguchi – combined for 29 HR, 129 RBIs, 140 runs, and 16 steals.
While the 1980 group provided very little power off the bench, they did have the single most dynamic player of all in Smith, who finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting that year. Also, that 1980 team got consistent clutch production from their bench in the postseason.
But the 2008 team had it all over the 2008 group in power, and only increased that pop with the late addition of Stairs to the group. Dobbs was one of the best bench players in all of baseball between 2007-14 over stints with the Phillies and Marlins. Coste provided the 2008 team with not only a great example of perseverance as “The 33-Year-Old Rookie” but also proved to be a legitimately strong player and valuable backup catcher to Carlos Ruiz.
The underrated Bruntlett saw action at six different positions and provided sneaky speed in 2008. Taguchi saw a lot of action as a late-innings defensive replacement for Pat Burrell in left field during the 2008 season. He was on the postseason roster for just the NLCS but did appear in four of those games as a pinch-hitter.
Later this week, I’ll start on the everyday position players, beginning with a comparison of two fantastic catchers. I’ll then work my way around the infield over the next week, and then finish up across the outfield.
1980 vs 2008 SERIES TO DATE
3.18.20 – STARTING PITCHING
3.20.20 – RELIEF PITCHING