Inside the Phillies: Schmidt says current Phillies era is the best

Mike Schmidt rates the current Phils era above his own. Above, he chats with Jimmy Rollins (left) and Chase Utley.
Mike Schmidt rates the current Phils era above his own. Above, he chats with Jimmy Rollins (left) and Chase Utley. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 28, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Mike Schmidt and Dallas Green were asked to pick an era Monday morning.

Their first option was that enchanting time from 1975 through 1983 when the Phillies, behind Schmidt's big bat and Steve Carlton's wicked left arm, evolved from a perennial second-division team into a consistent contender that won five division titles, two National League pennants, and a World Series.

The second option was this current group of Phillies, which also has won five division titles, two pennants, and one World Series. It's an era that started with the first signing of Jim Thome in 2003 and is still going strong as Thome begins his second tour with the team.

There are good arguments for both sides, but it may surprise you that Schmidt is siding with the modern-day squad.

"This current run of five to six years is the strongest baseball era in Phillies history," Schmidt said during his annual spring-training question-and-answer session with the local media at Bright House Field.

Green, the farm director who built the first golden era of Phillies baseball and also managed the franchise's first World Series winner in 1980, also came down on the side of the Charlie Manuel era, although he did so with a little less conviction.

"I would probably go with this one," Green said. "Charlie has done a hell of a job."

Both men are wrong.

By the time this current era is over, and it's certainly not expected to end this season, it could and should surpass the Schmidt-Carlton era as the greatest in franchise history. For now, however, the nod goes to the teams that used to wear those burgundy uniforms at home and the powder-blue outfits on the road.

The two eras are remarkably close.

We begin in 1975 for the first era because that started a string of nine straight winning seasons and marked the first time that the franchise's rising young stars such as Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, and Larry Bowa tasted more victories than defeats.

Even though Bowa was the manager in 2003, we use that as the starting point for the new era because it also started a string of nine straight winning seasons while symbolizing a change in the way things were done.

From 1975 through 1983, the Phillies' regular-season record was 791-612, a winning percentage of .564. From 2003 through last season, the team has gone 818-640, a winning percentage of .561.

As we noted earlier, the postseason accomplishments are strikingly similar, with each era winning two league pennants and one World Series.

Both World Series titles ended years of frustration. The 1980 team helped ease the pain of failures in 1950 and 1964 and was the first in the history of a franchise that started playing in 1883. The 2008 title ended a 25-year title drought that included all four of the major professional franchises.

Mark that aspect of the two eras as a draw.

Each era has also had a special free agent. It was Pete Rose for the burgundy bunch and Thome for the modern era. Even though Thome is the more wholesome and powerful of the two, the nod has to go to Rose because the first title in franchise history probably doesn't happen without him.

The managers in this era have been Bowa and Manuel. The managers in the older era were Danny Ozark, Green, Pat Corrales, and Paul Owens. Call that a push, too.

The general manager was Owens during the disco-punk era Phillies. This era has had Ed Wade, Pat Gillick, and Ruben Amaro Jr. Go with the Pope's longevity here.

As for the players, Schmidt argues on the side of the current era because he thinks he's going to be joined in the Hall of Fame by many of them.

"There is potential for that," he said. "In my lifetime, I would think that there is a block of guys on this team right now that I'll see at Cooperstown with all things progressing as they have. Surely, [Chase] Utley, Ryan [Howard], and [Jimmy] Rollins."

Roy Halladay is actually the closest to reaching that goal right now, but he has only been with the Phillies for two years, so again the nod goes to the era from the past rather than the one from the present.

Still, Schmidt argues on the side of the current-day team.

"With all due respect to the Vet and all the years that we've had, they were great years," he said. "The environment around Phillies baseball right now, I don't see how it could have ever been better. A full stadium every night, sold out."

We'll give the Bank a lopsided victory over the Vet, but argue that the Schmidt-era team had to deal with more difficult opponents such as the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, Tommy Lasorda's Los Angeles Dodgers, Willie Stargell's Pittsburgh Pirates, and Whitey Herzog's St. Louis Cardinals.

One thing that can definitely be agreed upon is that each era has been special. And when a season ends in defeat, it's difficult to digest. Schmidt felt that as a player on Black Friday in 1977 against the Dodgers and again on Black Friday II last October, when Halladay and the Phillies lost to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals, 1-0.

"I stared at that TV for a half-hour after it was over," Schmidt said of last year's loss. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Just like a lot of the fans in the stands, staring at the field kind of dumbfounded."


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

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