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Phillies' Top 5 left fielders: Zolecki's take

@ToddZolecki
April 28, 2020

Few people love a good debate like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. Love this list? Hate it? If

Few people love a good debate like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. Love this list? Hate it? If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Todd Zolecki’s s ranking of the top left fielders in Phillies history. Next week: center fielders.

1. Sherry Magee, 1904-14
Key stat: Slashed .331/.445/.507 with 110 runs and 123 RBIs in 1910

OK, three things about Magee being in the top spot. One, we know nobody reading this story saw him play, so most Phillies fans probably want Greg Luzinski, Del Ennis or even Pat Burrell in the top spot. Two, we know that probably only diehard Phillies fans have even heard of Magee, which makes this an even tougher sell. Three, we know the diehard fans are probably wondering why we chose Magee over Hall of Fame left fielders Ed Delahanty and Billy Hamilton.

We are staying consistent with our rankings, considering only players from the modern era (1900 and later). Baseball was a much different game in the 1800s, when Delahanty and Hamilton played. Let’s call Delahanty and Hamilton the two greatest Phillies players from the 1800s and move on.

Here is the case for Magee in the top spot over more popular Phillies left fielders. The Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee placed him on the ballot in 2008. He fell short, but the recognition by the committee confirms that he was one of the greatest players of his era. It is hard to imagine other Phillies left fielders making a future ballot. Magee’s 48.3 WAR with the Phillies is 16 points higher than any other left fielder in the modern era. Magee ranks first among modern Phillies left fielders in runs (898), doubles (337), triples (127), on-base percentage (.371) and stolen bases (387); second in hits (1,647), RBIs (886) and batting average (.299); fourth in home runs (75) and OPS (.818); and eighth in slugging percentage (.447).

The Phillies Encyclopedia called Magee “one of the superstars of the early part of the 20th century.” SABR.org called Magee “a five-tool player” and the National League’s best player in 1910. One baseball writer wrote, “To my mind Sherwood Magee is one of the best all-around players the game has ever seen.”

We’re taking their word for it.

2. Del Ennis, 1946-56
Key stat: Received NL MVP Award votes in seven of his 11 seasons with the Phillies

Ennis is the most successful Philadelphia native to wear a Phillies uniform. He wore No. 14, and for years family, friends and fans pushed the organization to retire it. The Phillies finally retired No. 14, but only because Jim Bunning wore it and made the Hall of Fame.

Ennis’ 259 home runs with the Phillies rank third in franchise history behind Mike Schmidt (548) and Ryan Howard (382). His 1,124 RBIs rank third among modern Phillies behind only Schmidt (1,595) and Howard (1,194). No wonder Phillies broadcasters Gene Kelly and By Saam said, “It’s Ding Dong Del” or “Here comes Ennis the Menace” whenever he stepped to the plate, according to SABR.org.

3. Greg Luzinski, 1970-80
Key stat: Four-time NL All-Star, top 10 in NL MVP Award voting from 1975-78

The Bull was The Big Piece before Howard was The Big Piece. He provided some serious thump in the lineup.

“Hitting home runs was part of it,” Luzinski said in “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Philadelphia Phillies.” “But I got to the point where I took the Tony Perez idea in my head and I got to be real selfish. Man on second, man on third, I used to play a game mentally and say, ‘Those guys are mine.’ I got a lot of big two-out key hits in my career because I thought about using the middle of the field.”

Luzinski’s four-year stretch from 1975-78 was remarkable. He ranked second in the big leagues in RBIs (446), third in slugging percentage (.535), fourth in home runs (129), eighth in doubles (130) and ninth in on-base percentage (.386). He finished second to Joe Morgan for the NL MVP Award in '75 and second again to George Foster in '77.

4. Pat Burrell, 2000-08
Key stat: 251 home runs are fourth most in franchise history

Burrell left Philadelphia a hero, coming up with a big hit in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and leading the parade down Broad Street. He never made an All-Star team, but his career numbers with the Phillies are impressive. He slashed .257/.367/.485 with a 119 OPS+. He had an .877 OPS and a 123 OPS+ in his final five seasons with the team, which should be reason for Phillies fans to exercise some restraint and patience anytime a slugger struggles for a stretch (see Rhys Hoskins, 2019).

5. Gary Matthews, 1981-83
Key stat: 1983 NL Championship Series MVP

Sarge got his nickname from Pete Rose.

“It means take charge, go out and hustle,” Matthews said in The Phillies Encyclopedia. “That’s Pete’s motto and mine, too.”

Matthews only played three seasons with the Phillies, but it seems like he played in Philly much longer. Maybe because Sarge cemented his status in franchise lore when he won the 1983 NLCS MVP Award, hitting .429 with three home runs, eight RBIs and a 1.571 OPS against the Dodgers. Matthews hit a three-run home run in the first inning against Jerry Reuss in the decisive Game 4. The best part? Matthews flipping his bat and giving a long look back at Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager before rounding the bases.

Honorable mentions
Lefty O’Doul
(1929-30) posted an 11.9 bWAR in just two seasons with the Phillies. He slashed .391/.460/.614. The Phillies traded him to Brooklyn in 1930 because they said they needed pitching. … Raul Ibanez helped the Phillies win three NL East titles and one NL pennant from 2009-11. … The Milt Thompson-Pete Incaviglia platoon in left field helped the Phillies win the NL pennant in 1993. … Wes Covington (1961-65) had a 126 OPS+ with the Phillies.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .