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 have been 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.
This is the final of those positional comparisons. To date the series has examined the entire infield, the catchers, the left and center field positions, and each team’s pitching rotations, bullpens, and bench groups. Those pieces can be found linked below.
There will be one final 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. That piece will be coming over the weekend.
The two starting right fielders were each dynamic athletes featuring power and speed on offense and an excellent all-around defensive game. While neither began their career or ended it here in Philly, each left an indelible mark and both were key performers for their respective title-winning ball clubs. Whether either will one day find themselves honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame is questionable. Certainly a number of players should come before them. Both will likely be in the conversation at some future point.
1980: BAKE MCBRIDE
‘Shake N Bake’ was drafted by the Saint Louis Cardinals way down in the 37th round of the 1970 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Westminster College in his native Fulton, Missouri.
He did nothing but hit throughout his minor league career and was first called up to the big leagues by Saint Louis in late July of 1973, remaining with the club for the rest of that season.
The following year at age 25, McBride enjoyed his first full season in Major League Baseball and became the National League Rookie of the Year by batting .309 with 81 runs scored, 56 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases as the Cardinals starting center fielder.
He followed that up by hitting .300 with 26 steals in 1975 and then hit .335 and became an NL All-Star for the first time in 1976. It was likely only a change of managers in Saint Louis that brought him to Philadelphia in his prime.
Following that 1976 season, Hall of Fame manager Red Schoendienst was fired. His replacement, Vern Rapp, was a noted old-school disciplinarian who did not like facial hair and feuded with both McBride and closer Al Hrabosky over the issue. McBride signed a three-year contract with the Cardinals in the midst of the conflict, but it failed to ease tensions and he was dealt to the Phillies on June 15 along with prospect pitcher Steve Waterbury in exchange for southpaw pitcher Tom Underwood and prospect outfielders Rick Bosetti and Dane Iorg.
After arriving in Philly, McBride pretty much took over the right field job from Jay Johnstone. He slashed .339/392/.564 and stole 27 bases across 85 games over the final three-and-a-half months. The move strengthened manager Danny Ozark‘s bench group as Johnstone and Jerry Martin each moved into more flexible roles. The Phillies went 69-33 after the deal, winning a second straight NL East Division crown and setting a franchise record with 101 victories.
McBride was 31-years-old during the 1980 championship season and had one of his best years in baseball. That year he hit .309 with career highs of 87 RBIs and 52 extra-base hits, finishing 10th in the National League Most Valuable Player award voting. That despite the fact that by that point according to Bill Lyon of The Philadelphia Inquirer “his knee joint had significantly eroded…he was essentially, a one-legged player.”
On Friday night September 26, 1980 at Veterans Stadium the Phillies and Montreal Expos began a three-game series, the first of back-to-back weekend home-and-home sets that would likely determine the champion in the National League East Division. With the Phillies holding a half-game lead the two clubs battled into the bottom of the 9th inning tied at 1-1. McBride then walked it off with a long blast to right field.
In the Phillies 11-inning division clincher in Montreal on the next-to-last day of the season, McBride delivered three hits and a walk, scoring twice in the 6-4 victory. He then produced hits in eight of the club’s 11 postseason games and came up especially big in the World Series vs Kansas City. McBride hit .304 with a double, a homer, and five RBIs in that Fall Classic.
His biggest moments came in the first two games of that World Series in Philadelphia. In Game 1 of the 1980 World Series with the Phillies trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the 3rd inning the club rallied for a pair of runs. McBride then stepped in against Royals starter Dennis Leonard and ripped a line drive three-run homer over the right field wall at Veterans Stadium, scoring Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt ahead of him. The blast put the Phillies on top for good in a game they would eventually win by 7-6.
Game 2 of the 1980 World Series saw the Phillies again trailing, this time by 4-2 in the bottom of the 8th inning. After Del Unser doubled home Bob Boone to make it a 4-3 game, McBride’s one-out single scored Unser with the tying run. Schmidt then followed with a double and McBride slid home with the go-ahead run. The Phillies would tack on another as Keith Moreland singled home Schmidt. The 6-4 victory gave the club an early 2-0 lead in a series they would ultimately win in six games.
2008: JAYSON WERTH
‘J-Dub’ was the Baltimore Orioles first round pick at 22nd overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Draft as a catcher out of high school where he grew up in Illinois. In December 2000 he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and then in March 2004 by the Jays to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Werth was first converted from catcher to the outfield by the Blue Jays where his athleticism allowed him to thrive. However, during his first nine seasons in professional baseball with those three organizations, Werth was never really able to secure a full-time role.
During his final season with the Dodgers in 2005, Werth saw extensive action. He received 395 plate appearances over 102 total games that year spread all across the outfield. However, Werth underwent off-season ligament surgery in his right wrist and was forced to miss the entire 2006 season.
In December of 2006, Werth became a free agent. A week later he signed a one-year deal as a free agent with the Phillies. He missed a month in the summer of 2007 with a wrist injury and spent the year primarily as a backup to Shane Victorino in right field and Pat Burrell in left field as the Phillies rallied in September to win the first of five straight NL East crowns.
During the subsequent off-season, starting center fielder Aaron Rowand became a free agent and signed with the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies signed veteran Geoff Jenkins from Milwaukee. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided to make Victorino his starting center fielder and go with a lefty-righty platoon of Jenkins and Werth in right field.
So, Werth began the 2008 championship season as part of that platoon in right field. It held until Jenkins suffered a late-August injury and missed nearly a month. By the time he was ready to return, Werth had established himself as an everyday regular. Overall that season he slashed .273/.363/.498 with 24 homers, 67 RBIs, 73 runs scored, and 20 steals.
The Phillies won their second straight NL East crown on the next-to-last day of that season. On Saturday September 27, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park the Phillies led the Washington Nationals 2-1 when Werth led off the bottom of the 5th inning with a home run to deep right field off John Lannan. That blast helped the club on their way to a 4-3 division clinching victory.
In the NLDS against Milwaukee, Werth hit .313 and had a big game during the Phillies 5-2 victory in Game 2 at Citizens Bank Park with a pair of doubles. He then largely disappeared during the NLCS victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting just .190 with two runs and no RBIs over the five games.
The World Series was a totally different story than that unproductive NLCS. Werth slashed .444/.583/.778 with four extra-base hits, four runs scored, and three RBIs.
In the opener at Tropicana Field, Werth drew a one-out walk in the top of the 1st inning and scored in front of a Chase Utley two-run homer. Werth would go on to produce a pair of doubles in the game as the Phillies defeated the host Tampa Bay Rays to take the series opener.
With the Phillies up 2-1 in the series, Werth had another big night in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series at Citizens Bank Park. As the club rolled to a big 10-2 victory, Werth had two hits. His two-run homer off Dan Wheeler in the bottom of the 8th inning blew a 6-2 lead out to 8-2, and the club went on to a 3-1 lead in the series.
The clinching Game 5 of the 2008 World Series took three days to complete due to torrential rains. Werth had two hits and two walks in that historic game. He scored the first run of the contest after walking in the 1st inning, coming home on a two-out RBI single by Victorino.
When that suspended game resumed after two days, Jenkins led off the bottom of the 6th inning with a double. Victorino bunted him over to third base, and then Werth brought Jenkins home with a looping RBI single to center field.
With the Phillies holding a 4-3 lead and Brad Lidge trying to close it out in the bottom of the 9th inning the Rays had the tying run at second base. Ben Zobrist then slashed a line drive to right that looked like a game-tying single off the bat. But Werth raced over to make the catch for the second out. Three pitches later, Lidge struck out Eric Hinske, and the Phillies were world champions for the first time since 1980.
This is a good one. Two outstanding all-around ball players in the prime of their careers each making solid contributions to a championship team.
However, I haven’t copped out and made it a tie yet in this head-to-head comparison series yet, and I won’t now. There is a winner here, even though it may be close.
McBride didn’t possess Werth’s power. However, he was a better hitter overall. And that played out in their stat lines during the 1980 regular season. Then in the postseason, McBride came through in more clutch circumstances than Werth. This one goes to the 1980 right fielder.
1980 vs 2008 SERIES TO DATE
5.05.20 – Center field
4.27.20 – Left field
4.18.20 – First base
4.16.20 – Second base
4.10.20 – Shortstop
4.02.20 – Third base
3.30.20 – Catcher
3.24.20 – Bench reserves
3.20.20 – Relief pitching
3.18.20 – Starting pitching