Phillies 1980 vs 2008: Third base

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.

Thus far the series has examined the catchers, pitching rotations, bullpens, and bench groups. 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.

Today we move to the hot corner and what is an obvious slam-dunk choice. However, that is not to belittle the “loser” in this head-to-head comparison in any way.

1980: MIKE SCHMIDT

Schmidt was the Phillies second round pick in the June 1971 MLB Amateur Draft out of Ohio University at 30th overall, taken one spot after the Kansas City Royals had chosen a guy by the name of George Brett with the 29th pick. The Phillies first pick that year at sixth overall? A pitcher named Roy Thomas, who would never appear in Major League Baseball in a Phillies uniform.

Schmidty would receive the standard big-league September cup-of-coffee as a 22-year-old in the 1972 season. During that brief stint he banged the first of what would become 548 career home runs, taking Montreal Expos hurler Bailor Moore deep on September 16 at Veteran’s Stadium.

The following year, Schmidt took over for Don Money as the everyday third baseman with the Phillies. By 1974 he was developing into one of the most dangerous home run threats in all of baseball. Schmidt was also a tremendous fielder, and in 1976 won the first of nine consecutive and 10 overall career Gold Glove Awards.

For the 1980 season, Schmidt was in his prime at age 30. That year he was an NL All-Star for the fifth time and captured the Silver Slugger Award in the first season that now-prestigious honor was handed out. He was also the Most Valuable Player of the National League.

As the Phillies battled tooth-and-nail with the Montreal Expos over the final week of the 1980 regular season, Schmidt caught fire. He hit .533 over the final four games, homering in each contest.

The Phillies traveled to Montreal for a final weekend showdown series with the Expos at Olympic Stadium with the two teams tied at 89-70. Whichever team could win two of three would take the division crown. It was essentially a playoff series.

In the Friday night opener his 6th inning solo blast off Scott Sanderson gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. They would hang on for a nail-biting 2-1 victory to take a one-game lead, moving within a game of clinching the division.

Saturday was an afternoon contest, except rain and extra-innings pushed the game into the nighttime hours. The Phillies trailed 4-3 into the 9th, and with two outs it appeared as though former Phillies pitcher Woodie Fryman would shut them down and tie the series, sending it to a one-game playoff on Sunday. However, Bob Boone delivered a clutch RBI single to score Bake McBride and knot the game at 4-4.

Into extra-innings the two teams went yet again. Pete Rose led off the top of the 11th with a base hit. Two batters later, Schmidt stepped in against right-hander Stan Bahnsen and delivered the most important home run of his career to that point. As Andy Musser famously broadcast it: “He buried it!Tug McGraw set the Expos down in order in the bottom of the frame and the Phillies had won their fourth NL East title in five years.

In that 1980 National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, Schmidt’s bat went mostly silent. As the two teams battled through what many still consider the greatest NLCS in history, Schmidt produced only five hits over 25 plate appearances with one walk, no homers, and just a single RBI.

That lone RBI was a huge one, however. In the top of the 8th inning of Game 4 with the Phillies trailing 2-1 in games and 2-1 on the scoreboard, Schmidt drilled an RBI single to score Lonnie Smith with the game-tying run. The Phillies would ultimately win 5-3 in 10 innings to tie the series. They would win the pennant the next night thanks to another 8th inning rally, this one off Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

Schmidt would not continue cold in the Fall Classic. He hit .381 with two home runs, 7 RBIs, and six runs scored to capture the World Series Most Valuable Player honors. The Phillies would defeat the Kansas City Royals in six games, with Schmidt leaping into the arms of Tug McGraw after the reliever struck out Willie Wilson to end it.

His biggest moment of the entire postseason came in Game 5 of the World Series. With the series tied at 2-2, the Phillies entered the top of the 9th inning at Royals Stadium trailing by 3-2 and having to face tough Kansas City submarining closer Dan Quisenberry. Schmidt led off by smashing a hard shot to the left of Brett, who dove but couldn’t hold onto the ball.

Del Unser then stepped in and ripped a ball into the right field corner. Schmidt, who was also an outstanding base runner with good speed, never stopped running. He scored all the way from first base, sliding in with the tying run. Three batters later, Manny Trillo scored Unser with a base hit for the go-ahead run. McGraw worked his way through a heart-stopping bottom of the 9th, and the Phillies were on their way home to The Vet with a 3-2 series lead.

 

2008: PEDRO FELIZ

Feliz was first signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent out of his native Dominican Republic in February 1994 at age 18. He was not fast-tracked, spending parts of seven seasons in the Giants farm system before finally receiving the old September roster expansion cup-of-coffee in September 2000 when he saw action in eight games as either a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.

He would spend the next three seasons serving as the backup third baseman in San Francisco to three different everyday starters: Ramon Martinez, David Bell, and Edgardo Alfonzo.

Feliz saw his first career postseason action with the Giants, playing in both the 2002 and 2003 playoffs. In fact, he got his first-ever postseason start when manager Dusty Baker used him for the decisive Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. Feliz would go 0-3 as the Giants lost that finale by 4-1 to the host Angels in Anaheim.

Finally becoming the everyday starter at the hot corner for the 2004 season, Feliz would spend four seasons in that role by the bay. He became a free agent after the 2006 season but re-upped with the Giants for another year.

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Feliz signed prior to the 2008 season to fill a Phillies hole at third

A year later, Feliz was a free agent once again at age 33, and the Phillies had a gaping hole at the third base position. While winning the NL East Division crown in 2007, manager Charlie Manuel had juggled the position with Abraham Nunez used in 113 games (51 starts), Greg Dobbs in 68 games (57 starts), Wes Helms for 68 games (53 starts), and even one start with Russell Branyan.

General manager Pat Gillick inked Feliz to a two-year, $8 million deal in January 2008 and he was immediately plugged in to fill that hole. Not known as a slugger, Feliz had nevertheless registered 20+ homers while knocking in 335 runs over the previous four seasons. What he was known for, however, was his tremendous glove at third base.

Over his two seasons with the Phillies, Feliz would go deep for just 26 total home runs. But he did supply the Phillies back-to-back NL pennant winners in 2008 and 2009 with consistently outstanding defense, and tossed in a few clutch hits along the way.

On September 21, 2008 the Phillies were in Miami for a series finale with the host Marlins. They entered play leading the second place New York Mets by just a half-game in the division standings with the Phillies having seven remaining and the Mets with eight left on their schedule.

Feliz did not start that game, Manuel going with Dobbs instead. The Phillies built a 3-0 lead behind Jamie Moyer, but the Fish chipped away to get within 3-2 into the top of the 8th inning. In the prior inning, Feliz had replaced Dobbs as part of a defensive double-switch.

In the top of the 8th inning, Shane Victorino led off with a base hit. That brought Feliz up for the first time, facing righty reliever Joe Nelson. Feliz took the first pitch for a ball and then jumped all over the second, drilling a deep blast out over the left field wall.

The two-run homer put the Phillies up 5-2, which would be the final score. The Mets lost that day to fall 1.5 behind, which is as close as they would get, and the Phillies won their second straight division title, this time by three games.

Feliz got the start at third base in 11 of the Phillies 14 postseason games that October and appeared in each of the other three. He did not produce in either the NLDS vs Milwaukee or the NLCS vs the Dodgers, hitting just .192 over 27 plate appearances only two RBIs and one run scored.

The World Series against Tampa Bay would give him one more opportunity to shine and he would make the most of it. Feliz delivered multi-hit games during the Phillies victories in Games 1, 4, and in the clinching Game 5. Most remember that decisive fifth game for the two-day rain delay. It should also be remembered that it was Feliz who delivered the decisive final blow.

The fifth game resumed on Wednesday, October 29 at Citizens Bank Park with the Phillies coming to bat in the bottom of the 6th inning and the score tied at 2-2. The Phillies took the lead when Geoff Jenkins led off with a double and scored two batters later on a Jayson Werth base hit. But a Rocco Baldelli solo home run tied it up in the top of the 7th inning at 3-3.

In the bottom of the 7th, Pat Burrell led off the inning with a booming double high off the center field wall in what would prove to be the future Phillies Wall of Famer’s final plate appearance with the team. Manuel sent Eric Bruntlett in to run for his slow-footed left fielder, and Rays’s skipper Joe Maddon went to his bullpen for side-arming veteran right-hander Chad Bradford.

Bradford got Victorino to ground slowly to second base for the first out. But on the play, Bruntlett moved over to third. The Phillies now had the go-ahead run just 90 feet away with Feliz coming to the plate. He fell behind 0-1, and then Bradford came with a 77 mph slider that caught way too much of the plate. Feliz ripped it up the middle for a base hit, with Bruntlett dashing home with the go-ahead run.

That run would hold up in the end as the World Series-winning run. J.C. Romero set the Rays down in order in the top of the 8th, then Brad Lidge shut them down in the 9th inning. Feliz and his teammates piled on one another at the mound to celebrate just the second world championship in Phillies franchise history.


POSITION WINNER

Clearly, this one goes to the greatest player in Philadelphia Phillies history, Michael Jack Schmidt. It’s not only that he was a Hall of Famer and Phillies Wall of Famer. Remember, these comparisons are not about the entirety of a player’s career, but rather their specific performance during the championship seasons.

In 1980, Schmidt won the National League MVP Award for the first of back-to-back seasons. He led MLB with 48 home runs and led the NL with 121 RBIs. Schmidt also led the National League that year in slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ and led all of baseball in total bases. He scored 104 runs and even stole a dozen bags. With the 2008 Phillies, Feliz slashed .249/.302/.402 with 14 homers, 58 RBIs, and 43 runs scored.

Later this week the positional comparison between these two beloved Phillies teams will move out into the infield, beginning with a comparison of the third basemen. It might seem like a cakewalk at that position, but both clubs were actually strong at the hot corner.


1980 vs 2008 SERIES TO DATE

3.30.20 – CATCHERS

3.24.20 – BENCH GROUPS

3.20.20 – RELIEF PITCHING

3.18.20 – STARTING PITCHING