What he did: Tony Phillips had a long and relatively accomplished career (48.2 WAR in 18 seasons), yet doesn’t seem to be mentioned at all anymore. It seems Phillips was completely overshadowed by teammates (Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Travis Fryman, Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, etc.)
However, Phillips deserved more than one lone MVP finish (16th in 1993) and should be remembered fondly. Phillips has the 23rd most hits by a switch hitter all time and his .374 OBP is 12th all time for a switch hitter (oddly, just .001 behind Pete Rose.)
Phillips could, flat out, get on base. He scored a cool 1,300 runs, the 10th most all time by a switch hitter and walked the 33rd most times in MLB history. His 1,319 walks are the fifth most by a switch hitter, behind only Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray and Tim Raines. Phillips also led-off a game with a homer 30 times, the 10th most all time. If you think he was simply a compiler, you’re dead wrong. From 1989-1996, he was worth 34.2 WAR. During that stretch, he averaged a .276/.391/.405 line. I suppose the fact that he never lead the league in hits, hit a lot of HRs or stole a ton of bases kept him from getting his due. But, he did lead the league in runs in 1992 and walks twice, 1993 and 1996.
There wasn’t much finer than his 1993 campaign. He posted a .313/.443/.398 line. That OBP is tied for the ninth highest in a season by a switch hitter (min 3.1 PA per scheduled game, via SABR). His 132 walks were the third most ever in a season by a switch hitter.
Phillips was also the first player on the A’s to hit for the cycle, he went 5-5 with two runs and four RBIs against the Orioles in 1986 (poor Storm Davis.)
I’ll end with this: Phillips ended a game 109 times, tied for the 30th most ever with none other than Barry Bonds.
Era he might have thrived in: I wanted to put him in the late 1940s so he could go toe-to-toe with Pee Wee Reese and Eddie Yost, but I really think Tony Phillips would have thrived in the 1950s, specifically on the Cleveland Indians, two years after the club last won the World Series.
Why: The Indians were perennial bridesmaids in the 50s, finishing second six times and first once.
Would Phillips have pushed them over the top? Well, he would have hit .282/.394/.411 for the squad during that era. In addition, he could have slide nicely around the diamond to provide flexibility and a strong bat. In ’50, he could play second instead of Joe Gordon. The following year he could spell Ray Boone and Al Rosen, who had bad years. In ’52 and ‘53, he’d move Harry Simpson to the bench. In ‘54 and ’55, he could play right in favor of Dave Philley or short in favor of George Strickland.
He would post OBPs of .390 or higher in nine season during that era and his on-base abilities would fit the Cleveland line-up perfectly. Perhaps the Indians would have built a mini-dynasty and Phillips would be mentioned in the same breath with greats like Larry Doby, Al Rosen, Early Wynn, and others.
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Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Doug Glanville, Eddie Lopat, Elmer Flick, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George W. Bush (as commissioner), George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Morris, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Gibson, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film), Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Ollie Carnegie, Paul Derringer, Pedro Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Wes Ferrell, Will Clark, Willie Mays