The Top 10 Phillies I Thought Would Be Stars
4/10/20 --- Originally published sometime in 2007
Let's be honest, it wouldn't be sports if we didn't have opinions on who is good and start arguments in bars over our favorite players. We all love to brag that we knew Cole Hamels would be a star and that Ryan Howard should have been brought up a year earlier. Of course everybody always knew the successful players years earlier. But who can admit they thought a player was going to be a star after he fell miserably on his face. Just one person, and that is me! Here are the top 10 (or bottom 10 depending on your opinions) ex-Phillies that I thought would certainly become stars for the Phillies. Now some went on to have solid careers with other organizations while others flamed out completely. You could also name this, "Top 10 Phillies That I Wanted To See Be Successful In Philadelphia" if you wish.
10 Steve DeAngelis – Who? DeAngelis was a big name for the Reading Phillies back in 1986. There were newspaper articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about him and my buddy and I went to a game, bought the team's baseball card set figuring we would get rich off his card. DeAngelis never made it to the big leagues which was surprising. Being young, I knew nothing about how players played differently at different levels. If you could hit at AA, then you could certainly hit in the majors. Who knew?
9 Garrett Stephenson – I never thought he'd be a star, but I certainly figured he could win more than 39 games in the big leagues. The first time I saw Stephenson, he was pitching for the Orioles. Albert Belle stepped up to the plate and I yelled, "hit him in the head, Garrett." On the next pitch, Belle was hit in the head with a pitch. I don't claim to have any part in that, I was in the cheap seats and he certainly couldn't hear me. But it was a moment to remember forever as Belle was a hated player in the major leagues, especially by me.
8 Mac Scarce – I'd be lying if I told you I knew a lot about him. I loved his baseball card when I was quite young. His 1975 Topps card to this day is one of my favorite cards although I don't know why. He was up and down for the Phils, Mets and Twins in the mid 1970s, but never had much success. His claim to fame was being part of the deal that brought Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw to the Phillies so he was certainly a plus for this team.
7 Eric Valent – The compensation pick for the Phils not signing J.D. Drew, Valent hit pretty well in the minors but couldn't hit in his brief stints with the big club. The Phillies didn't have much patience with Valent as he was traded for never wuz catcher Kelly Stinnett in August 2003 after only 51 at bats in the show. He never showed any potential with the Reds or Mets and my guess is, he's out of baseball now. It makes you wonder how he was such a high pick.
6 Bill Nahorodny -- Much like Mac Scarce, I don't remember much about Naha. I was young during his brief stay in Philly. But I always liked him as he was one of the many prospects like Rick Bosetti, Dan Iorg, Freddie Andrews and Kerry Dineen that came up in the mid to late 1970s. He played briefly for the Phillies like many of their young players did in the late 70s and he played nearly 10 years in the majors, but his Phillies career was way too short.
5 Steve Jeltz – I know, tar and feather me now. When Jeltz first came up, he was battling Tom Foley for the starting shortstop job. I hated Tom Foley, not sure why. I didn't think Jeltz would be a superstar, but maybe he could be the starting shortstop for 5 or 10 years. Well, I don't have to tell you what a loser this guy was. He batted under .200 one year and took the team to arbitration, lost and later was sent packing. If he hadn't hit homeruns from both sides of the plate against Pittsburgh in the famous game where Pirate's announcer Jim Rooker said, "If the Pirates lose this game (they were winning 10-1 at the time) I'll walk home," he would have been forgotten about. The Phillies did come back and won the game 15-11 and Rooker did make the walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, but he made it a charity event. (Added: I met Jeltz at an autograph signing and he was great to talk to and remembered even more than I did. So anything I said negative about you, Steve, I take back!)
4 Bobby Estalella – Oh how he could hit for power, or so it seemed. Estalella hit three bombs in one game and had biceps that would make Popeye jealous, but he couldn't put the whole package together. It didn't help him playing for a team that couldn't evaluate catching talent if their lives depended on it. (See Mike Lavalliere, Johnny Estrada, giving a multi-year contract to Mike Lieberthal, keeping Tom Prince, et al) The Phillies traded him away for a marginal pitcher named Chris Brock. That about says it all. His career came to end in 2004 with 48 homruns in just over 900 at bats.
3 Ron Jones – The late Ron Jones showed all the potential in the world in 1988 but injuries prevented him from ever living up to his potential. He blew out both knees and as hard as he tried, his body couldn't take the pounding. Jones was one player who could not be blamed for his failures. I was saddened to hear he passed away in June of 2006.
2 Jeff Stone – He was probably one of the fastest players to ever put on a major league uniform. I remember him stealing 3rd base in 1984 and the catcher wasn't even able to throw the ball. He was a legend in the Casey Stengel mold for not taking his TV home with him from Puerto Rico because he didn't speak Spanish and for declining a shrimp cocktail because he didn't drink, but that didn't take away from his abilities. He said they messed with his swing and his mind -- maybe they did. I was in college in Baltimore when he was traded there. One of my favorite stories was calling talk show host Stan "The Fan" Charles and telling him, "Jeff Stone is G-d." I guess I was wrong about that one.
1 Dave Shipanoff – Yes, number 1 is a guy you never heard of. Acquired just before the 1985 season in the Len Matuszek trade, I watched The Shipper pitch like Goose Gossage in his prime towards the end of the 1985 season. Although his numbers that year were okay but not spectacular, if memory serves me, he was shelled in one or two appearances and pitched great the rest of the time. He was 1-2 with a 3.22 ERA and even had 3 saves. I don't know why he never again appeared in a major league game, but I have heard he had arm problems. Back in the dark days before the internet, it was harder to find information about some of the lesser known players.
Judging from this list, you can be certain I'll never be a major league general manager. Some of these players couldn't help their situation while others just weren't good enough, but most at least had their cup of coffee in the big leagues. There are plenty of other players that almost made the list including Wes Chamberlain, Marty Bystrom (who didn't think he was going to be a star after his performance in September of 1980?) and Kyle Abbott, a former first round pick of the Angels, but it was limited to the top (or bottom) 10.