|Mike Lieberthal to the Phillies Wall of Fame? To borrow a quote from the former catcher, “Whatever.”|
I bought tickets to the Phillies Wall of Fame Game this season, as I have a few times the past couple of years, because I have found it to be a neat experience to see some of the franchise’s great players come back for a celebration as a new player is added to the mix. As this season has panned out I figured that the Phillies would find a way to play their way back in to the playoff hunt by now, making Friday night’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals a rather important game. Well, we now know that that is not true, but at least we get to honor one of our favorite Phillies of all time tonight, right?
Oh, what’s that? Mike Lieberthal is being honored and added to the Wall of Fame tonight? Uhh, no thanks.
Inclement weather and floundering baseball team aside, you probably would have a tough time getting me to get to the ballpark early tonight to watch the Phillies pretend as though I should give a darn about Lieberthal.
What exactly did Lieberthal achieve in Philadelphia? Other than being the professional athlete with the longest stint with one team without making a playoff appearance? No, I am not blaming him for that alone of course, but to me that is what he represents to the Phillies. A perennial loser. So what is it that makes Lieberthal worthy of being placed on the same wall alongside players like Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts and more? Heck, I would not even include Lieberthal along side more recent names such as John Kruk or Darren Daulton. To me, Kruk and Daulton may not have been deserving of the honor to join those older names, but they carried the spirit of Philadelphia and thus the passion of the fans in a way Lieberthal never could.
I was not on the inside of course. Perhaps the media can tell a different story of Lieberthal, or perhaps former teammates. Some girls got googly eyes over Lieberthal, clearly not an issue for me. But what exactly was likeable about him? How exactly did he represent the Phillies in a positive light? By not getting in to trouble away from the field? Sure, he did some charitable work, and that should not go without being mentioned, but was he the most accessible player on the team? Did he share much insight in to the team other than responding “Whatever,” when the team came up short? Maybe he did, but it is difficult for me to recall.
Maybe Lieberthal is a nice guy. I don’t know him personally. But I am just focusing on what he meant to the Phillies as a baseball player. I understand the Phillies take a little more in to consideration for their Wall of Fame selections. To me, Lieberthal was a guy who went through the motions with decent skill but no emotion behind his game. I concede that emotion does not make a player great, nor does it make a player stink. But because of his nonchalant style on the field, it was always hard for me to really get behind him, because what I do remember is a guy that seemed to be content with losses at critical points in the season. This is not to suggest he did not want to play in the postseason. I would bet that he would have wanted to have a chance to play for something, but I never got a sense he wanted it that badly and I have no room in my rooting interests to get behind a player like that.
Is it a coincidence that the Phillies went to the World Series in 1993, welcomed Lieberthal to the big leagues in 1994 and failed to reach the postseason until the season after Lieberthal moved on from Philadelphia? Well, yes, it probably is, but this just adds to the legacy of Lieberthal in my mind, and I am willing to bet I may not be alone on this.
But he made two All-Star games! Yes, Lieberthal will be introduced as a two-time National League All-Star, but keep in mind he was chosen in 2000 because every Major League Baseball team has to be represented, and the Phillies had nobody else to send. The year (1999) before he joined pitchers Paul Byrd and Curt Schilling, and to his credit Lieberthal did win a Gold Glove.
Unless Schilling was being added to the wall tonight, a far more accomplished Phillies player over the span of Lieberthal’s career, then I am not interested to see the franchise pay tribute to anyone. But don’t let me stop you from giving Lieberthal a nice ovation. That is your decision to make. If and when you do though, I’ll be on my couch with tickets unused saying “Whatever.”