Tony Phillips Won Some Games

Tony Phillips was included in the ’93 Finest set towards the upper end of his career arc and just a few years removed from multiple World Series appearances. His steady, if nondramatic, performance combined with nearly two decades of MLB playing time to produce impressive lifetime wins above replacement. Compared to the rest of his colleagues in the set he put up some of the better cumulative totals outside of the perennial all-stars. If you play fantasy sports, you will recognize Phillips as the kind of player that can be picked up for $1 towards the end of a draft that ensures you make the playoffs.

To highlight this, compare Phillips to teammate Jose Canseco. Both played together on the World Champion Oakland A’s and reunited while trying to resurrect their MLB careers with the independent Yuma Scorpions. Canseco was the high profile home run hitter, yet Phillips’ defensive prowess, steady production, and ability to avoid injury led him to accumulate a greater number of career wins above replacement.

Never a standout, Tony Phillips was pretty much all one would expect from a utility player. He could bat from both the right and left sides, confounding managers’ pitching strategies. He was an infielder that played well at each base, yet the position he took second most often was left field. Bill James reported seeing Phillips play four positions in a single game with the Tigers. He led the league in walks on multiple occasions, but also struck out nearly as often. He amassed over 2,000 hits hitting near the top of the order and could steal bases when needed. His home run total nearly matched his stolen bases, though neither were enough to push his reputation any higher than being a “solid” player. He bookended his career with stints on the Oakland Athletics but fell into substance abuse problems late in his career. Phillips died of a heart attack at age 56 in 2016.