It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a piece like this was going to be written judging by the name of this website and the logo that graces it ever so beautifully.
That silhouette represents the one person who has played short stop for the Phillies the past 11 seasons. And now, he will continue to man that position for the next three or four years.
Yesterday, the Phillies inked their longest tenured player – and the longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia – Jimmy Rollins to a three-year deal with a vesting option for a fourth year. The deal is worth around $33 million.
But the most interesting and rather important aspect of this signing is the fact Rollins apparently turned down more money and years from the Milwaukee Brewers because he had his sights set on staying in Philadelphia.
That sentiment speaks louder than a lot understand. Just over a year ago, Cliff Lee came to a similar fork in the road.
Should he take the big payday from the New York Yankees or follow his heart down the road towards Philly?
It’s pretty obvious which path Lee took and Rollins, who came to the same crossroads this past month, decided to stick in Philadelphia.
There are a number of factors that played into Rollins’ decision. This was the franchise that drafted him in 1996, gave him his first chance in 2000 and made him the starting short stop in 2001.
This was a city that Rollins called home for over a decade. It was a team Rollins became the unofficial leader of and a fanbase that has associated the demise of the New York Mets to Rollins.
There is also recently signed reliever Dontrelle Willis, who Rollins grew up with in Oakland and remained very close friends with during their time in the major leagues. It will be the first time in their careers they will share a clubhouse and it’s understood that Willis played a small part in talking one of his best friends into playing 162 games together.
And finally, there is the baseball aspect of the deal. The Phillies needed a short stop for next season. Their biggest concern wasn’t so much the bat, seeing as they have put up with Rollins’ inconsistency since 2007.
Instead, it was the defense and the leadership. Most importantly the defense.
Rollins is one of the best fielding short stops in all of baseball. His range and arm make him an incredible asset for the Phillies at short, who with two of the best ground ball pitchers in baseball, need those outs on balls put on the ground.
The baseball aspect of it aside, the marriage between Rollins and the fans, who he once called “frontrunners,” will continue.
The love/hate relationship had more love than history suggests. Yes, there were those who couldn’t stand to see Rollins lead off to only pop up the first pitch or were skeptical after his nagging calf injuries in 2010.
But the good will always out-weigh the bad, even in a city known to boo their star players as a sign of displeasure in their lack of success.
The middle of Rollins’ career was labeled the best decade of Phillies baseball. In 2005, the Phillies won 88 games, their highest total since 1993. Granted they didn’t make the playoffs until a couple of years later, that year marked the beginning.
Then 2007 became the turning point. Rollins not only coined the “We are the team to beat” phrase, he backed up his words with his MVP season.
Playing all 162 games, the only time in his career doing so, Rollins batted .296 and 30 homers while leading the league with 139 runs and 20 triples from the lead off spot.
Though numbers were never seen like that again from Rollins, he was still an integral part of their 2008 World Championship, 2009 pennant winning season and the team’s best franchise record in 2011.
Those are the reasons, along with Chase Utley, that Rollins is associated the most with the best era of Phillies baseball. He will have up to four more years to add to his legacy and maybe one day retire wearing red pinstripes.
But for now, Philadelphia will still be the team to beat, and of course, a part of that reason will be because they have Jimmy Rollins playing short stop.